I’m an Introverted-Extrovert Living in a New City…
After reading The Introvert Advantage, by Marti Olsen Laney, Psy.D., I’ve come to describe myself as an introverted-extrovert. Introverts don’t talk just for the sake of being heard. We tend to keep energy inside, live in our thoughts, and seek quiet space to carefully reflect and recharge. Introverts generate a steady supply of internal stimulation without needing to look far beyond one’s self. Extroverts, on the other hand, rely on external social sources and activities to charge up! This group prefers to avoid feeling under-stimulated, or reaching a forbidden state of boredom.
The two temperaments exist on a spectrum. You might have a personality similar to mine, operating best when your intro and extrovert cravings are both equally satisfied. Or, your place on the spectrum may be more binary if you can associate your personality with one temperament over the other. Regardless, choosing to move towards the unknown and away from familiarity takes guts. No worries, though. We’ve got them. Each and every one of us has a natural climate in which we feel most comfortable, in balance, and able to perform at our best. What works for some will certainly not work for all. Yet, the unity of our individual temperaments is the key to unlocking our capacity to thrive in diverse surroundings.
I didn’t notice the full extent of my introverted ways until I lived alone in New England for a year and a half. On impulse, I took a job that required me to relocate. The company moved me out my home state of Virginia, and plopped me into teeny, tiny, freezing-cold Rhode Island. Away from everything familiar and comforting; including my unconditionally-supportive family (I leave them no choice once I have a goal in mind), a group of the most solid friends a girl could ask for, and winters well above 7 degrees.
About four months into my move I realized my life outside of work was dull, uneventful, and outright unfulfilling. At this point I decided I had gone long enough feeling like a victim of my circumstances rather than an active decision-maker in my own life. I’m not one to live passively. In fact, I prefer my experiences to fall on the spicier side. I knew it was time for me to start chasing that; regardless of how uncomfortable or unfamiliar things might get. That meant unrolling myself from my plush blanket burrito, putting on pants, and getting out to collect experiences instead of Dorito dust and too many episodes to binge-watch.
Here’s what I learned along the way:
1. It’s absolutely okay to do things/go places alone.
If you’ve yet to meet a single soul you’d actually enjoy hanging out with, let me introduce you to someone special: Ya’self! *hands you a mirror, with a wink. Doing things in your own company not only helps strengthen your unique perspective on life’s experiences. It also grants you the space to develop a secure sense of self, which is the same self you present to the world each day. Getting to know yourself in different places and spaces can be an insightful way to gain confidence in who you are and what you truly represent. Independence initiates authenticity. As you adjust to new surroundings, don’t be afraid to do things for yourself, by yourself, or as your wildy unique self!
2. Get uncomfortable in your comfort zone.
While your comfort zone may keep you safe, your adventure zone will help you grow. Keep a running list of new ideas you’d like to explore to make sure your lust for life never goes stagnant. This could include investigating any new hobbies you may be curious about, trying a take-out spot you’ve been eyeing lately, or maybe even updating any personal or professional goals to maintain relevance in your new surroundings. As long as your list is full of experiences that will expose you to new parts of yourself and your location, you’re doing it right.
3. There are places where you can make friends in your sleep!
Okay, okay. Maybe not in your sleep, but definitely where you sleep. Major cities like Boston, L.A., Miami, and D.C. are popping up with co-living spaces that serve as partial solutions to soaring rent prices, shortages in housing, and environmental concerns. These spaces are intentionally designed to foster a sense of community, without jeopardizing personal space or privacy. In such a setting, it’s virtually impossible to not make meaningful connections. For those that don’t mind sharing a bathroom, kitchen, or common areas, a co-living arrangement could be the way to make your transition all the more worthwhile!
4. The answer is YES.
If you know anything about introverts, you understand how challenging it can be for us to commit to major plans, or any social engagement for that matter. Introverts prefer depth over breadth. We don’t need a long list of acquaintances or vapid relationships. Just a small handful of solid, intimate connections. While neither is better than the other, the differences between temperaments can easily cause introverts to feel drained by extroverted energies. Since an estimated 75 percent of the world is extroverted, it makes sense why introverts tend to distance themselves from sizeable groups and crowds: to preserve energy and balance.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t real experiences waiting to be lived out by you! You may often feel inclined to respond to invites with a big, fat “NO.” However, I am challenging you to either: 1) Give an empowered, absolute “YES!”; or 2) Take initiative and suggest an outing with the person/people of your choosing. Practice this as often as feels right to you. You’re ultimately in control of your experience in any given city. Decide how you want to make the most of a new one. Just don’t keep your light where others can’t see it shine.
5. What if the uncool thing is actually really cool?
If you were to ask me about joining Meetup a year ago, I would definitely flash you the confused Nick Young face, and probably ask you to share whatever drugs you must’ve just consumed. Admittedly, I didn’t know much about Meetup. Except that a few of my socially awkward coworkers used it to find friends in the area. To someone who had never struggled making friends (remember, I’m 1/2 extrovert), an app designed to meet randoms and force uncomfortable small talk seemed like a high-commitment, low-reward type of deal.
However, on a particularly boring Saturday afternoon, I randomly decided to scroll around and check out the hype. Before I knew it, I managed to create a profile and get accepted to a few groups that shared interests compatible with mine! To keep a long story short, I eventually agreed to meet up (ha!) with someone in a nearby cafe. The purpose was to get a better feel for each other and establish a level of mutual comfort before attending larger group events. Looking back, this approach was the perfect accomodation for my introverted-extrovert temperament, because we sat in that cafe and exchanged hours of stimulating conversation on everything from real estate investment to unexpected death! There was no pressure. Just really good sandwiches, and even better vibes.
If a social platform like Meetup doesn’t sound like something you’re comfortable jumping into just yet, you can still take steps towards growing your network in places where you’ve already established some roots. Bonding with coworkers doesn’t have to be your thing either (can’t blame you for not wanting to extend the standard 40 hours). Try connecting with others throughout your community, at your gym, or even the grocery store. PRO TIP: Find places that feel like your scene; your vibe. Show up alone and leave with new connections. You’re going to do this by being the you that only you can be. You have as much to offer others as they may have to offer you. Trust your instincts, and exercise sound judgement when inviting new characters into your story. It’s yours to write, and it’s yours to live. Go!