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I’ve always considered myself an introvert, before I even knew the word for what I was – happy to be alone, needing time to ‘recover’ after social activity, keeping to myself. These were all traits I had as a child but as I got older, became more outgoing, learned the art of conversation, and figured out what I do and do not like to do for fun, I wonder how much that’s still true.

Most of my friends consider me an introvert but there are many who consider me an extrovert, mostly because I tend to be outgoing in social situations. However, I still often find myself needing time to decompress – with a book, a show, or a game – after social situations. After a few tests and conversations with my sister, I realized, I’m truly more of an ambivert now.

Being an ambivert, you really get the best of both worlds – having fun hanging out with friends, looking forward to chatting with certain people – but still not being bored when alone. The issue is, finding yourself surrounded with people who strictly label themselves as introvert or extrovert. Once you give yourself this label, you’re almost incredulous when you find yourself enjoying the opposite. Perhaps you’ve always enjoyed alone time, but now feel bored despite having hobbies, after doing it for more than two nights in a row. Or perhaps you’re the type who’d never say no to an invitation, but now enjoy that sacred time to yourself, vegging out with a comfort movie or gardening. Of course, there are different levels of both introversion and extroversion with different extremes, and where once I thought myself an extreme introvert, I’m definitely almost a pure ambivert now.

I find when I labelled myself as an introvert, my instinct was always to decline invitations. I’d make an excuse, or calculate how many upcoming events I’d have, to ensure I had more than enough time for myself. Now though, once I’m out, I’m out. I actually enjoy catching up with friends, experiencing new things, a lot of things I struggled with often in the past. So how do you cope with this gradual change in identity? You try new things! But it’s hard, especially when I now find myself perplexed with friends or a partner want to leave social settings early. Why aren’t they having as much fun as I am? Is it possible they’re not as optimistic or positive, or is it that they haven’t changed and still prefer time alone?

People change in different ways and at different times, so this can be a lonely experience. Extroverted friends have moved on after you declined one too many invites, and now you find yourself being faced with excuses when others don’t want to spend time with you. It can very frustrating – just as how I used to ponder how extroverted people could never be alone, I now find myself wondering how very introverted people can live with barely any human interaction!

With myself, I find I’m taking social events more as one-offs these days – rather than try to book up a weekend with back-to-back plans, or specifically plan weekends alone to decompress, I try to play by ear. Sometimes it’s nice to stay in on a Friday night after a long week of work, and go out for a drink on Saturday, and sometimes it’s fun to have plans on all three days of the evenings, with chunks of time alone to relax.

I think this works for me, and I can’t help but wonder whether we’re causing ourselves harm with these labels. I wonder whether it makes more sense for everyone to treat every invite as a blank slate, and go out when you think you’ll want to, and decline if you think you won’t. Then again, what do I know – everyone could be doing this for ages and I’m the last one to hop on the common sense train!

All I know is, the more we classify ourselves, put labels on ourselves, put everyone including ourselves into separate categories, the harder it can be to connect. What do you think?

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