Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Introverts vs. Extroverts

Well it looks like I'm back doing the whole Myers-Briggs thing again. This time I'm pondering the "I" within my "INFP". My teacher argued that I am an ENFP, which is a compelling argument if it were not for the fact that I purposefully act like an extrovert to get friends and not get hurt (because let's face it: introverts are screwed in our society). I realized that this has to do with the misconceptions of what being an introvert actually entails.

Introversion does not mean "shy" and extroversion does not mean "outgoing". Many introverts know how to socialize and do so quite well; many extroverts do not know how to socialize and do it poorly. The difference between an introvert and an extrovert is this: the introvert gets his energy from being alone while the extrovert gets it from being with others. Social situations tire the introvert while energizing the extrovert. The extrovert is in his natural element in public spaces while the introvert is in his natural element in private spaces.

While some people are ambiverts (somewhere in the middle), most people fall somewhere on these lines but learn how to adapt to a variety of situations. Given how the quiet and shy in Western society are demonized and seen as "geeks", it's no wonder that they develop extroverted qualities: after all, it's the only way they'll be noticed and respected. Introversion is a quality to be overcome rather than properly channeled.

Of course, people skills are necessary to prosper but so is introspection and self-motivation. And that's where introversion comes in. While there is an absolute positive in knowing how to deal with people, there are negative aspects to being an extrovert.

Many extroverts that I have seen (being so focused on the external rather than internal) do not initially have that quality and have to work to develop that. This can cause a lot of stupid decisions on their part. Sometimes, they also can develop a constant need for acceptance to get their social fix... at any cost. While this applies to introverts too, the problem seems worse to me among extroverts and extroverts also seem more willing to sacrifice more of themselves to do so. I think this is because introverts tend to have naturally developed a sense of self: they know who they are and are generally more in touch with their emotions. Their feelings, however chaotic, are anchored. Many extroverts, on the other hand, attach their sense of self to an external source and so their sense of self has no foundation.

Not to mention that while the ability to understand and work with the feelings and thoughts of others is extremely valuable, some extroverts use this for evil rather than good. For this reason, some of them can be manipulative in certain settings, convincing people to do things that they wouldn't otherwise have done and believe things they wouldn't have believed.

It's not that introversion doesn't have its negative traits; it does. The field of social skills is not one where mistakes are forgiven and introverts (being as social skills tend not to be as natural for us) tend to make many at first. Also, many introverts (myself included) can be much too hard on ourselves because we scrutinize ourselves TOO much. We can also be afraid to take risks, which can cause us to hold back from opportunities we would have otherwise enjoyed.

Ultimately, introverts and extroverts compliment each other. They balance out each other's negative traits. It is wrong that any society would hold one above the other or try to make one seem like a negative trait needing to be changed. Neither are wrong. This has been an age old battle but it shouldn't be. We should live in a world where children's natural proclivities need to be honed rather than admonished and discouraged.

It is not bad to be an extrovert or an introvert. It is only bad to be anything other than you.

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