Are you a secret introvert?

I remember learning at school about introversion and extraversion. It appeared that to be perceived as cool, one ought to be an extrovert so that’s what I said I was when the teacher asked, not paying notice to my evenings spent alone reading and weekends wandering by myself in the woods.

The differences between extroverts and introverts have their foundations in dopamine, specifically how active the dopamine rewards system in their brain is. To explain simply – dopamine enables you to be excited by the possibility of a pleasure/reward. You may have already guessed that extroverts are those with a more active dopamine reward system than those of introverts. That is why the possibility of a pleasure (which can be anything from social status to food to money) is more appealing to extroverts and serves them as a motivator. Subsequently extroverts put more effort into pursuing these possibilities, while introverts take it a bit more easy. An extrovert is having a great time chatting to all sorts of people at a party (=> a possible reward of better social status, new acquaintances and relationships, perhaps even sex) while introvert just chills at home without much FOMO.

I grew up convinced that one gets nowhere if he/she isn’t a go-getter who’s always out there, and so I spent most of my life doing all the uncomfortable things (telephone job interviews, work dos, you name it) without questioning why I am doing all this when my dream job would be sitting alone in a room with multiple computer screens and no one to disturb me. When I used to fly as a cabin crew, I was quite creative at coming up with excuses why I cannot hang out with my colleagues downroute. I even remember this one time when they convinced me to come join them for lunch, but in the restaurant I got up before we even ordered starters, walked away and had a delightful meal on my own in another establishment. A right twat. But a happy one. At that point I was still 100% sure I was an extrovert.

What made me review things is the lockdown we currently live in. When they shut the country down (bars, restaurants, cinemas…) and introduced social distancing, a lot of people freaked out. They won’t be able to see their family, spend time with friends, get off their faces and go clubbing, have a meal out, go physically to the office or anywhere else really. Sounds awful right? Except to me it sounded (and still does) wonderful! It’s like I recieved an official license to be an unsociable weirdo who does not talk to people (especially not since being furloughed). A dream come true!

A work colleague organised an unofficial series of zoom catch up sessions. I dialed into the first one and spent an hour listening how people struggle not being able to hang out with people and how difficult this all is. I never dialed into another one again. As our lockdown progressed, I even started ignoring calls and messages from my friends and family just because I did not feel like talking to people. (If I am currently not replying to you, I still love you btw, just very busy enjoying some quality alone time.) In no way I feel like I am struggling due to the lack of social contact – on the contrary. I’m enjoying this new way of life tremendously, which makes me consider the possibility that there might be a bit of an introvert in my clearly extroverted personality. Or perhaps I have been a fake extrovert my entire life? Who knows 😉

Now let’s talk about you. Ask yourself: How do I cope with quarantine?

  • On a daily basis, are you struggling not being able to go out and socialise?
  • Are you constantly texting and facetiming all your friends and family members?
  • Do your usual activities (like going for a walk, exercising, or simply watching TV) seem way less fun when done on your own?
  • Do you get bored because you don’t know what to do with your time on your own?
  • Are you joining every silly zoom call, virtual wine session and pub quizz?
  • Do you prefer to fill your newly gained free time with anything, but self-reflection?
  • Do you miss engaging in small talk with random members of the public?

The more “no” answers to the questions above, the more of an introvert you are. If you (like me) answered “no” to all of them – welcome to the club and enjoy the lockdown because it won’t last forever. ❤

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