Introversion in an extroverted society

I’m outspoken, social and unafraid of public speaking— but I’m also an introvert— a statement that surprises those who first meet me.

Their misinterpretations are rooted in our social classifications. Since we live in a country in which 50 to 74 percent of the population is extroverted, according to Psychology Today, extroversion is often presented as part of the forefront of our society.

Just take a look at our school system, which usually encourages “extroverted” qualities like assertiveness and talkativeness by rewarding louder people with participation points and higher presentation grades. Conversely, we discourage “introverted qualities” like shyness and quietness.

Merriam Webster defines introversion as an emphasis on “one’s mental life” and extroversion as a focus on “what is outside the self.” However, that definition is not always so clear-cut. For example, I classify myself as a social introvert. Whenever I go out, my introversion helps me become more conscientious of how my behavior affects others. Similarly, not every extrovert is necessarily the life of the party.

As an introvert in an extroverted world, I adopt a much more “extroverted” persona than I prefer in order to assimilate. This easily drains my energy, causing me to become more reclusive after time and others to believe that I dislike them. In actuality, I just feel exhausted from acting outside of my comfort zone.

While personality quizzes like 16 Personalities or the Big Five test have grown in popularity, so have stereotypes for introverts and extroverts. These quizzes predict people’s aptitudes for certain jobs, temperaments and friendships. Although the idea of a prescribed, perfect lifestyle is comforting, it may limit people from trying new experiences.

These arbitrary groups— introverts versus extroverts— fail to take into account that our behavior can shift depending on the mood, people and environment. Thus, introversion and extroversion fit more with the concept of a spectrum. While we may find ourselves inclined to lean in one direction rather than the other, our responses are subject to change.

People need a combination of introverted and extroverted qualities in order to understand others and themselves. The skills of inward reflection from introversion and outward observation from extroversion help us prepare for future social situations and, most importantly, grow in self-awareness.

Whether you see yourself as predominantly introverted or extroverted, these labels cannot summarize how you respond every single time. Ultimately, it is more important to be flexible and act appropriately in any situation you face.

By Amy Lo, Media editor-in-chief
Editorial Cartoon by Joy Wang