Sunday, January 18, 2015

Why You Shouldn't Care if You're an Introvert or Extrovert


The introverts vs. extroverts war needs to stop. As the Introvert Movement is gaining momentum, a plethora of articles glorifying introverts and attacking their more outward-focused counterparts has been suffocating the internet. Propagation of stereotypes, muddled definitions, and faulty cross-referencing spread like a virus infecting those in need of identity.

The theory of introversion and extroversion is just that- a theory. Originally popularized, and badly muddled since, by the psychologist Carl Jung, introversion and extroversion were defined as behaviors. Introversion is defined as an "attitude-type characterized by orientation in life through subjective psychic contents" (focus on one's inner psychic activity); and extraversion is defined  as "an attitude type characterized by concentration of interest on the external object" (the outside world). Behavior, not identity, is the basis behind the introversion-extroversion continuum.

To think in terms of being an introvert or an extrovert is highly limiting. To think in terms of introversion and extroversion in terms of behaviors is highly useful. Introversion and extroversion are forces that need to be balanced and harmonized in order to lead a fulfilling life. They are tools that can deepen and expand one's understanding of their dynamic self and they are essential lenses that broaden one's understanding and perspective about other people. 

The internet trend of glorifying introverts has had a definite impact on the character development of people I know. They cling to the idea of an introvert, aligning themselves more strictly to the standards of introversion and becoming close minded in the process. To overgeneralize, the culture of Netflix binges, losing one's self in a world of novels, and proudly refusing social gatherings that involve an actual crowd has slowly developed into a quiet cult. Diagnostic articles such as "10 Signs You're An Introvert", "Why It's So Hard to Be an Introvert", "Why Introverts Make Better Partners", only reinforce the herd mentality of this movement.To proudly tout the Introvert Badge is to reject a plethora of opportunities to expand one's self and step out of their comfort zone.

 To victimize one's self because the world is supposedly run by extroverts is a giant step towards unnecessary drama and any believer demonstrates failure in critical thinking. This idea that the world is built for extroverts is flawed anyways: when one thinks of the world, one thinks of the coherent interactions that allow interpersonal connections and transactions to occur. This is obviously an idea that is seen through the lens of extroversion- to interact with the world is to behave in an extroverted manner. To burden the "rest of the world" with the responsibilities of tending to one's inner world is to misunderstand the introversion-extroversion continuum. Introverted needs require one to turn inwards. 

What would a world built towards introverts look like? The world can not be thought of in terms of introverted needs being fulfilled because introversion emphasizes the self and the self's inner world. There is no way to build schools and businesses in a way that fulfills "a true introvert" because education and business require interaction with the outer world. 

It is 2015 and most people complaining about the extrovert world live in the first world. No one is forcing us to engage in a supposed popular culture that favors the extrovert. The illusory "they" can not be blamed for our discomfort and agitation. 


Assessing one's natural inclinations is definitely important, but one must constantly observe and question the instances of fulfilling those natural inclinations and the reasons those inclinations exist. If, for example, I considered myself introverted thus considering myself highly sensitive to social interactions, and I attended a social gathering and spoke to many people and felt highly drained, then I would most likely blame the draining feeling on extroverted activity. First of all, this mindset sucks. Why would I go to a party in such a debilitating mindset? Secondly, I should consider the quality of my interactions- were they awkward because we felt shy and didn't know what to say? Were they draining because someone was trying to use my ears as a scratching post to vent or pump their own ego? Were they a "waste of my time" because I judged the person before getting to know them and immediately shut off all empathy and openness and only looked for evidence to support my hypothesis? 

After asking these questions honestly and deliberately, one usually sees that it's the type of people expressing a type of behavior that drains someone. Extroverts don't drain introverts. People who suck at conversing drain the people involved. This isn't a matter of introversion or extroversion- it's a matter of social skill and mindset.Obviously, one should still consider the compatibility of personality and behavior types when making decisions to interact. If person A is highly energetic and is in a very active mood and Person B is more calm and is in a very mellow, relaxed mood, then Person A and Person B shouldn't choose to hang out at this time unless they are willing to shift their mood and objectives. 

Everyone needs social interaction. Everyone needs alone time. These needs shift, let them shift organically and without the constraints of false identity. Let them shift without subscribing to the idea that you are an introvert or extrovert. 

People who identify strongly with extroversion and probably engage in predominantly extroverted activities and behaviors should take care to tend to their inner world. They need to tune inwards to observe and question their emotional and mental patterns in order to find more alignment with their goals and values. People who identify strongly with introversion should also do the same thing. 

One needs to engage in introverted and extroverted activity in order to lead a balanced life. Some people require more introversion or extroversion than others- but this need should always be questioned. Has this need been established by honest and open-minded means or has this need been established by the desire to fulfill an identity. Has this need shifted? Has this need been tested, challenged, and questioned?

Don't let introversion and extroversion limit your expansion. Introversion and extroversion are qualities and tools to be utilized in order to find balance while growing. They are opposing muscles that can recruited more deeply and with more control and precision as one engages in more and more challenging movements in life with ease and grace.

Obviously, one's natural inclinations and strong suits should be considered when making decisions. If, at this point in time, one does not feel good when interacting with many people, then that person should not work in a field that requires good customer service. Still, this needs to be examined. Maybe one should work on social skills and personal boundaries- shortcomings in these 2 fields is usually to blame for feeling drained. Life is about attitude and commitment to a preferred state. There is no way to completely avoid the types of social interactions that one would rather not engage in, so why not resolve to find a way to enjoy those interactions within reasonable means. Contribute something you enjoy to those interactions instead of blaming the interaction without making any effort to improve it. Don't quit and shut off before you openly engage.

Tempting as it is, do not strongly subscribe to any results you receive from personality tests. Don't try so hard to embody those results- there is no true Scotsman.Personality quizzes are just a beginning step towards self exploration.

Remember, attachment to a mode of identity is highly limiting. Detach yourself from the need to establish an identity- focus on cultivating values that you think improve your experience of life and the world around you, as big or small as that sphere is. Stay open. A permanently closed fist is only good for clinging and punching. I hope you never have to cling and punch.  

 Have a good week. 








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