When I first met my friend Ruby (an extrovert in every definition), I was new to the concept of personality types and introversion versus extroversion. I don’t remember why, but I decided to try and explain how I saw being an introvert compared to being an extrovert and how those relationships worked (based on the extroverts I knew and what I knew of them).
I said something to the effect of, “Think about it in terms of colors; let’s just say extroverts are yellow and introverts are blue. Sometimes, blue only works with blue, and yellow only works with other shades of yellow. But sometimes, blue looks really great with yellow, because the contrast brings out the best of both colors.”
As an introvert, I frequently am told by sunny, bubbly extroverts to “lighten up”.
“Lighten up, Mouse, don’t take everything so seriously.”
“You look sad; you need to lighten up!”
“You have to see the bright things in life and lighten up!”
After a lifetime of hearing this, it gets old.
Recently, when Ruby told me to “lighten up”, I gave her my Icy Glare of Irritation. When she asked me about my reaction, I referred back to the blue and yellow conversation.
“It makes me uncomfortable when extroverts tell me to lighten up because I don’t always know what they mean… Just because I’m not on your level of sunny doesn’t mean I’m not on my level of sunny.
Blue can be light blue, but it will never be yellow.”
My extroverted friends and family, I love you. You’re amazing, wonderful people. You’re yellow, and you look damn good with my blue. I know you only want me to be happy.
But with those two seemingly-harmless words, what you’re saying is, “You might be happy, but it’s not good enough for me. You should be not you — you should be yellow, because blue isn’t good enough.”
Those words hurt.
Those words warrant the Icy Glare of Irritation.
So please think twice before telling an introvert to “lighten up”.