OPINION: Personality can’t be categorized by a label

Peter O'Neill

There are a ton of subcategories for social personalities. Except there really aren’t. There are two types of personalities we use as a societal norm—the introvert and the extrovert.

Obviously, everyone is different and you can’t simply categorize people by two generic personality labels. But for the most part, it seems like we already do.

Introverts are seen as the shy kids in the back that don’t raise their hands to answer because they’re scared of being in the spotlight. Or the quiet geek that has as many insecurities as they probably have “fidget spinners.” While extroverts are regarded as the confident socialites that always seem to have it together and always crave attention or companionship.

Well news flash psych majors and Buzzfeed staff writers; these stereotypes couldn’t be more incorrect. Confident people aren’t always social and social people, aren’t always confident.

I’m sick of seeing personality mixed up the same way people label gender. The fact that someone needs to put a classification on it is the reason these ideas are now so fluid. The more we categorize our personality, the less we actually learn anything from it.

Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology, identified these default states (introversion and extroversion) as, “two opposing forces interacting dynamically within each individual.”

People seem to pick one over the other. As psychologist and introvert Laurie Helgoe writes, “though you probably will use both introversion and extroversion, one of these orientations usually will feel more like home— more comfortable, more interesting and more energizing than the other.”

Say you’re taking a personality test and the results say you are a specific personality type because of the way you interact with people at parties. Boom, the results say you’re introverted because you enjoy being reserved. Well, that’s not exactly high-narrowed data, now is it?

I personally know people that receive various compliments for being social and approachable. But at the end of the day, they still need their space. They still need to retreat and breathe. Needing a break doesn’t instantly classify you as an introvert, just as showing that you can be the first to start a conversation may not prove you’re an extrovert.

Often introverts are regarded for being cold, distant and unemotional. Some people would simply rather be analytical and choose not to show their feelings, than be overly emotional.

Introverts don’t have an easy time communicating those feelings, but are capable of having them. You haven’t been born introverted or extroverted; it’s how you were raised.

The environment you grow up in greatly influences who you become. So if you were raised meek, you probably grew up to be meek. There are many people that may be confused about who they are because they give off both “intro” and “extro” vibes. This is not some ground-breaking feeling revolutionary to the human spirit; it is simply being a hormonal 20-something year old who has yet to appropriately manage their insecurities and fear.

There are those who choose to have the elements of both personality types without some of the cons. This is an introvert that chooses to hang out with people outside of their friend groups, or an extrovert that can appreciate staying home alone and enjoying a good book.

This leads to those that need to evolve socially in order to adapt to a new environment, Whether it is to impress a potential mate or get a job in a specific field, the same rules apply. They become introverts working in teams, and extroverts being able to focus alone. I call this, “task-orientated“ introversion or extroversion; the ability to focus and practice elements, that are out of your comfort level, to achieve a goal.

When given a specific task, introverts can choose to show extroverted tendencies. They are standard introverts with a reason to be social. Not all introverts are analytical, and this is where being given a task can become a tool instead of a chore.

My father moved to Philadelphia in his 20’s. It was his first time living away from home, and he was very reserved. He ends up getting a job at a shoe store and befriends a particular coworker who changes his entire life. This man taught my father to overcome his introverted stubbornness and to push for and pursue what he wanted.

Working with customers slowly helped him overcome his shyness and turned him into a person who could show he had a purpose, even if that purpose was to fit you into size  shoes.

This is a firm belief on why everyone should at some point get a job in retail or customer service. It is a humbling period of your life which can shape you as an overall better communicator and train you to be socially in-depth.

These extroverted tasks can narrow down from a job in retail, to going out and making new friends. We all put on some sort of mask in order to achieve something. We’re told not to try and be someone else, but rather ourself. But that’s what experts call, “BS.” In order to evolve socially, you have to become more than what you are. It is totally normal to experiment with personality, trends, etc. as long as it betters yourself by the outcome.

Extroverts make up for 50 to 74 percent of the population, according to the online publication PsychologyToday. Meaning the other half is equally scared to talk to you as you are to them. Introversion is nothing to be ashamed of. Some of the greatest minds in human history were introverts, or at least a bit antisocial. Except they knew a secret you don’t; you can be both personality types on command.

Our personality bounces off others differently depending on who we interact with. Could be the mailman, could be your soulmate.

Slapping a label on someone that shows the least bit of introverted tendencies is what we should learn to shy away from. No one is truly one or the other, personality-wise. People are stuck living how those around them judge them to be, and the faster we shut this down, the faster we can become happy with ourselves.