Archive for May, 2013

Have a glass of extroversion!

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

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(05/02/13)

Do societal pressures motivate some of us to drink? We can’t blame society for our own drinking behavior, but for some of us, societal pressures, along with our personality type, can influence our drinking habit. Quite a few introverts are under the belief that drinking will help them become extroverts, and extroverts are often prized or admired by society. It’s worth the time to step back and consider your own personality style and determine if you’re introverted or extroverted. I don’t like pigeonholing people by using labels, but we all have a propensity towards a certain temperament; introvert or extrovert.

If I must use a label, then I will say that we are all ambiverts (a combination of introvert and extrovert behaviors), yet each of us lean more towards a certain style. For example, I am an outgoing introvert. I have no fear of public speaking and social engagement. Yet I truly prefer one-on-one exchange as to large social gatherings. I enjoy my solitude and I prefer to work alone. I have little to no fear of introducing myself to a stranger, but my goal in introducing myself is not to gain mass popularity and acceptance. Being an outgoing introvert puts me in a strange spot, especially as an author. I know that I would sell more books and become more popular by being more public (extrovert). However, MY popularity does no good to someone else. If YOU desire to find happiness in your sobriety, how would my popularity help you? How would my popularity help YOU go through the discovery process of learning about yourself? So my avocation of writing and my enjoyment of solitude lend me towards being an introvert and I try to embrace what I am, but I’m willing to be flexible and adapt when necessary.

Back to the topic of societal pressures. Some of us are more introverted than others. An introvert is not necessarily shy, has an inferiority complex or is antisocial, yet the introvert is often automatically labeled as such. That’s when an introvert may feel societal pressure (by extroverts) to go out, tear it up and “appear” to be normal. Again, society is not to blame, the individual allows themselves to be swayed. Let me state that the “individual” is not weak or foolishly impressionable; on the contrary, introverts are perceptive and can internalize what they see. The individual has normal human desires; to be loved, accepted and respected. They do this by loving, accepting and respecting in return. This is often accomplished by behaving and living in a way that the individual believes are the expected societal norms—the act of social engagement as prescribed by extroverts*. This is when an individual may go against their own better judgment and try to become someone they are not.

*(Extroverts are NOT to be labeled as drunken, immoral loudmouths. Many extroverts are very thoughtful, introspective and are even shy. Extroverts can also socially engage without partaking in any self-destructive behaviors. However, extroverts do have more influence than introverts do on mass audience persuasion and cultural bias through their outgoing involvement in social media, advertising and public attention. For instance, an introvert can influence culture by establishing a music style or fashion style, but it is the extrovert who usually brings it to the mass market.)

To engage in “perceived social norms” one often believes that they must follow their immediate social group’s traditions which may include: levels of drinking, recreational drug use, certain sports, hobbies, religions, political parties, material or financial acquisitions, physical appearance and artistic interests. Following or appeasing the perceived social norm can draw a healthy person (introvert or extrovert) into self-destructive behaviors. We often do things to please others and to avoid being judged.

The desire to please others is noble and natural, yet it can lead a person down a self-destructive path. I don’t think that any of us plan to become dependent on alcohol or drugs (or gambling or sex or anything), but it happens. Often it happens out of our desire to please our friends and peers. It’s not their fault, we willingly participated (albeit we may have felt pressure), it was still our decision to hang out with them and to participate in the behavior.

It is a fact that we are constantly being judged by others, but shouldn’t we consider who is judging us? Why should you care if someone judges you poorly based on THEIR temperament and standard of values, especially if the two of you have different temperaments and values? I believe this is an important thought to keep in mind. This will help you be comfortable with your beliefs and personal values, holding onto your own self-esteem—while not being overly judgmental of other’s beliefs and values—respecting their right to their own self-esteem. You may not agree with someone else’s values, but they have just as much right to them as you have to yours.

This line of thought should not be misinterpreted as an endorsement to live any way you choose by disregarding civil law or behaving in contempt of social decency. Most of us innately know the difference between right and wrong. But living your life to appease the judgment of others can become a harmful crutch. Extended use of a crutch can reinforce personal (and chemical) dependency on said crutch. As a child, we learn to use crutches early in life—act a certain way and we will likely get what we want. This can establish future behavior patterns (habits) as an adult. Some behavior patterns promote collaboration, health and civility, others promote self-centeredness and often self-destructive habits. HOWEVER, (this is a BIG however which is why it’s in all caps), people can and do change. But it’s not always apparent when someone is changing and evolving towards better or towards worse.

If you’re normally the quiet type, you don’t have to drink to develop social relationships or to come out of your shell (that’s even if you want to come out of a shell). Why not call booze and drinking what it is? “Here, have a glass of extroversion.” That’s why it’s called “loudmouth soup,” and “belligerence in a bottle.” Alcohol can turn an introvert into an extrovert. Sustained use of alcohol can turn an extrovert into an introvert.

I have no absolute answer for how you should behave or what type of temperament you should have. There is no single best personality type to have and I don’t know what’s best for you. I don’t have to live your life and neither does anyone else. Only you know what feels right for you. You will likely have to take a few calculated risks to confirm what’s right for you. Balance is the goal—YOUR own personal balance and comfort.

I can offer some suggestions—regardless of your personality type (introvert or extrovert). Try new things only if YOU feel like trying them, not because someone else said, “You should try this” or “You should do this.” Take their suggestion, but decide for yourself. Do what feels right with your own personality. You don’t have to become something or someone you don’t want to be just to please the crowd.

You might want to try new things but you’re afraid or you might feel that you’ll make a fool out of yourself. Those are natural apprehensions that we all have. You may need to take a few risks. Taking a few calculated risks will build your self-confidence.  “I want to try that Zoomba class, but I’m so uncoordinated that I’ll look like an idiot.” If YOU genuinely want to try it, then try it. Here’s where “calculated risk” comes into play. Sign up for a beginner class or ask a friend to go with you. Start small and let things evolve. If you honestly like staying home and reading books, then do that. If you truly feel that you should go out and socialize, but you’re afraid to, then decide to take a risk and go out and socialize. You may discover that you like it, or you may discover that you actually prefer being at home with a book (or guitar or whatever).

I don’t think it’s necessary to discover “why” you are a certain way, be it introvert or extrovert. I believe that it’s more important to discover “what way” you are and embrace it. If you don’t like the way you are, then study and practice ways of changing. Some attributes CANNOT be changed, be they physical attributes or personality characteristics. Personality characteristics are more flexible and can be addressed, but only to a certain point. Accept what cannot be changed and please spend the time to figure out how you can make the BEST out of your own uniqueness. Don’t be a sheep—be YOU. You’ll probably discover that you’re pretty cool just because you’re you.

If you’re curious about where your personality or temperament leans, you can research the Myers-Briggs personality test. I caution that this should only be used as reference. Only YOU know what makes YOU comfortable in your own skin and it isn’t necessary to give yourself a label.

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