Haley Nahman recently wrote a piece for the Man Repeller about using her introversion as a crutch. She describes a party she would like to go to and how she inexplicably toils over finding a way out of it. She later describes it as an addiction to her comfort zone.
I, too, feel that I have on more than one occasion been “addicted to my comfort zone.” I tend to dread even the most appealing nights out, and have more than once foregone the excursion chalking it up to being too tired from work or needing my alone time. I’m always shocked to find that when I finally say yes to an outing, I’m energized by it.
To most people who know me, it’s no secret that I have a mild obsession with the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), a personality test that puts you on a scale of four preferences using different letters to indicate each preference. Since I first took the test four years ago, I have always tested as an INTJ. My preferences are introversion over extroversion, intuition over sensing, thinking over feeling, and judging over perceiving.
When I first took the test, I delved deep into reading about my personality type. A sense of relief washed over me the more I discovered. Even some of my most particular tendencies, my need to rewrite anything I had ever written and never being satisfied with it, my discomfort with people coming into my bedroom for no clear reason, were listed as INTJ traits. Particularly at a time in my life when I was young and malleable (and, admittedly, I still am) I found something that gave me a strong sense of identity to latch onto.
My interest in MBTI waned and waxed over time, becoming particular strong as I entered my freshman year of college, a time where identity felt like the only constant.
I wasn’t completely naïve to the fact that there is no scientific backing behind MBTI. In theory, you can gain about as much from that as you can from a Buzzfeed quiz. I also knew that it wasn’t something that everyone could relate to so strongly. Boiling down an individual into four preferences, and humanity into 16 types of people is an oversimplification to say the least.
Despite this understanding, I still romanticized MBTI. Everyone wants to feel that they know exactly who they are and any ambiguity naturally makes us uncomfortable. For me, comfort came in being sure of who I was.
However, as I progressed through my first year of college, I started to realize that a lot of what I considered as part of my identity made me say no to a lot of things I might have actually enjoyed. It was exhausting keeping up an outdated sense of self when I was at a point in life where so much was changing. I started to understand that holding steadfast to a personality type was wasting potential.
Separating my preferences from my identity was particularly difficult when it came to introversion. That’s where I still struggle. Introversion has become such a glorified concept. Something that may have been initiated by Carl Jung, who’s studies of personality heavily influenced the development of MBTI.
An introvert himself, Jung’s work often paints the picture of an introvert as some sort of cool, creative poet sitting in a café thinking about life’s biggest question. He paints the picture of the boy Hillary Duff’s character Sam imagines Austin Ames to be before meeting him in "A Cinderella Story."
It’s grown into something far beyond what it is supposed to be at it’s basis. People create nauseating cartoons about how to care for your fellow introverts and create this notion that introverts are some sort of small animal or child that needs to be dealt with using a delicate hand.
It’s an easy lie to tell myself when I continue a streak of avoiding plans. I say to myself that it’s okay. I’m introverted and I need my alone time. It’s silly. Nobody is that introverted.
In all fairness to the test, it’s supposed to be about preferences, not a stark binary. It’s about self-identification. It can be effectively used as a tool to identify strengths and weaknesses for the right person. In fact, I still find value in it.
The problem comes when you, like I have done time and time again, use it as an excuse to avoid challenging yourself. In short, I’m calling myself out. For doing exactly the opposite of what I tell people when I encourage them to take the test. For getting caught up in a stark, unmoving identity and using it as an excuse to avoid questioning myself, my habits and my attitudes.
It's perfectly acceptable to need your alone time every once in a while. It's okay to identify yourself as an introvert. But if it's getting in the way of doing what you love, then it's time to re-evaluate what that part of your identity means to you.