Nature Or Habit?

Wednesday 2 April, 2014

I was once asked how much of ourselves we can change. I responded that there are certain elements of personality which are not even worth trying to change. We are better served by accepting them, learning to love them and seeing the beauty in them. Our energy is more appropriately focused on the areas we can do something about. But how do we know which behaviour is hard-wired into our nature and which can be ascribed to the habits we have picked up along the way?

After my previous post, I spoke to my mentor about my introverted nature. He responded with his trademark immediacy and force, telling me I am an introvert out of habit, not nature. This reminded me of an article I read recently on loneliness. The article proposed that the more we withdraw, the more lonely we become, leading to a greater tendency to withdraw and, therefore, more loneliness. It feeds itself.

I am an introvert (I aced the questionnaire and can easily empathise with other introverts), but to what extent? Maybe it’s not as innate as I think. Certainly, anyone who observed me during the three days recorded in that previous post would not have thought they were looking at an introvert.

The conversation made me think about how my introversion might have developed over time. I have spent 15 years living abroad and, despite having the languages I needed for the countries I lived in, conversation has always been easiest in my home country. That means my time overseas has been a fertile ground for withdrawal and introspection. In addition, I moved quite regularly between countries, which meant that any connections I made were unlikely to be long-term ones. The combination of transient, limited relationships and reduced interaction may well have fortified my belief that I am better off alone.

Going back even further, maybe the whole introvert package is just something I picked up from my environment when very young. Did I just adopt it as a survival strategy and then reinforce it over the years? Maybe there’s a real extrovert inside, waiting to surface. I doubt it, but that has not stopped me from progressing in that direction. It started many years ago when my mentor explained Time Structuring to me, showing me that, in order to move out of withdrawal, I had to learn to make small talk (Rituals & Pastiming).

Since moving to the Netherlands, my introversion has been challenged further. By stubbornly overriding the little voice in my head which tells me I would rather not, I make it easier to accept the encouragement and opportunities to socialise. People, circumstances, and my work have collaborated to offer me a way into a more sociable life. It’s possible that, with practise, I can become more of an extrovert. A balance of the two would be ideal. Introvert and extrovert. Nature and habit.

Related posts: Genes, Memes & Then What? | Think Whatever You Want | Controlled Experiments | Switching To Manual

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