"Are you an introvert, or an extrovert?"
This question is sometimes posed to folks, by those who do not know them very well. At times, it's a question some turn inward, asking it of themselves. I know I do. Is it really important? Do we really need to ascribe labels to an aspect of our personality? Perhaps. Labels help define us. But are they also a hinderance? If we are considered by others (or by ourselves) to be either shy or outgoing, does that in-turn shut down further avenues about us that could be more deeply explored? Is this why we place such self-importance on what kind of person we are in social situations?
I don't know the answer to most of the aforementioned questions. This is why I spend a lot of time thinking about these things. Searching for answers is almost always an interesting pasttime but, admittedly, it can be overdone. When it comes down to it, we are perhaps not the best judges of who we are. We may in fact have to trust others' judgements of such things.
Case in point: I've long considered myself to be an introvert. To my surprise, lots of folks seem to disagree with me. Yet, the self-image remains. Could it be that I once used to be introverted, and have since come out of a shell? Is such a thing possible, or even common? Possibly. I definitely was the shy, quiet kid in school, or at least that's how I felt. Occasionally, if the kids around me were nice enough, I'd do some impressions for them, make them laugh a little. But that was a fairly rare occurrence.
As time has gone by, I've been forced to be outgoing. On several occasions. Much of this began with my places of employment. As a teen, and later someone who didn't complete college, I took the sorts of jobs that most folks in such a position fall into: customer service. Whether it was standing behind a counter taking someone's pizza order, or trying to sell them the latest music, home video, or electronic device, my livelihood depended upon interaction with people. Even now, in my political sphere, I need to knock on doors and connect with people if I want them to know who I am and, hopefully, consider voting for me.
None of the aforementioned social interactions have come easy for me. I felt self-conscious wearing the pizza-place uniform and taking people's orders. I was nervous when trying to sell folks electronic items (especially with the warranty upsells), and I tend to feel like I'm intruding on a person's day when I knock on their door. Yet, necessity requires doing those things, and so they get done. Same with casual social experiences, such as parties, or dinner with friends. I'm sometimes at a loss as to what to converse about, but I find something, lest we sit in silence for a prolonged period of time.
So, am I an extrovert? Or am I an introvert who simply pushes himself? It has always occurred to me that I am an introvert, because a true extrovert would have no reservations in doing all of the things I've previously mentioned. They wouldn't give it much thought. In fact, they'd probably thrive on it. Or do I have it all wrong? Do we all, somewhere deep down or close to the surface, have a fear of social interaction to some extent, and the difference is in how well we do or don't deal with it?
I wish I knew.