You’ve probably noticed the tons of articles, webcomics, and memes about introversion that have been flooding the Internet in the last couple of years. There are several books and TED Talks on the subject as well. Introverts can stop thinking about themselves as the obscure and ignored counterpart of the extrovert. If we take it a step further, they can also stop seeing themselves as introverts. There are several articles about the subject because people love them, especially introverts. They share them, comment on the publications, write other articles about it, and publish YouTube videos on the same subject. My point is: on the Internet, most introverts become extroverts.
I understand the enthusiasm around the subject because, after being the quiet one at family reunions for years and feeling pressured to interact with others, it’s a relief to feel validated. But some of those articles are straight up self-flattery. There’s nothing wrong with feeling good and even proud of our temperament. Yet a lot of it means praising one way of being in the world while shaming the supposedly opposing category, not to mention that being proud of having little interest in social interactions can be just plain rude. Here are some conflicting ideas about the introverted/extroverted dichotomy you might want to consider before putting yourself and others within those limiting categories.
It’s not so easy to identify introverts and extroverts through their behavior
A person that enjoys spending time at a bar, having fun, and socializing while loud music plays in the background can become a quiet person at a small house party. Similarly, the person that thrives at the house party, keeping the conversation alive and sharing anecdotes with charisma can become the person that sits in the corner at the club. How do we classify these two individuals? As “ambiverts”? Why don’t we dismiss the categories altogether?
Our temperament doesn’t indicate our intelligence
Introverted = deep / Extroverted = shallow is a frequent idea in a lot of articles about the power of introversion. The writers of those articles also enjoy flattering the introverted side by adhering specific prestigious habits to it, like loving literature and French cinema or whatever. I’m not saying it’s pretentious. I’m saying it’s a little silly to think that books are the only valuable source of knowledge when contrasted with human interaction.
Isolation doesn’t imply individuality
It’s good to be alone. Being comfortable with our own company is essential. But shaming people for needing others is just mean. The word “needy” is frequently used as a pejorative term and we forget that it requires strength to show interest in others, to make our desires known, show vulnerability, and face the possibility of rejection. Let’s stop idealizing cold, distant attitudes.
Our tastes and tendencies change with time
It can happen through the years, even from hour to hour. Our personalities fluctuate. The more flexible we are with our identities, the more we’ll give ourselves the space to change and discover new things about ourselves. Why miss the opportunity to have many different experiences because we’re stuck with an outdated idea about ourselves? These categories are a useful guide to help us understand ourselves better, but they stop being useful when we take them as strict descriptions of who we are.
I don’t mean to shame the people that enjoy identifying themselves as something in particular. Actually, I’m guilty of all the same things. But if you think of yourself as an introvert because you don’t talk much, consider the idea that perhaps you haven’t found your people yet. That is, people who have similar interests, enjoy talking about the topics that your passionate about, and turn you into a chatty, extroverted person. In the same way some people want to change us and turn us into something we aren’t, we can unconsciously force ourselves to unnaturally remain the same.
Images by Karel Chladek.
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