I remember when I had first heard one of my ex bosses telling me “you’re an introvert” and at the same time she labelled my other workmate a “typical extrovert”. It was already three years ago and I still can’t stop thinking about it. It hurt me. It was one of the reasons why I quit that job.
Why did her words hurt me so much?
First of all, the word “introvert” is normally considered as a pejorative adjective. You would use it to describe somebody who is closed, shy, not sociable and she meant it when she said it. Nobody wants to be considered an “introvert” in a world where you are constantly told that to succeed you need to:
- be good at networking
- “go and get it”
- “get out of your comfort zone”
…and so on. Can you see an introvert person doing all these things? In a world of social media and real life exhibitionism, it’s not cool to be an introvert (although I don’t agree – I know many introverts and they are wonderful people). If you’re an introvert, it means that you have no chances to become successful. If you’re an introvert, you’re basically a loser. Or, in best case, a philosopher. And as we know, nobody values philosophers these days.
It also hurt me because she didn’t know me and she drew her conclusion only after one week and she meant it in a negative way. She claimed I was an introvert and therefore I was “passive”, “closed”, “without opinion”.
But then, she was the kind of boss that would make the most courageous person feel intimidated. I didn’t like talking to her and I felt that she would use whatever I say against me (and she did – told you, she wasn’t great), so I carefully weighted my words and only said what in my opinion was needed.
My workmate (awesome girl, she’s still one of my best friends), on the other hand, talked. A lot. She is more talkative than I am by nature, but in this case it was the fear of our boss that was making her talk. The words just wouldn’t stop flowing from her mouth when we were at the meetings, and often she was just repeating herself all over again and again. So we got labelled – an introvert and an extrovert.
The truth is, it wasn’t true. When we were alone, we had days when we would chat a lot, and then we had days when we needed some quiet time.
You have probably heard of the “fight or flight” phenomenon. It’s a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived threat. In other words, it’s our reaction to a stressful situation. You either fight or run away. The way we acted in front of our boss was our personal response to her attitude towards us. My friend’s reaction was fighting with words and mine was withdrawal.
But because of the toxic work environment, I started believing that I was an extreme introvert and… I started playing the role of an introvert in a way that she described. I stopped coming up with ideas, I didn’t express my opinions any more, I closed myself in a shell.
Thankfully, my boyfriend and friends outside of work were very supportive and after 3 months I quit that job. I still have shivers when I think about it.
I decided not to go back to an office job and instead for the money I had left I bought a new camera and registered as self-employed. I started reaching out to people (yes – an introvert reaching out to someone she doesn’t know?!) and getting first clients. It didn’t take long for me to remind myself that… I love talking to people (just not everyone)! I actually found myself more talkative than ever before, my mouth would literally not shut up. I would talk and laugh and be excited and outgoing.
I’ve realised that I was actually very good with people and people loved working with me.
So I was thinking “I am clearly not an introvert. But I’m surely not a classic extrovert either. I highly value my quiet time to recharge my batteries, think, read and write, too many people around me for too long make me tired and I am really happy on my own. So what the hell am I?”
And then I heard somewhere the magic word: ambivert.
It’s a mix. It’s someone who can be both an introvert and an extrovert, depending on the situation. Most of the time it’s somewhere in the middle. In my case I am more on the introvert side.
Ambiverts have an amazing ability to adjust to other persons, “feel” them and not overpower them like extroverts tend to do, but at the same time are more outgoing and less shy than introverts.
What I’ve found out from talking to friends and reading articles is that… the majority of us are ambiverts! I know, right – why does nobody tell us this?! Life would be so much easier.
When you think of it, it makes perfect sense. Not many people are hundred percent introvert or extrovert. We all have some traits from both.
If you think you’re an ambivert, here is a description of 9 Signs That You’re An Ambivert I took from this article in Forbes. If you agree with the majority of those statements, you are one of us.
1. I can perform tasks alone or in a group. I don’t have much preference either way.
2. Social settings don’t make me uncomfortable, but I get tired of being around people too much.
3. Being the center of attention is fun for me, but I don’t like it to last.
4. Some people think I’m quiet, while others think I’m highly social.
5. I don’t always need to be moving, but too much down time leaves me feeling bored.
6. I can get lost in my own thoughts just as easily as I can lose myself in a conversation.
7. Small talk doesn’t make me uncomfortable, but it does get boring.
8. When it comes to trusting other people, sometimes I’m skeptical, and other times, I dive right in.
9. If I spend too much time alone, I get bored, yet too much time around other people leaves me feeling drained.
Most of the photographers I know are ambiverts. Because of our flexibility and high levels of empathy, we can sense the mood of our models and adapt to the situation. We can be very sociable, but we need our quiet time.
People like to put labels on others. It makes life easier. “He’s an extrovert”, “she’s a racist”, “he’s an ultra leftist”, and the list goes on and on. Not many people bother to look deeper, read more, ask, listen to others and understand. And that’s how stereotypes are created.
I like the word “ambivert” because it leaves a space for interpretation. It’s neither “black” nor “white” – just like life.
And who do you consider yourself to be?