If you had asked me 3-4 months ago about whether I was an introvert or an extrovert, I would have told you that I was an extrovert. And most people that I know would have assumed I was extroverted as well.
You see I frequently do things that people consider outgoing. I’m not shy. I’m extremely talkative. I’ve always been driven, going after whatever I wanted. And once you get me out, even in a crowd, I am pretty good at initiating conversations with complete strangers.
But back in November, when my Alba Technique teacher asked me to take the Myers-Briggs Personality Test, I found myself reevaluating a lot of what I had previous believed to be true about myself. I realized that the questions where I was most unsure about how to answer were related to introversion/extroversion. In this test which incorporates a series of yes or no questions, I found myself debating between the answer which related to how I actually feel and the answer which was more reflective of how I had always behaved in the past or felt like I should behave.
The ability to distinguish between shoulds vs. my innate nature and acknowledge that I’m more introverted than extroverted was like cracking open a safe for me.
Perhaps this is why I have such a hard time getting myself to go out to parties or networking events, but usually am okay and enjoy myself once I get there. Or why it seems like I get thrown off my game when I’m auditioning, or even when I’m taking a class with a new teacher or in an unfamiliar environment.
At first, these realizations were both empowering and discouraging. I imagined that if were able to gain a better understanding of my nature that I could develop routines to support my individual needs and truly allow myself to soar. But that didn’t stop me from wondering: What if this is just who I am and I can’t overcome that? What if only extroverts can be successful as actors and I’ve been spending my whole life trying to fit a square peg in a round hole?
So what did I do? What any “good” introvert would do! I sought out more knowledge: a framework to better understand myself.
I started reading a lot about confidence, introversion, and high sensitivity. On the reading list: The Confidence Code, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, and The Highly Sensitive Person. I’ll be honest that at first these books felt more discouraging than encouraging. Research has shown that a large part of our personalities is defined by our genetics and boy did that information hit me like a ton of bricks. The research shows that we have a lot of control over confidence and how we manage our personalities through the choices we make. This doesn’t change the fact that no matter what we do, an introvert will never turn into an extrovert.
You might be thinking, what’s the big deal? However, the reality is that you don’t have to look very far to recognize that society is dominated by an Extrovert Ideal. We are taught that extroverts are more successful. You need to know people in order to get the opportunities that you truly desire.
Acting itself seems like it must be an extroverted pursuit. In Hollywood, the big stars are constantly on red carpets, doing TV interviews, and press junkets and their lives are constantly on display. On a smaller scale, any actor must audition on a regular basis to get work and our jobs don’t last for the length of time that other people’s do. We might audition many times a week, many weeks a year, whereas people with 9-5 jobs may interview and hold a job for several years or more. And in order to audition, we are constantly exposed to large groups of people, who are also auditioning for that same job.
When I came to the realization that I’ve been behaving in a way that is incongruous with who I am, I immediately thought, “Oh, this explains why I have not had the success I feel I “deserve” up to this point.” Clearly, I must be a fish out of water. An introvert in an extrovert’s world. But the more I’ve thought about it, and talked about it, the more I’ve noticed other performers who also are introverted or identify themselves that way.
Perhaps I’m not quite the rare bird that I think, but instead we have all just gotten really good at projecting extroversion?
Which makes me curious, since performance anxiety and audition nerves seem to be the #1 thing that we are always working on, does this affect introverts more than extroverts?
I’m still working on understanding how to better nurture my the introvert in me, and imagine it will take awhile for me to sort it out. In the meantime, indulge me. I want to know if you an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert and how it affects you in auditions and performances. Naturally, I’ll be sharing what I find out in a future blog post.
Click here to take part in my anonymous survey. As a thank you, you’ll have the opportunity to win a free digital copy of Quiet if you fill it out before March 20th at midnight.
I look forward to hearing about your experiences.
PS: No time to fill out the survey? Take a second to let me know in the comments. Do you consider yourself an introvert, an extrovert or something in between? How does that effect you in your auditions and your work?