“I’m actually quite shy,” I once asserted. The person I was talking to – a woman who worked for my university and, essentially, hired me on a freelance basis to help run open days and other faculty events when I was a student – laughed. Hard.
She’s not alone. Few people who’ve met me – particularly those who have known me for a while – would regard me as shy or introverted. And largely, I’d agree with them. The quick judgment that anyone would make of me would be that I’m extroverted rather than introverted. In much the same way that I’m very definitely a brunette rather than blonde, people see it as an easy distinction: “Becky is confident in expressing her opinion, is happy talking to other people and being in company, therefore she is extroverted.” Wrong. And even I only figured out exactly why very recently.
I’m an ambivert. That is to say, I am both introverted and extroverted and, for me, whichever of those characteristics I display relates to how far within my comfort zone I am. For me, being ambiverted isn’t to say that I am neutral (I don’t think anyone who knows me well would describe me in that way!), it just means that I switch gears depending on a few things. It’s heavily related to how comfortable I feel in a given situation, but can also be tied to how I feel in general.
So what are my comfortable situations? They’re times when I feel safe, relaxed and happy for a start. It also tends to be when I’m with close friends or undertaking an activity that I enjoy and know I’m capable of – so many of my most extroverted moments relate to being around horses. However, even the equine world – my favourite place – can render me introverted. My introversion usually relates to the unfamiliar – I hate big crowds of strangers, and will immediately gravitate and cling to the one person I know if I’m in a large group. Back in the equine world, if I’m doing something new or that I don’t feel confident in, I’ll become much more introverted and uncertain, seeking approval and advice, as well as feedback. I think this is also my way of helping me to focus and concentrate.
I view being an ambivert as getting the best of both worlds – I can command attention and be authoritative on a subject when I need to be, or I can take a step back and give myself a bit of a break when I need more time to digest information and grow. I struggle to rein my extroversion in on demand if I feel highly confident, but if there’s a situation where I believe a greater authority is present, I can hold back. The only down side as I see it is that my switchy behaviour can be confusing to some: if people are accustomed to seeing Becky the Extrovert but Becky the Introvert shows up, they get confused, and are liable to push me beyond a point that I’m ready to be pushed, which is why I’m offering an explanation! Sometimes, I too need a little extra time to stop and think. Or be quiet. But mostly, I’ll be in the thick of it making my voice heard.