I have recently been reading about introversion and the current state of knowledge about the way the temperament of introversion or extroversion (to the extent it appears in each individual) affects each of us seems to suggest that trying to change this characteristic of one’s personality is largely futile. While we all do shift slightly, and the research points to all people leaning towards introversion in old age, the current understanding is that temperament is one of the things that makes up one’s personality in a fundamental, near-unchangeable way. For me, an introvert who has largely been sheltered from the strong winds of extroversion that our society harnesses, but have nevertheless been buffeted around from time to time, this poses a clear question. What is the value of ‘working on oneself’ to change one’s temperament to adhere more to society’s ideal — i.e. extroversion — if, for the most part, one’s temperament cannot be changed?
This is an interesting angle to take on the discussion of naturalness that I spoke about recently. For the most part, the behaviours that are accepted as socially acceptable are taught to us as we grow up, they are not inherent. However, it seems like it is time society came to a greater understanding of those areas where such a strategy just won’t work. In other words, while the state of illiteracy and inability to communicate via language — which we are all born with — is a natural state that is almost universally accepted as worse than the one we become accustomed to after being taught to read and speak, there is a clear preference in our society for those who happen to naturally be born extroverts, and a completely disproportionate disdain of those naturally born on the introverted side of the continuum. As the Atlantic article makes clear, the parallels to the gay-rights movement are hard to ignore.