Grouping people into sweeping personality categories (e.g., you like parties, so you must be extroverted!) allows little room for nuance—but as you may rightfully suspect, most people’s personalities contain multitudes. We know that some people fall in the middle of the extrovert-introvert spectrum as ambiverts. And just as not all extroverts naturally thrive in every social setting, not all introverts automatically relegate themselves to wallflower status. Enter the outgoing introvert, which may seem like an oxymoron but is actually not, according to psychologists.

The key to understanding the outgoing introvert is the distinction between being shy and being an introvert. “The biggest difference between a shy person and an introvert is the fear factor,” says clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, PhD. While a shy person is generally anxious and fearful in unfamiliar social settings, once they become comfortable, they can actually draw energy from socializing, she says. The introvert, by contrast, is not necessarily afraid of social settings, but can quickly lose energy or feel depleted by them. As a result, an outgoing introvert may sometimes pass on invitations to large parties or events, just because they find them energy-sucking—not because they get anxious at the idea of them or lack the social skills to truly enjoy them.

“For the outgoing introvert, it’s like a switch flips on when they arrive at the party. Being the center of attention can actually bring their personable side to the surface, and they’ll really shine.” —Dara Bushman, PsyD

In fact, it’s quite the opposite: Whenever they muster up the energy necessary to attend a social get-together, they’ll typically thrive once there, says clinical psychologist Dara Bushman, PsyD: “For the outgoing introvert, it’s like a switch flips on when they arrive at the party. Being the center of attention can actually bring their personable side to the surface, and they’ll really shine.” But the minute that things start winding down, the switch flips off, and they feel exhausted and in need of quiet me-time to recharge.

Still trying to figure out where you land on the introvert spectrum? Keep reading to learn the most common signs of being an outgoing introvert.

Signs you’re an outgoing introvert

1. While you feel confident connecting with others, you also find alone time rewarding.

To any kind of introvert, spending a good amount of time solo is a restorative and very necessary activity. “No matter how friendly or outgoing you may be, if you’re an introvert, you won’t feel naturally drawn into social endeavors,” says clinical psychologist Helene Brenner, PhD. “Instead, you’ll gain fulfillment and satisfaction from pursuits of an individualistic nature.” If you’re an outgoing introvert, however, you’ll also be easily capable of empathizing with other people, and when you’re in a group setting, others will find you warm and easy to talk to.

Consider creative people, like writers, artists, and musicians, says Dr. Brenner: They often fall into this category because they spend many hours alone, practicing their craft and drawing from their inner resources—but they’re also able to connect well with others, as the final product of their work is performative or public in nature.

2. You feel a rush of adrenaline in social settings—and then totally exhausted afterward.

When you find yourself in social situations that are in your element—like, for example, surrounded by close friends at a birthday party or doing a presentation on a topic in your wheelhouse—you’re 100-percent in control, says Dr. Bushman. You can work the room or even be the life of the party, but almost like Cinderella when the clock strikes midnight, there’s a set amount of time during which that feeling lasts. As it reaches its expiration point, the tiredness hits you all at once. “It wouldn’t be unusual for this person to be the one who leaves the event at 10pm,” says Dr. Bushman. “They’ll feel like their job has been done—and done well—and now they’re ready to go home and be alone.”

3. Your desire to be social is always dependent on your current energy level.

While most extroverts feel energized when they’re surrounded by the people they love, or bringing various people together in shared pursuits, outgoing introverts thrive in social settings only when they’ve been primed by ample time alone. “In this way, their style and needs will likely change a bit depending on overall life schedule and demands,” says Dr. Manly. “For example, an outgoing introvert may only want to connect with a few close friends when their work week has been filled with meetings. But when work demands are low, this same person may enjoy a blend of small and larger group gatherings.”

If this is you, assessing whether you have extra energy to give to a social setting, or if your plate is already full at any given moment, will help you figure out when to accept a social invite or opt for me-time instead. “Making it a habit to do this kind of personal check-in before choosing any social interaction will help the outgoing introvert feel less depleted and have more fun,” says Dr. Manly.

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