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Thinking Outside the Box: How Personality Lies on a Spectrum

You have likely heard of the terms “introvert” and “extrovert”, and you may even identify with one of those personality traits. The concepts of introvert versus extrovert are widely used amongst people to categorize and understand their personality and the behaviors that come with it. An introvert is understood to be someone who is more shy and prefers to keep to themselves; introverts tend to be over-stimulated in social situations and like more quiet or alone time. An extrovert is defined as someone who is more outgoing and an outwardly expressive person; the “typical” extrovert is assumed to prefer social stimulation and seeks more interaction with others. However, Christine Byrne has a different take on personality and what it means to be an introvert versus an extrovert. In her article, Think You’re 100% an Introvert? There’s a Good Chance You’re Wrong, she explains that personality traits exit on a spectrum and that it is not necessarily valid or helpful to define ourselves as having one trait or the other. This blog post will reflect on her article.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a popular and widely used standardized test that measures personality traits in individuals. Byrne, however, argues that it isn’t the best measure of personality. The writer adds that extroversion itself is more of an accepted and well-studied personality; it’s a part of the Big 5 personality test, which also measures agreeableness, conscientiousness, openness, and neuroticism. Scientists believe that the Big 5 test is the most accurate and telling of real human behavior. Regardless, what it really comes down to is the fact that extroversion can look many different ways and that all personality traits exist on a spectrum, according to Byrne.

If you’ve considered yourself to be a total introvert, take a minute to reflect on what habits and behaviors you have that would indicate that. Do you love your alone time? Do you prefer to stay at home and do solo activities? Your answers to these questions might be “yes”, but that might not necessarily mean that you always prefer or engage in alone time. Do you have several loved ones in your life that you enjoy spending time with? The answer to that is also likely yes, and it’s probable that you incorporate quality time with them into your schedule. It’s in these areas where Byrne points out that introversion and extroversion lie on more of a spectrum than being fixed behaviors and qualities.

Extroversion is better measured and observed through a group of narrower related traits: assertiveness, experiencing positive emotions, sociability, and thrill-seeking. Again, it is important to note that just because these qualities are more related to extroversion, it does not mean that a truer introvert cannot have these qualities at any given time. Additionally, you do not need to rank high on these traits in order to be considered an extrovert.

The author continues to highlight that although an individual’s personality is considered fairly fixed, certain aspects of personality, such as sociability and assertiveness, can evolve. My main takeaway from Byrne’s article is that when thinking of your own or someone else’s personality, try not to simplify or categorize it in terms of being an introvert or an extrovert. As humans, we need contact and connection with other people, and most of us have the ability to adapt. It isn’t necessarily helpful to categorize yourself or others solely on introversion or extroversion features.

Regardless of our personality type, we all struggle with our confidence, self-esteem, assertiveness, or communication skills, at different points throughout life. It’s not usually helpful to try to fit yourself or others in a box. Life throws us many joys, challenges, and uncertainties, that certainly shape our personalities and the life path we are all on. If you are currently having a hard time navigating your life circumstances, and this is impacting your personality and overall self-esteem, therapy may be helpful. Contact Symmetry Counseling to get connected with one of our talented clinicians today!

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