What Kind of Introvert Are You?

Are you an introvert? It depends on which book you read. Here’s a sampling of the various conceptualizations of introversion in pop culture [1]: Preference for quiet, minimally stimulating environments: Quiet by Susan Cain Preference for concentration and solitude: The Introvert’s Way by Sophia Dembling Rechargeable battery: The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney Thoughtful-introspective

Are you an introvert? It depends on which book you read.

Here’s a sampling of the various conceptualizations of introversion in pop culture [1]:

Historically, there has been just as much confusion in the psychological literature. Carl Jung originally defined introversion as a focus on one’s “inwardly directed psychic energy”. However, in the 30s, the psychologist J.P. Guilford showed that various attempts to measure Jung’s conceptualization of introversion resulted in multiple, distinct factors. In other words, there didn’t appear to be a single dimension of personality that captured all of introversion.

In the 60s Patricia Carrigan echoed this point, arguing that introversion was not effectively captured by a single scale. She cautioned that if the phrase introversion is to continue to be used, “care must be taken to specify its conceptual and operational referent. What appear to be minor distinctions between the various conceptions may in fact be crucial ones.” In the 70s, the heated debate continued, with a much older Guilford arguing with H.J. Eysenck over whether introversion can possibly, or even should, be captured by a single scale.

All seemed to be settled in the 90s with the emergence of the “Big Five” framework of personality. The five main factors of personality– extraversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and intellect/imagination– were empirically derived based on what patterns of behavior tend to go together within individuals. Under this framework, introversion is merely defined as the opposite of extraversion.

In the Big Five framework, extraversion comprises two main aspectsenthusiasm (reflecting sociability, positive emotions, and warmth) and assertiveness (reflecting the tendency to take charge, become a leader, and captivate attention). The common factor seems to be high sensitivity to rewards in the environment— which due to the highly social nature of humans throughout the course of human evolution, most prominently consists of rewards associated with social attention.

Therefore, under the dominant personality framework in modern psychology, if you score low in enthusiasm and assertiveness, you’re an introvert

Here’s the problem: the Big Five framework forces a definition of introversion onto people, many of whom do not conceptualize introversion in the same way. For instance, one study did a comparison of common-sense/everyday notions of introversion and ‘scientific’ conceptions of introversion. They found that the most prototypical characteristic of introversion, as identified by the general public, was the following item:

Clearly, many people equate introversion with introspection. In the Big Five framework, however, this item is classified as part of the intellect/imagination domain of personality, not the introversion domain. So there’s a serious mismatch between folk definitions of introversion and scientific definitions. People who view themselves as introverted because they are highly introspective are being told by scientists: “You aren’t really introverted based on patterns of covariation among the general population.” To which everyday people rightfully respond: “WTF?” [3]

As noted personality psychologist Jonathan Cheek told me, “by invalidating the ordinary language meaning of introversion by defining it solely as the opposite of Big Five Extraversion, the Big Five researchers are guilty of Psychological Imperialism [4].” Influenced by the seminal work of Jung, Guilford, and Carrigan, Cheek and his colleagues have decided to take a different approach, by focusing on the phenomenon of introversion on its own, free from having to be force-fit into one scheme or another.

As Carl Jung said, each individual is ultimately a unique crystal, but type theories can be helpful for navigating social life. Embracing this Jungian philosophy, Cheek and his colleagues argue that when people use the term “introversion”, they should never just use it by itself. Instead, they argue that researchers should put a specific modifier in front of the term. What modifiers could be used?

In her masters thesis (written under the advisement of Cheek), Jennifer Odessa Grimes defined four meanings of introversion: social, thinking, anxious, and restrained (which happens to form the positive acronym STAR). It’s possible to score high or low on either of these flavors of introversion. For instance, you could be low in social introversion by preference but not be particularly anxious in the presence of people. Or you could suffer from crippling social anxiety, but still have the desire to be highly social. Or any other combination of these four meanings of introversion.

By this point you’re probably wondering what kind of introvert you are. Well, you’re in luck. There’s a new test for that.

‘Still I Rise’ by Maya Angelou

When we aren’t confident about ourselves, we definitely can’t win anything in our life. Are you scorned, oppressed, and belittled? Want a little bit of confidence boost? Then the poem ‘Still I Rise’ by Maya Angelou is for you. 

People may picture you however they want. They may lie about you, spread rumors, and pull you down to gutters but you should never give in to such slanders. Even if they make you look dirty, like a dust which never settles down, you ought to rise. 

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

People, who talk ill about you, do so because they are blinded by petty emotions like jealousy and insecurity. They may not like you when you differ from the crowd and when you are being yourself while they cannot. You may find your happiness in small things and this might irritate them. So, they might try to bring down your confidence, even then you must rise. 

Why are you beset with gloom?

’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells

Pumping in my living room.

And, when you rise, rise like the sun or the moon, which rises everyday without fail with its fullest radiance. Like the tides which hit the shore with certainty and hope which springs higher in the darkest times, you too should rise. You know why you should rise? Simply because everyone is watching. They want to see you broken, shoulders fallen, heads down, kneeling and desperately crying at misfortunes. So, rise beyond expectations.

They may label you haughty when you differ and might be offended when you laugh happily. Even though they slander you, belittle, treat you indifferently and hatefully, you must rise like air which sees no confines. 

You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air, I’ll rise.

They will be jealous and afraid of you rising, and so they will try to pull you down. But you must rise. People oppress others based on economic conditions, race, ancestry, and color. Even then you must rise. 

Out of the huts of history’s shame

I rise

Up from a past that’s rooted in pain

I rise

I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,

Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

The poetess was strongly fighting against the oppression of black people and women. People of her race were ill treated and subjugated. She, the black ocean, is resolute to send tides of opposition against such oppressions. Though she had suffered and lived painfully, she will march into daybreak, proud of her identity that her ancestors had given her, and will rise and rise and rise. 

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

I rise

Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear

I rise

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,

I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I rise

I rise

I rise.

Hence, never let yourself be held back by restraints and limitations. You are you and be confident about yourself. If you do so, you shall also rise. 

A Poem in Appreciation of Defeat.

Failures and defeats are what everyone of us meets throughout life. But how we react to them is that which decides how successful we can be. Kahlil Gibran’s poem ‘Defeat’ gives a lesson on learning from our failures and appreciating them.

The poet calls defeat his solitude and aloofness. As said in one of the previous posts, we need to differentiate solitude from loneliness. Solitude is our time and it helps us reflect on yourselves. When defeat gives us our solitude, we reflect on what went wrong and what needs to be done to improve ourselves. This, we cannot get from success. So, failure is dearer than all the victories and sweeter to the heart than all the fame and respect which success gives.

Also, the poet calls defeat his self-knowledge and defiance. Through defeat, we learn that we are still young and prone to mistakes. Through it, we know that we have a long way to go and that we shouldn’t be trapped by the fleeting fame. When we fail, we receive criticisms and are censured. Some of these criticisms help us to grow and through defeat only, we learn more about ourselves and become strong.

Defeat, my Defeat, my self-knowledge and my defiance,

Through you I know that I am yet young and swift of foot

And not to be trapped by withering laurels.

In the third stanza, the poet calls defeat his ‘shining sword and shield’ because it protects him from falling prey to ignorance and false knowledge. Through it, the poet learnt that to succeed and labelled as a winner is to be enslaved. This is because when we succeed in something, we think we have mastered that thing and think no more. To think that we have understood everything is to level down ourselves and to be grasped by the ecstatic emotions caused by success is to be in an illusion. Hence, through defeat we learn about our weaknesses and though we fall, we are to cherish the defeat just like how a fallen ripe fruit is relished.

That to be enthroned is to be enslaved,
And to be understood is to be leveled down,
And to be grasped is but to reach one’s fullness
And like a ripe fruit to fall and be consumed.

Now, the poet calls defeat his companion with whom he can be himself.  When alone with defeat, he can talk openly about his worries and hardships. People console us when we fail but there is no greater consolation than defeat itself. Only defeat can truly tell us about what we need to work on, how to overcome hardships and challenges and how hard we should work to reach the goal. Only defeat can break into our insecurities and soul and show a way out. 

And none but you shall speak to me of the beating of wings,
And urging of seas,
And of mountains that burn in the night,
And you alone shall climb my steep and rocky soul.

Lastly, the poet calls defeat his ‘deathless courage’. He imagines himself laughing with defeat when undergoing challenges and together digging graves for everything that they shall leave behind. Finally, both the poet and defeat will see the sun and stand victoriously for all the dark times are gone. And this will be dangerous because there is no one more powerful than a person who has learnt to embrace his defeat.

Defeat, my Defeat, my deathless courage,
You and I shall laugh together with the storm,
And together we shall dig graves for all that die in us,
And we shall stand in the sun with a will,
And we shall be dangerous.

When we rightly learn to appreciate our defeat, there can be no greater strength than our defeat itself. Defeat shapes us stronger and wiser and brings us close to fullness. To succeed, we should befriend defeat and it shall be our greatest motivation.