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I'm an Extreme Extrovert-- I Blame my Strong Sense of Boundaries

Jessica Joe | October 22nd, 2021

I’ve been an extreme extrovert since the first grade, its something that has always come quite naturally to me. Socializing is simply something I find incredibly rewarding and even healing at times. I find it genuinely enjoyable when I’m deep in a conversation (with just about anyone!) and I am at my happiest when I am regularly interacting with others on a daily basis.

Michael Wilmot, from the University of Toronto, found in a recent study on extroversion, (published in the Journal of Applied Psychology and Science Daily) “It's[extroversion] also closely associated with experiencing positive emotions more regularly.”

I could talk with a random stranger and listen to their stories for an hour if they are engaged enough in open conversation. I find myself excited to attend parties and social gatherings, where interesting branches of conversation are bound to be had, new avenues of ideas and perspectives of thought surely to be discussed and explored. I look forward to deep talks or light banter with family members and friends.

I love crowds. Theme parks, movie theaters, malls-- I get a rush from people watching. I’m always listening (harmlessly, not in a malicious eavesdropping kind of way, of course,) to others and their conversations and tuning in to the steady hum of large congregations of voices. I like to hear the spikes in laughter, the consistent buzzing of words being exchanged between women chatting about the new love interests they’ve found, or the exciting new job promotion.

I can truly get lost, sitting silently, eyes closed, in the sea of voices that echo and surround me, wherever I may be. Its peaceful. This is my happy place, or at least, one of them.

I simply love people in general and I say, the more the merrier.

On the other end of the spectrum, I have many introverted friends whose argument stands as valid that being around others is awfully draining and that they only have so much time and stamina on their social meters before an immediate escape is imminent. Though it's not something I necessarily relate with on a regular basis, I can understand the logic behind this concept which is often associated with introversion.

What else is mentionable from the Toronto Extroversion Study, Michael Wilmot says, “few people can be defined purely as an introvert or extrovert. Everyone displays a range of extroverted and introverted behaviors.” Something to keep in mind when defining yourself in the arena of sociality.

You would think as an extrovert who finds peace at extremely public places--such as the stage (performing local comedy or poetry perhaps) and as someone who looks forward to events like weddings, family reunions and other large group get- togethers, that I might also love to live with several people and that I would surely become extremely antsy and claustrophobic when alone. In reality, this is not usually the case.

Its not that I extract essence from those I’m interacting with and that's why I feel charged after a conversation, its more that I usually come to the table pre-charged and running off my own battery reserves-- I’m not depending on the environment around me to feel okay. I usually feel great upon arrival and have determined that this is my truest emotional state and that I will do everything I can to remain in that pleasant mindset, whether that means abruptly leaving or lingering as long as I am welcome.

I arrive ready to observe people without attaching expectations of gaining and without the dragging, nagging, “Savior Archetype” feeling that I have to give everyone every piece of me emotionally in order to have a successful, “kind” engagement or in order to be a good person. I understand that my happiness in this moment is up to me and that we are all our own captains on this ship of life.

As a result, I don't feel disappointed when conversations don't “go my way” and I don't feel drained when I bump into a toxic personality trait-- because I simply change the subject or literally politely excuse myself from the situation and walk away. My sense of boundaries is one of the strongest aspects I have when it comes to socially interacting, this is why I thrive. I prioritize my personal space when needed and I am able to give and receive more, because of it.

Michael Wilmot drives another interesting point home when he says, “By virtue of stronger communication skills, extroverts tend to adapt better to different social situations”. I believe this finding is a crucial factor in understanding why extroverts gain, while introverts sometimes get drained.

Is the reason introverts avoid crowds and conversations with people because others are constantly siphoning their energy? Unconsciously acting as parasitic entities of sorts by rambling on and on about their own lives, while in turn paying no specific attention to the introverted host who is just trying to make a break for the bathrooms to get away (all the while grumbling in their minds, “Dude. I’m not a therapist. Please leave me alone, I only came to this event for the pizza.”).

I’ve found that just like my introverted peers, I too need to get away and that I also immensely value my sacred alone time. It is here in solitude that I can truly recharge and fill up my own cup. In fact, I’d actually rather live alone than with people for this very reason!

So if we (introverts and extroverts) both equally need to recharge, why do I thrive in social settings and even extract joy from interactions and listening to others, while introverts can become so quickly fatigued? Am I a parasite, draining the life essence of others? Is my social cup simply bigger than yours? Or could it be that extroverts need alone time just as much as introverts and that we might just have a few more social interaction tricks up our sleeve..?

Perhaps the reason Extroverts can stay out longer and even find pleasure from long, crowded conversations, is due to the fact that we often have accumulated higher communication skills, which in turn, protects us from toppling over into the grasp of a detrimental, siphoning social interaction. Two of those vital social skills of critical importance are 1.)Prioritizing Alone Time and 2.) Strong Boundary Setting.

As an extroverted person, I tend to feel confident and sovereign enough to put my foot down when needed if I begin to feel uncomfortable and I am almost always happy to change the subject when it drags too long or begins to feel toxic. This is an honest, personal social communication boundary I have developed with practice and over time. By setting these boundaries I am respecting my personal space and what/who I give my energy to.

Because I know I will respect my own space, time and boundaries-- I’m able to thoroughly enjoy others! I trust that if a situation begins to feel like a cheese grater scraped against my head, I will politely make my leave and find another conversation or even abruptly go home and recharge whenever I feel I need too.

Simply put: I don't feel I owe anyone my time, energy or space. It is something I give and receive as a gift if I so please and as a result... I don’t dread social settings. I actually really dig them and am able to give others more energy and attention!

So often I see individuals being sucked into conversational vacuums where one person is tentatively listening and the other person is hardly even really listening to themselves talking as they metaphorically stumble down a mountain, each word colliding in clashes and bangs into the next. Hours can pass before the introvert pretends they just received a text stating their dog has been “hit by a truck” and they squeeze themselves out of the uncomfortable situation via “emergency exit”.

Sometimes an introverted personality can find it a huge task to interrupt a ranter momentarily or to offer blunt advice when asked or to walk away when needed. They feel they owe everyone all of themselves in order to be polite, while quietly resenting the interaction. As a result, by the end of the night they feel absolutely empty, and wish not to attend another party for the next 20 years… understandably so.

Its not at all to say that the introverted personality isn’t simply someone who prefers alone time rather than social time and that the only reason an introvert is an introvert is because they lack boundaries or bravery-- not at all. Some of the greatest people of all time are hermits, valuing and absorbing every morsel of free solitude time the same way I value endless conversations with others. Different strokes for different folks!

However, the only reason I am able to live as happily as I do as an extrovert, is because of my strong sense of boundaries and how I prioritize my energy, space and alone time in order to recharge and refill my cup. I’m able to receive and give more in interactions because I am consistently, boldly prioritizing whatever it means to be true to myself in that moment.

..Even if that means stepping on some toes in order to move forward.

Perhaps if you feel overwhelmingly drained from social interactions, whether you have more extroverted traits or introverted traits, you might consider spending more time alone, specifically to get real with your clear personal boundaries and coming to the critical understanding that, when it comes to social situations:

you don't owe anyone anything, and your own happiness is truly, solely, up to you.

Credits, research:
A study done by Michael Wilmot from the University of Toronto.

Published in the Journal of Applied Psychology and Science Daily.

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