On Saturday we had some friends over to celebrate Rasmus’ birthday. We got all our spare chairs out of the attic, wheeled my office chair in from the study and called friends when we realised we didn’t actually have enough plates for everyone. It was crowded, even around our big heavy table. It was messy and fun and I enjoyed every second. We ate Mexican food with our hands and needed extra napkins and then divided up the cheesecake and my friends’ six year old daughter loudly declared it the “best meal ever”.
I go to bed on nights like these on such a high. I LOVE hanging out with people – meeting for coffees and lunches and meetings and dinners – talking late into the night about the big stuff or the fun stuff, preferably over a glass of red wine. I come away energised, buzzing with the effect of spending time together.
I crave social contact. I love when there are new people sitting behind me in church that I can turn round and say hi to. If I spend too many days without meetings or meet-ups I am practically climbing on Rasmus by the time he comes home from work in the evening. I’m talking and telling him about everything in my day and wanting to know everything about his, and he’s still trying to just take his shoes off!
I’ve been a little social bug as long as I can remember. But not quite the social butterfly, because walking into a room full of strangers always feels terrifying. In an old job, I used to have to attend champagne cocktail events at the European Parliament and I’d pray for days in advance that there would be someone I knew, because walking up to a random stranger and trying to get them to like me felt like a mountain I was not ready to climb.
There’s always a lot of talk about the differences between extroverts and introverts. There have been at least two books out recently on introverts in particular and how churches can ensure they’re not excluded (neither of which I’ve read yet). And sometimes it feels like if you want to be a writer, if you want to have deep thoughts about important things, there’s an assumption you need to also be an introvert. Because surely extroverts can’t sit still long enough to form a thought worth writing?!
I’m exaggerating of course. But it starts to frustrate me that we have these two boxes and we’ve decided that everyone needs to get into one or the other and then we’ll define them by that, and that alone.
I primarily find my energy from being around other people, which puts me into the extrovert box. But I don’t particularly enjoy large parties, prefer small dinner parties and coffee dates. I am highly relational, but that means I value meaningful interactions with other people over random or “light” interactions. I’m very comfortable with public speaking and being in front of people, but I don’t like being the centre of attention at parties (you’ll not get me dancing in the middle of one of those woman-dance-circles that tend to always form at weddings!).
And although I am happy with a long day of interactions with friends and colleagues, the moments when I just need to have some space to read and write it all out are very regular too. I love bouncing ideas off other people, and I need to hear a lot of other opinions before I can figure out my own. I write out a lot of my thoughts and ideas because it helps me figure out what I actually believe about them. Some of those writings end up here on the blog, a lot of them don’t because they feel too personal (I know! You didn’t think it was possible…!)
Labels can be so useful sometimes for helping to understand each other and how we tick. But at the end of the day, we’re all individuals. And so I try to steer clear of those labels until you know me a lot better, until you can hear “extrovert” and not assume I’m the life and soul of the party, with never a moment of introspection. I’m just me, at the end of the day, neither one thing or another. Just me.
So I am curious to know – do you think you easily fall into one or the other category? And do you find them helpful or unhelpful labels to use?