With the slew of Buzzfeed quizzes and Ted Talks about personality types, it’s pretty hard not to join the masses and shout out to the world that you’re an introvert or an extrovert.
But let’s be brutally honest for one minute: the people who are taking those quizzes and posting results are the people who love to label themselves introverts.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with being an introvert. However, if you’re idea of an awesome Friday night is staying home with beer, pizza, and Netflix, I hate to break it to you, but you’re like the rest of us folks that are growing up out there who sometimes like a little peace and quiet over noisy bars.
Introverts are like the hipsters of the personality types. They just aren’t like normal people.
Where has this obsession with being introverted come from? Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking does a pretty good job of proving how “American society prizes extroversion,” so it would make sense that those who aren’t always as charming as a car salesman would feel like they needed validation as well.
*Cue the We Are Introverts social movement*
It’s great to have a sense of self, but is it possible that these labels, introversion specifically, do us more harm than good? Yes, says Dr. Brian Little in The Psychology Podcast hosted by University of Pennsylvania cognitive psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman. (Check out the whole podcast here Unraveling the Mysteries of Personality and Well-Being.)
The problem with this label of introvert says Dr. Little is that “some introverts are seeing themselves as nothing but introverts and doing so is to ignore the other four dimensions of the Big 5 personality schema.”
The big 5 personality schema: (Via VeryWell.com)
– Standard features of this dimension include high levels of thoughtfulness, with good impulse control and goal-directed behaviors. Those high on conscientiousness tend to be organized and mindful of details.
– Neuroticism is a trait characterized by sadness, moodiness, and emotional instability. Individuals who are high in this trait tend to experience mood swings, anxiety, moodiness, irritability and sadness. Those low in this trait tend to be more stable and emotionally resilient.
- Open to new experiences
– This trait features characteristics such as imagination and insight, and those high in this trait also tend to have a broad range of interests. People who are high in this trait tend to be more adventurous and creative. People low in this trait are often much more traditional and may struggle with abstract thinking.
- Extraversion is characterized by excitability, sociability, talkativeness, assertiveness and high amounts of emotional expressiveness.
Within each of these 5 qualities people fall on a separate spectrum. So, an extrovert can still be high on the spectrum on neuroticism and show moodiness and disagreeable traits. Likewise, an introvert can be high on the spectrum of openness and enjoy learning new things or visiting new places.
Sticking to a label is not good for either introverts or extroverts because it’s obsessing over one of the five personality schema, but it’s especially damaging to introverts says Dr. Little because “it decreases our degrees of freedom to enact our lives and craft our lives in a way that will go down to our values, to the things that really matter to us.”
In other words, whittling your personality and your life experiences down to that one little word can put you in a mindset that hinders you instead of allowing you to continue to grow.
So, go ahead and enjoy that pizza and Netflix night on Friday, go ahead and take those silly little “What’s Your Personality?” quizzes, but understand that there are so many more words to describe the awesomeness that is you and your personality than just introverted.
1. What do you think of the growing trend of finding out your letters on the Meyers-Briggs tests?
2. Do you agree with Dr. Little that labeling yourself can be damaging to your growth?