It’s easy to misidentify our personality types.
We do so all the time – from taking inaccurate online tests, to consuming online articles that portray false information about what it means to be an introvert, extrovert, feeler, thinker, etc… there are plenty of clouding factors that get in the way.
But one of the most frustrating arguments I hear people using to defend their concept of themselves as an introvert is, ‘I know I’m an introvert because I hate people.’
Which is where I need all of us to hold on for a hot second and take a step back.
Allow me to elaborate with a metaphor.
I very much enjoy weight-training. In fact, weight-training is one of my favorite things in the world.
I like the feeling of curling my hands around a weighted bar. I love the strength that resounds through my muscles when I bench-press something that seemed impossible to press two months before. I like the relaxation of stretching out after a good session.
But I can also only weight-train for about an hour and a half at a time. Because weight-training is tiring.
Because if I worked out for longer than that I’d be damaging my body. Because as much as I absolutely love weight-training, it depletes my energy and takes a (temporary) toll on my muscles.
But I can be tired out by it – and need to limit the amount of time I spend on it – while still loving it.
You see what I’m getting at here?
My two best friends in the world are introverts (an INFP and an INFJ, to be specific) and both of them need a lot of alone time to recharge. Both of them are easily over-stimulated. Both of them prefer deep analysis (in the areas of emotion and intuition respectively) to the wide exploration of different ideas. But both of them are still incredibly loving people, who think the world of the people in their lives.
The same way I grow tired with exercise, my INFx friends grow tired from jumping from one social engagement to the next. But that doesn’t at all change the way they feel about other people – which is, in both of their cases, overwhelmingly positively.
So we can perhaps conclude that hating people is not an inherent quality of introversion – any more than liking people is an inherent quality of extroversion.
Let’s consider the opposite situation: I once met an ESTJ who developed a drug addiction because he ‘hated people so much he couldn’t bear to deal with them sober.’ But guess what? The dude still lead with Te. He was an extrovert through and through – just one who was oriented towards the world of achievement and accomplishment, rather than the world of emotions and socialization.
But hating people didn’t classify him an introvert – it just made him an extrovert who hated people.
To be an introvert means to favor the parasympathetic side of your nervous system. It means to gain energy when focusing on one specific thing for an extended period of time (like reading an interesting book or delving deeply into one train of thought).
Conversely, being an extrovert means to favor the sympathetic side of one’s nervous system – to be oriented toward action, discovery and inquisition. Does an extrovert have to be ‘discovering’ people to use this side of their nervous system? No! We can have this side of ourselves activated while we’re hiking, setting goals for ourselves, even opening multiple tabs on our computers to explore a wide variety of topics simultaneously.
Neither of these definitions speak to how much or how little we like people – they simply speak to how much or how little we like stimulation, and what our preferred form of seeking it out is.
So for the love of all things holy, can we please stop equating introversion with ‘hating people’?
This is not only incredibly unfair to the many introverts of the world who devote their lives to caring for and supporting others, but it is inaccurate. It is skewing the definitions of ‘introvert’ and ‘extrovert’ in an incorrect way. And it is distracting people from getting down to the core of the real reason why they ‘hate people,’ which is more likely to be related to low self-esteem or negative past experiences with others that were left unresolved.
So can we please, please stop equating the two terms?
We’re never going to understand what either one means until we stop creating a false relationship between them.