Thursday, May 22, 2008

Split Personality

My last post, which was written late at night in a moment of inspiration (or perhaps insanity), had a lot of comments relating to my being an introvert. I really found that revelation fascinating because it had been so long since I really considered that a possibility. When I first took personality tests, I almost always scored right on the line between introvert and extrovert, and I think I know why. The questions to determine those aspects of personality misled my response. Am I comfortable in a crowd? Yes. But I am more comfortable in a group of people where I know everyone. The thing is, growing up, I knew a lot of my classmates and a lot more people knew me, so I had very little trouble getting to know new people. In simple terms, I could be an introvert with a broader group of people I was comfortable around. I was accepted in many groups, even if I lacked the "qualifications" (I was not in the band, but could hang out with band members), but I was never really a particular part of any group except the nerds (which is often just a group of outcasts from others anyway). I should have taken some of these things as clues to my introversion, but it really did not occur to me in an obvious way. I like to keep details of my life to myself, for the most part, except with people I consider close friends or family. How have I gone so long and not noticed that aspect of my nature as one of my most introverted qualities?

I have always thought of myself as perceptive regarding other people's personalities and talents, and yet I have remained oblivious to my own overarching introversion. As some of my replies to people show, I realize now why I probably thought of myself as an extrovert for so long. My father taught me from a young age that being outgoing plays a big role in being successful. He observed that accountants with less talent often rose faster through the ranks of a firm because they became friendly with the partners. He endeavored to become more outgoing, and I would say he achieved it. Yet, he is still clearly a natural introvert. I appreciated the need to act the part of the extrovert because my father admired or acknowledged the value of being one, but I neglected to remember it was not my nature. Should I suddenly change how I live my life dramatically because of what I have learned? Not really. I think it just helps me appreciate what I want better, and what makes me happy, because I understand myself more. I can't go back and live my life over, but going forward I can live the way that helps me enjoy what I encounter. I will probably make better choices in my career, my friends, and just my social calendar. Maybe I'll even do a better job of raising my kids, knowing how my own father's statements shaped my own worldview.

-- Robert


Julie Pippert said...

Well as I said, I am also a mostly introvert who has been trained to be outgoing.

For me, accepting the balance of introversion and extroversion in myself and learning to balance my actions and activity to accommodate that did help.

So obviously I think you sound wise.

As for missing it in know the expression about seeing the forest for the trees. That's it, when it comes to ourselves, we are in the forest. When it comes to others we have a better perspective.

Robert said...

I think mine probably had more to do with not wanting to let down my Dad in some bizarre, twisted fashion. It's not like he ever said "It's bad to be an introvert, and even worse to be labelled one." He just let me know that successful people were outgoing, and I naturally associated that with extroversion as I grew up, and I wanted to be successful. I've given lots of advice to people over the years about how to be themselves, how to find what they wanted in life, and so many other things that I wonder how much I was ignoring or I simply didn't realize I needed to listen to myself. I am considering strongly taking my career in a whole new direction, or really changing careers in more accurate terms. Here's hoping that works out for me.