Can The Labels


I have always considered myself an extrovert because of my social nature and the delight I experience connecting with others.  So I was surprised by the results of a personality test my daughters and I took online for fun.  My score categorized me as an introvert.  Turns out, it’s not about how much you talk or listen ( I talk a lot and could use some better listening skills ), or how many friends you have, or even what you do for a living.  The determining factor is energy; what fuels you or depletes you.  Because my daughter gains energy from external things, especially social time, she is an extrovert.  I, on the other hand, recharge my batteries with time alone, and feel drained and exhausted after an evening of small talk at a cocktail party.

There seems to be much discussion lately about the introvert/extrovert personality traits.  I have noticed several recent best sellers addressing the topic, applied to leadership, relationships, and success in general.  Most of the titles are providing help for the introvert in an extroverted world.

It’s no shocker that creative types tend toward the introverted end of the spectrum.  Artists, poets, and even actors can sometimes be described as socially strange, talented in their craft but challenged in casual conversation.  An active imagination can be a distraction in practical daily existence.  The artistic mind is a buzzing place, requiring silence to bring it to order.

Although I have come to writing later in life, many of the activities I enjoy most are similarly solo ones – painting, reading, meditating… Reflecting on this, I was intrigued by the fact that I was so far off the mark in assessing my own personality.  I think I was attaching some judgement to the ‘introvert’ label, deeming it uninteresting, perhaps even boring.  Extroverts are fun. They tell good stories and have perfect posture. They take charge and get things done.  If those were my choices, I wanted to be on the E team.

Here, labels come up short, as they so often do.  I have extroverted days, followed by a few introverted ones.  Some of my friends are shy and quiet, and I enjoy their company just as much as time with my rowdier pals.  Our culture tends to require labels, but they can generate value judgements that are not necessarily useful. Why are we so eager to adopt labels, applying them to ourselves and others? Perhaps it gives us some sense of control and understanding.  Writing, along with all art-making, provides a space for simultaneous introversion and extroversion, where we dig deep to craft an offering to leave behind.

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