My musings on different political topics relevant to America today.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

"Born This Way"

I would just like to rail against a common myth in American society.  Okay, many hold to the belief that there are the extroverts and the, dun dun DUN!, introverts.  Extroverts basically have all the fun while Introverts are boring, bland, quiet, shy, etc. etc. etc. people that are just inherently incompetent at socializing.  This is the main problem I have with this dichotomy.  Everyone thinks it is an inherent trait, they think the ability to spew words out of your mouth is an inherent trait.  This is patently false, and I will explain why.

This is a dumb picture, and
all that it tells you to do is exactly
what you should not do.  
First, the terms introvert and extrovert actually have nothing to do with how social you are.  All they have to do with is where you get your energy (so called).  Do you get it from hanging around people? Or do you get it from down time by yourself? As with everything, most are not clearly one way or the other, but a mix of both.  However, somehow these terms have been coerced to describe how social people are.  People are then diagnosed as social or anti-social.  You are simply born that way.

The fact is from my experience is that it is usually environmental factors that determine if one is supposedly anti-social.  I know personally that I lacked confidence around strangers and people I did not know for the longest time.  Even when I first went to college I was that way.  Every time I got entangled in a new group they always labelled me an "introvert" and "anti-social." Once I received those dreaded labels, friendship with any of them became impossible.

I felt two pressures.  One, no one would talk to me, because since I was "anti-social," there was no point in talking to me.  Even if they did, they never expected a response.  If I gave a response that seemed out of step with their perception of me as anti-social, they would instantly cast some remark about my aggressive nature to shun me back into my proper place, as an introvert.  It was painful, because I would simply shutdown.  I would eventually accept what seemed my lot and life and fulfill the role they gave me.  Once I was deemed an introvert, I felt there was no escape. 

If your "introverted" friend looks like
this all the time, then maybe, just maybe,
there is something else wrong despite some "inherent"
inability to speak.
The second pressure was internal.  Eventually, I would simply give up out of anger.  I wanted stronger friendships with them, but they did not want that.  I knew any time I made a comment it would be ignored, or not treated as equally legitimate to their conversations, or taken the wrong way, therefore I quit.  I would suffer through hanging with them whenever I had too, but once I could get away and hang out with my true friends that let me be myself, I would.

It might sound strange that I would be "cast" into a role, like for a play, but that is always what happens, and you know it.  You have to compete initially in any friend group to see who fits what role. I am certain that you have acted differently around different people.  You act differently to a cashier than you do to your best friend.  You act differently depending on who you hang out with, and what the dynamics of that group are.  Therefore is it so hard to understand?  Basically, I "lost" out of fitting in to the group several times.  I was not confident enough, or loud enough initially, therefore I was deemed unfit to be one of them.  Several of you won those initial social competitions, and became the "leader."  Yet I am sure you have not always been the leader.  You won that position.

Just think about it, you can act differently in your friend groups, but you do not.  Why? Its obvious, because your friends would find it weird if all of a sudden you did not act "like yourself." If you were a jokester but started acting serious all of a sudden, people would find it weird.  They would not know how to respond to you.  The same happened with me!  Now don't you understand!  I wanted so badly to be an "extrovert" but I knew if I did people would think it was weird.  I had the same social pressures you have had, and we both have responded the same way.  We both did not act the way we wanted, we acted the way others expected us to act.

Meanwhile, I have been an "extrovert" around those that I accepted me the way I was and were willing to get to know me despite my lack of confidence or loudness.  Later I opened up more with them and have great friendships now.  If you video recorded me with them, I would seem an entirely different person.  You thought you knew me, but you didn't.  You never did frankly, and most of you never will.    I am now more social than I used to be, and do not find it as hard to be accepted as I once did, but I still feel bitter about my past.  I still feel bitter that a stupid label pigeonholed me into a box of how people saw me and how I was allowed to act.

I will give a vivid example of all I have talked about.  I went to a banquet once.  Everyone at the table basically ignored me.  Conversation with any of them came off as awkward because they made it awkward.  See, I was an introvert, therefore they treated me like one.  Conversations with me were to be short and sweet and to the point.  The burden of continuing a conversation always laid with me.  It was exhausting.  I had tried, and I decided eventually to give up.  However, one guy at the table I had never met before.  He had no stigma attached to me.  I struck up a conversation with him, and it felt great! I was normally engaging someone like normal human beings do! That moment proved to myself there was nothing inherently wrong with me or my ability to socialize.  In fact, I was more social towards him than everyone else at my table, all the supposed "extroverts."

Everyone is capable of being happy,
not just extroverts.
People are not inherently introverted.  They become that way in a certain group.  Either the person does not fit in well with them because he does not have many common points of interest to connect with them, or he struggles with confidence issues, and finds it hard to open up quickly with people, or both!  These are problems that he suffers.  Yet, only a select few I have met ever tried to get to know me despite that.  Most were so fixated on the social competition, trying to look cool, and trying to impress girls (or guys) that they simply ignored me.  After all, trying to get to know me would not win them any cool points.

Therefore, stop labeling people as introverted.  Give them a chance to come out of their box.  Maybe hang out with them one on one to try and draw them out.  I have done that with others I knew that suffered from a lack of confidence.  When I got to know them I found they were really cool people.  If I had dismissed them because they were not initially cool and social, I never would have found out how awesome they really were.  Therefore, recognize that it is a problem.  Recognize that most people like that are not actually as quiet as they may appear to you.  If they are not talking, there is a reason.  It is not simply because they do not like to talk.  Everyone likes to talk, it is a natural normal human thing.  Go out today, and instead of saying hi and walking by a person you "know" that is "introverted," ask them to hang out with you one day.  However, above all, when you do hang out with them, try to erase the stigma you have attached to them and intentionally try to treat them like you would anyone else.  They would appreciate it, and soon you would find yourself making a great friend that you never thought could be that great.


  1. Definitely see where you're coming from with this one. Like my dad always said, "You have to be a friend to make a friend." Its unfortunate that it sometimes takes a bunch of heartache to realize it.

    1. Yeah I know right. Its bizarre cause it seems so simple to do if you do not have a problem with it or have already learned the rules of the game. However it does not come so easy to simply "be a friend" for alot of people. Its strange but true.