I make my living entertaining people. I basically get paid to show-off and when I’ve finished everybody gives me a round of applause (except for that time in Clacton, but we don’t talk about that). You’d probably peg me as an extrovert and that’s how I’ve always thought of myself. And yet, since my 20s, I’ve continually found myself struggling to cope in groups, often preferring my own company and craving ‘quiet time’.
Extroverts typically enjoy interacting with the world and are energised by other people while introverts are more inward and can be drained by too much socialising. Extroverts thrive in groups while introverts can dread the thought of meeting new people and making small talk.
Most of us identify as one or the other, but it’s more nuanced than that. There’s a scale from one extreme to the other and most of us fall somewhere in between the two extremes. There’s a name for people like us: ambiverts.
An article in Forbes says that ambiverts are the lucky ones, socially and in business:
“Ambiverts have a distinct advantage over true introverts and extroverts. Because their personality doesn’t lean too heavily in either direction, they have a much easier time adjusting their approach to people based on the situation. This enables them to connect more easily, and more deeply, with a wider variety of people.”
I love being around people… for a while. On a typical night out with friends, I’ll be very involved, chatty and fun, and then I hit a wall. After a few hours, I’ll suddenly feel painfully tired. Exhausted, actually. It’s like a switch has been flicked and my lights go out. Like Frankenfurter in the Rocky Horror Picture Show, “Even smiling makes my face ache.” So, off I go to the loo just to be alone in a quiet space for a few minutes, or as happened once in Buenos Aires, leave the dinner table for half-an-hour and go for a walk. Usually, I just make my excuses and go home, but when I get there a strange thing happens. Suddenly I go from being dead on my feet to brimming with energy. I might watch a movie, send some emails or clean the house.
I’ve never liked this about myself: always the first to leave a party (or declining invitations that came my way), being labelled as boring and not being able to keep up.
It took me years to understand that I am as much an introvert as an extrovert. This is why, after a show, when most performers like to wind down at the bar, I usually prefer to be on my own, quietly recharging. It may sound a bit sad, but I’m quite happy doing it. I need it, in fact.
We all want to be liked, to feel popular, but one of the nice things about getting older is that I care a little less what other people think. Being different doesn’t make us weird, it’s who we are. So, if you’d rather go on to another bar for more drinks while I go home and read a book, that’s fine.
Someone once said that all of life’s troubles come from man’s inability to sit alone in a room, so if it’s your way, don’t feel bad about letting the party people party while you enjoy some quiet time.