Caught up between extremes

How to find out if you are an ambivert

21 NOVEMBER 2015,
Ambivert, 50 introvert / 50 extravert
Ambivert, 50 introvert / 50 extravert

I grew up with a younger brother who had this domineering attitude. He was assertive, persuasive and enthusiastic, and from an early age able to attract all of the attention in the room. It worked, because he was pretty popular with the adults. Looking back, he was like a young Donald Trump. I couldn't quite relate, and didn't have that magic touch that he had. I was more hypersensitive. His popularity grew to be something that hurt my pride. Me being the big brother and all. I made sure I let him feel my discomfort, a thing that big brothers do sometimes. To this day I vividly remember the time when he yelled at me: “You've ruined my life!” Because, most likely, I had hid one of his toys. Today, we get along just fine, even though we are totally different people.

My brother is a typical extravert, with an intrinsic ability to connect with random people at random occasions. He makes eye contact easily, is able to express an understanding of another human being without speaking to them, and he likes to talk to people from all walks of life. When we were younger we played video games and watched movies together, but he went into town for drinks with friends after that, way before I did.

He also had more friends than I had. He still has more friends than I have, a whole lot more, from what I can deduce from his Facebook page. While I was never popular, I am also not the jealous type. But the difference in how we went about our social life never failed to amaze me. Especially, considering how we had slid down the same slide. So where did these differences originate? My mum and pa are not able to give me a clear and honest answer. Their view is clouded by the love they have for both of us, and the loyalty they feel towards us in some semi equal measure. Meaning, the youngest child always prevails in the end.

A family dynamic is a very unique thing. As an only child there must be one too, but I imagine it's not quite the same as when you grow up with brothers or sisters. When a brother or sister was aloud to stay up longer that you, that stuff will haunt you. All the way into your twenties. What I never asked my parents was why my youth had run such a different course than my brother’s. It was only until much later that I found out, when I had gained a better sense of self, what defined me, and how I was different from other people.

I was an introvert. At least, up until that age. It as a term not uncommon to most people now, and I can even say it lost a lot of the negative vibes that came with it. Nowadays, people love to define themselves, either by doing lots of psychological tests on the web so they can share how ‘unique’ they are, or send each other selfies through Instagram and Snapchat. We are the ‘Me’ generation, that can talk about themselves for hours at a time. What also changed, is that introverts aren't uncool anymore. An introvert founded Facebook. Introverts build apps and think of all kinds of cool technological stuff to create. They most likely made the ‘The Witcher’ video game, and lots of them make serious money now. They are the cool people. So was I cool? Problem was, I just missed out on al this coolness that surrounds introverts now. And when I started shedding some of my introvert character traits, it was almost impossible going back.

So how was I able to catch up to him? I did eventually, but not quite to his extent of social suppleness. It seemed like we were just two different people after all. But how can an introvert turn into an extravert? Is this even possible? Isn't that the same as wishing to see a person who is gay turn into a heterosexual?
As for sexuality, the debate has been going on for a long time if it is fluid; if one can be a heterosexual, but also modestly interested in people from the same sex, even occasionally falling in love with them. I learned to develop most of these extravert character traits on my own time, and through sheer force of will. Introverts can have a hard life because their character traits are not those championed in Western societies, and it can feel as if the deck is stacked against them. It helps to have a big mouth in this society to get your way, and when you don't have one, you will often miss out on those things you feel like you deserve.
In childhood and early adulthood, when the need to connect with people to grow emotionally is strongest, a lack of the ability to do so can make you feel handicapped.

But, fortunate enough, like sexuality, it's not a case of either/or. If you would draw a line on a piece of paper, and at one end you would write introvert, and at the other end extrovert, there are a wide range of possibilities between them. On this spectrum, you might be a +.73% extrovert, or a -.16% introvert. This means you will have traits from both ends of the spectrum. An example: You work in a library, where you are surrounded by books all day. Because you like them, and you love the peace and quiet of the place. The lack of colleagues you will otherwise feel forced to talk to, now soothes you. But on the weekend, it is party time. You have a group of party friends you hit the clubs with either Friday or Saturday night. That is where you catch up with their stories of the past week. You don't see them on workdays. Everyone is always busy making ends meet, and you feel that you yourself need that time too. There is no real need. At least, in your opinion. This person I would call an introvert with extravert character traits.

In science, they don't use these extended characterizations, but they have another word for it: Ambivert. An ambivert is a social chameleon, able to change colors and texture in different settings. There are places where he or she thrives, and these are often where a combination of extravert and introvert traits are demanded. Like a BBQ, where one both needs to mingle and be able to listen to people. An ambivert strikes a balance between the extremes of introvertedness and extravertedness, and can adapt to context and situations more easily.

I would place him on the spectrum of being between -.50 introvert to +.50 extravert. True extraverts and true introverts have a far lesser chance of showing traits found at the other side of the spectrum. There will always be a lot of people unable to be alone, that really are bored by themselves, and who always need to be surrounded by other people. While at the same time there are those that feel that one or two deep friendships are enough, and are content with spending a large amount of time by themselves.
Ambiverts are everyone that fall in between.

My brother is an extravert, while I always thought I was an introvert. What it actually was, was that some of my extravert traits weren't all that developed when I was younger. It doesn't take any courage to sit inside and play video games all evening long. It does take courage to join some club and start making new friends.
Is life hard as an ambivert? Not really. But it does help to have some self knowledge on the matter, so you can tell yourself: This is who I am, and this is where these weird traits of mine come from. It is important to realize that in so many dimensions of life things are not black and white.

So just be yourself, you ambivert.