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At my hiking group, it was quite a shock when a fellow hiker told me that I’m such an extrovert. Excuse me? I’m definitely an introvert. Always was, always am, and always will be.
But her comment did get me thinking: Can an introvert become an extrovert?
We all have to adapt to circumstances, and I’ve learned to speak up and advocate for myself. But has that made me an extrovert?
The lady’s comment also reminded me of Brené Brown’s Call to Courage documentary film that’s on Netflix. Brené asks the audience whether they knew she’s an introvert, and most people looked surprised because she’s such an influential and innovative public speaker – not a skill you’d readily associate with an introvert, right?
I needed to know if you can change from being an introvert to being an extrovert.
If you are curious and, in a hurry, it’s safe to say that it isn’t possible for an introvert to become an extrovert. You might be a bit more “extroverted” in certain situations, but at your core, you’re still an introvert.
What Is an Introvert?
In the early 1900, psychologist Carl Jung coined the terms “introvert” and “extrovert” to describe a person’s personality. Introversion and extroversion are on opposite ends of the continuum, while you’ll find that someone who has a good mix of extroversion and introversion to be an ambivert, located in the middle.
The key determining factor in whether someone is more of an introvert or an extrovert is how they receive or spend their energy.
Introverts turn inward to recharge, fill their cups, and relax, while extroverts turn outward for their energy needs. As an introvert, you expend too much energy in a social situation, and that’s why “me time” is so essential to recharge your battery.
Introverts are more than comfortable focusing on their own ideas, thoughts, and feelings since external stimulation, like groups or crowds, is overwhelming and can lead to burnout.
If you are an introvert, it’s likely that you are reserved, introspective, and quiet, and you prefer environments that are calm and minimally stimulating.
Here are 10 signs that indicate you may be an introvert; you:
- Are self-aware
- Prefer quiet environments
- Love being by yourself (#CrowdsAreABigNoThankYou!)
- Prefer writing to talking
- Don’t make decisions quickly
- Feel exhausted after spending time in a group
- Have a few deep and meaningful friendships and relationships
- Have a rich inner world
- Spend a lot of time “in your head”
- Don’t like the spotlight or being the center of attention
Pros of Being an Introvert
Cons of Being an Introvert
Common Misconceptions of Being an Introvert
There are quite a number of misconceptions or myths about introverts. Not every introvert is the same, so these myths may be true for some introverts, while they aren’t true for others.
Here are the most common misconceptions about being an introvert:
- Introverts are shy.
- Introverts are unfriendly, antisocial, and/or socially awkward.
- Introverts can’t be leaders (or great leaders).
- Introverts can’t make friends because it’s difficult to get to know them.
- Introverts hate or strongly dislike people (and therefore, don’t care about people).
- Introverts are impolite.
- Introverts have low self-esteem.
- Introverts spend their time wishing they were more like their extroverted cousins.
- Introverts are loners, and thus, lonely.
- Introverts don’t have emotions because they don’t share.
- Introverts have no ambition or drive to achieve and succeed.
- Introverts are boring (#PartyPoopers).
What Is an Extrovert?
Since extroversion is on the opposite end of the introvert-extrovert continuum, people who identify as extroverts look outward for their energy needs. When extroverts are around people, they feel energized, while spending time by themselves uses too much energy so they feel bored or anxious.
If you are an extrovert, you are talkative, friendly, and highly sociable. You are a people’s person, outgoing, a seeker of attention, and the life of the party. You thrive off interaction with others, and you find it quite easy to express yourself.
Here are 10 signs that you may be an extrovert. You:
- Love attention
- Prefer working in a group or collaborative setting
- Feel isolated and lonely when you spend (too much) time by yourself
- Look to other people for inspiration and ideas
- Have many friends, and you make friends easily
- Usually act first, and then think
- May be impulsive
- Like to talk through any challenges and problems in life
- Enjoy new experiences
- Are bubbly and cheerful
Pros of Being an Extrovert
Cons of Being an Extrovert
Common Misconceptions of Being an Extrovert
Just as there are misconceptions about introverts, so too, there are some myths about extroverts.
Here are the most common misconceptions about being an extrovert:
- Extroverts don’t like to spend time by themselves.
- Extroverts don’t know how to actively and mindfully listen.
- Extroverts are too confident.
- Extroverts can only engage in shallow conversation and small talk.
- Extroverts are not very creative.
- Extroverts make better employees than introverts.
- Extroverts make better friends and romantic partners than introverts.
- Extroverts are better managers and leaders than introverts.
- Extroverts are always happy.
- Extroverts socialize all the time.
- Extroverts are self-absorbed.
- Extroverts never feel shy.
- Extroverts don’t have any best or close friends.
7 Reasons It’s NOT Possible for an Introvert to Become an Extrovert
Carl Jung said, “There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert. Such a person would be in the lunatic asylum.”
And that’s true. You can’t be a pure introvert; you are somewhere on the introvert-extrovert continuum with a whole lotta introversion with a small dash of extroversion. Plus, there are no two introverts that are exactly the same.
So, while you tend to be more introverted, can you become an extrovert?
So, to an extent, you may develop certain characteristics that are more extroverted because it’s a social necessity.
In our society, outward social interaction is the norm and valued, so it’s only natural that you – an introvert – intentionally behave in more extroverted ways to be accepted and liked in relationships and at work. However, keeping this extroverted behavior up is draining because it doesn’t come naturally to you.
But fully becoming an extrovert and leaving your beloved introverted tendencies behind is not something you have to worry about. Here are the main reasons why an introvert can’t become an extrovert:
1. It’s How Your Brain (Frontal Lobe) Works
One factor that clearly explains why an introvert can’t change into an extrovert is how your brain works, and this likely is a genetic component that determines where on the introvert-extrovert scale you fall.
Yup, the brain of an extroverted person doesn’t quite work the same way the brain of an introverted person does. So what’s different?
An introvert has more blood flowing to their frontal lobe, which is the part of your brain that helps you with problem solving, memory, and planning.
If you are an extrovert, then less blood flows to the areas of the brain that’s associated with behavioral inhibition. So it makes sense that extroverts are more expressive, action-oriented, and outgoing.
2. It’s Your Response to Dopamine, the Feel-Good Drug
An introvert responds differently to dopamine, a “feel-good” neurotransmitter that gives you the motivation to look for external rewards.
While introverts and extroverts have the same amount of dopamine, it’s more active in an extrovert’s brain, quite possibly because they have more dopamine receptors. This makes extroverts more sensitive to the feel-good chemical, making them more “happy.”
So, when an extrovert’s brain is flooded with dopamine, the buzz of these feel-good feelings energizes them, while an introvert simply feels overstimulated. And that’s why we introverts run out of social energy.
3. It’s How Your Nervous System Is Structured
More blood also flows on a specific acetylcholine pathway in an introvert’s brain. Acetylcholine is an excitatory neurotransmitter in your parasympathetic nervous system that plays a role in learning, memory, arousal, and neuroplasticity.
So, introverts feel pleasure when they are in calm environments where they can think, focus, and reflect.
There’s more too.
The parasympathetic nervous system controls your “rest and digest” or “throttle-down” functions. Introverts prefer to engage this parasympathetic side of their nervous system, and when they do, they withdraw from the outside environment and conserve energy.
You feel relaxed, and your body essentially readies itself for contemplation and hibernation – two things introverts absolutely love.
On the other hand, extroverts prefer to engage their sympathetic nervous system, which is the opposite of the parasympathetic system. The sympathetic system is known as the “flight, fight, or freeze” or “full throttle” side that stimulates a need for adventure, inquisitiveness, and active dares.
An extrovert’s brain is more alert and hyper-focused when the sympathetic side is in control, and that’s why extroverts are more action-oriented and why they get energy from social stimuli.
4. It’s the RAS and High Arousal Levels
On another physiological level, psychologist Hans Eysenck suggests that every person has a set point at which they are aroused. The reticular activating system (RAS) is a network of neurons that’s located in your brainstem. The RAS is responsible for regulating your motivation, consciousness, and behavioral arousal.
This system also plays a part in how much information you take in, your fight or flight response, your ability to focus, and your wakefulness. When there’s a threat, the RAS can increase your arousal level so you are readier and more alert to deal with the threat or danger.
Introverts have high arousal levels, and that’s why they prefer calm and quiet with little stimulation (as they get “worked up” so quickly). Extroverts have low arousal levels, and that’s why they thrive on lots of stimuli because they don’t feel overstimulated (and they just “chill”).
5. It’s a Core Temperament
Jerome Kagan and Nancy Snidman were two Harvard psychologists and suggested that there’s a direct correlation between your behavior when you were young and your behavior as an adult.
One important “ingredient” in who you are is your temperament, which is the general way you approach the world. You can be introverted or extroverted, serious or chilled, or cautious or bold.
It’s believed that your personality is more flexible than your temperament (especially while you are still growing up), so if you have an introverted temperament, it’s unlikely that this will dramatically change over time.
It’s pretty much a case of “once an introvert, always an introvert” even though you may learn certain extroverted behaviors to help you cope better in a world that values extroversion.
6. It’s a Fixed Personality
So yes, your personality is more flexible, but once you enter your 30s, your personality traits are pretty much stable and set. A 2020 study published in the Journal of Research in Personality found that people can’t really change their personality.
The researchers suggest that even if you, for example, adopt some extroverted behaviors, you’ll fall back on your original introverted ways when you are exhausted, tired, stressed, or anxious.
So you can’t become a complete extrovert, even with loads of practice because at your core, you are an introvert and will revert to your introverted tendencies in your “fallback state.”
7. It’s “Why Would You Want to Be an Extrovert?”
Last but never least, I have to ask, “Why would you want to be an extrovert?”
Society definitely loves extroverts, so it makes things easier if you are an extrovert.
No matter how much you fake it to be more extroverted, you need “me time” to recharge your batteries as social interaction is always going to be draining.
Plus, there are so many benefits to being an introvert and just being authentically you, whether you are closer to being a “pure” introvert or whether you are closer to the ambivert middle.
After all, it’s a fact that introverts are effective and great leaders. And introverts make great friends because they build meaningful relationships that nourish your soul, make you feel seen and heard, and are there for you.
Final Thoughts on “Can an Introvert Become an Extrovert?”
You may feel like the odd one out for being an introvert, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with you. You can foster extroverted qualities like being good at public speaking, making small talk, connecting with people, and more to help you better navigate this life.
But there is a space and need for introverts in this world.
The world needs people who think deeper, look at things in new ways, and value meaningful, deep relationships. The world needs people who are thoughtful, calm, and wise. And the world needs you.
So, embrace your introvertedness, be authentically you, and the right people will value and appreciate you for who you are.
Finally, if you want to identify YOUR personality type, then take one of these 11 personality tests to better understand what makes you tick.