For those not quite so versed in Latin, “ambi-“ means “both”, and “vert” derives from a word meaning “to turn”. I turn both ways: inward and outward. According to my homies Merriam and Webster, an ambivert is “a person having characteristics of both extrovert and introvert”.
A few days ago, I was surfing the net and came across this word in the context of how introversion/extroversion is not a black-and-white dichotomy. Of course, this made complete sense to me, and was nothing new. Considering that, on every personality test I’ve ever taken that took introversion and extroversion into account, I always wound up with almost a dead even mix of the two (usually slightly more extroverted, but not by much), and knowing the people I do who fall at both ends of the spectrum and everywhere in between, I’d have to be an idiot not to accept this.
However, most of the people I know are pretty clearly one or the other. They either get their energy almost solely from being around people, or almost solely by taking some me-time to recharge. For me… it depends on the day. And, until now, I always thought something was, well, wrong with me. I mean, why didn’t recharging one way or the other work reliably for me? Why did it seem so random, the days when I longed for a raging (but sober) house party, and the days I wanted to crawl under a rock and talk to nobody? I could find no correlation with hormones. At the risk of a little TMI, there are days on my period where I want nothing but to read alone in my room, and days where I will actively seek out the company of as many people as possible because I crave it that much.
Of course, these days still are random; that hasn’t changed. But knowing that I’m not alone makes it a lot easier to deal with. Because ambiverts can’t control it, there are a lot of angsty posts on tumblr about how it’s a burden; never knowing what you’ll be one hour or day to the next, and often enough craving the opposite of what you are at the moment. It can be overstimulating, but even without having the word for it until now, I’ve learned to just sort of assess how I’m feeling and choose the best course of action from there.
I don’t always, though. I want to enjoy the time I spend with people, and if I feel like I have more of the introversion coming on, I generally try to ignore it and party for as long as I can. This, of course, generally means that the minute I’m alone, I collapse on my bed and either fall asleep or start bawling from how tired I am emotionally. It does suck for a while, but the time spent with others is well worth it. A good trick I’ve found is to engage only minimally if I know I’m going to be interacting with people for a long time and I’m not sure I can keep it up. I can generally deal with being in the middle of things as long as I’m not actually the center of attention.
But just having a word for it is so freeing, and so much better for justification. I don’t have to do the awkward hem-and-haw of “Well, I’m not really one or the other… I mean, I test as an ENTP, but my scores are so close between E and I… I never really know when I’m going to feel social and when I’m going to feel like a hermit..” and getting either a blank stare or, even worse, a stare of disbelief paired with some statement that indicates I must not know myself very well. I’ve spent a couple decades with myself; I think I know who I am, thanks very much. (This is ignoring the whole thing about how who you are changes completely once every seven years or so… or something like that. That’s another topic for another post. Maybe.)
At the end of the day, though, it’s just like everything else I am: something that makes me see the world slightly differently than everyone else does. Just another piece of the puzzle.
I’m just glad I have a name for it now.