This is why you are an introvert

When I started writing for introverts who want to sell better, a question I asked myself was:

“How different am I from when I was a kid?”

Have you ever asked yourself that question?

Were you more reserved or social?

Were you born introverted? Or did you grow into an introvert?

By exploring these complex questions, I thought I could maybe boil myself down to my essence. I wanted to know what came naturally to me and what was learned.

It really came down to the “Nature vs. Nurture” dilemma.

I have a philosophy on Nature vs. Nurture based on my observation of people and of course, my own life experiences. Don’t worry, I promise to discuss what science says about it all.

I believe we’re born one way, and as we grow older, we change–for better or worse.

An even more crucial belief of mine is that we have the power to change who we are.

This doesn’t mean change within us is easy. But it does mean it’s possible.

It’s your choice.

You have the power to change who you are. Click To Tweet

A deeper realization is that you’ve chosen to be who you are today.

That can be a tough pill to swallow depending on how comfortable you feel with who you are.

This philosophy has been crucial in tackling every challenge I’ve faced by choice or unwillingly. This frame of thinking can make a big difference for anything you want to accomplish, like selling and building your dream business. That’s why I’m writing about it.

But that’s easy for me to say and believe since I’m a spiritual, even intuitive man.

If you champion science over spirituality and intuitiveness, then I got you covered. I’ve spent some time researching the matter just for you.

This article will answer the following questions:

  • Were you born an introvert?
  • What’s the difference between temperament and personality?
  • How does introversion work inside our brains?
  • Do we each have the power to change, scientifically?

I’ll try my best to simplify the research, but I’ll include useful links for you to get the deep nerdy details I know you like.

Were you a fussy baby?

The answer to the Nature vs. Nurture dilemma for introversion can be found in understanding the difference between temperament and personality.

We’ll discuss personality in a bit, but first, let’s talk about temperament.

Your temperament is the initial set of biases you began life with.

Ever meet a fussy baby? Their temperament is the culprit of their fussiness (given there’s nothing physically or mentally wrong with the child). The same applies to easy going babies.

When you were born, your brain was wired in such a way to favor certain feelings, moods, and behaviors when reacting to external stimuli.

It turns out, crybabies now have a defense. It’s not their fault. They were born that way! Ha!

If you want to really nerd out on temperament, start reading anything published by Jerome Kagan.

Kagan is a developmental psychologist who has dedicated 30+ years to deciphering temperaments and the role it plays over the course of a person’s life.

I’ll keep referring back to some of his research throughout this article. He’s kind of a big deal in the psychology world.

Let’s get back to temperaments.

How does it all work inside our brain? And how does it relate to our introversion?

Your Amygda-what?

The amygdala has been a popular topic in recent years.

Maybe you know what the amygdala is, maybe you don’t. But there’s no doubt you’re affected by it on a daily basis…  since the day you were born!

A key job of your amygdala is to process your initial responses to different environments.

Much of your survival instinct resides within the amygdala.

According to scientists, this is the most primitive part of our brain. And that’s why some, such as my teacher, Seth Godin, refer to the amygdala as your “lizard brain“.

This part of your brain gets a bad wrap since it’s mostly associated with fear.

Since humans are a lot like pack animals, the amygdala will trigger fear (the level of fear varies from person to person) when they’ve been outed or rejected by a group of people.

But fear isn’t always a bad thing. Yeah, I said it.

For example, if you encounter a lion hiding in some bushes, your amygdala will make sure to kick some instant fear into you and help you react appropriately. And believe me, this is when you want to have your amygdala do its thing. Otherwise, you might not survive!

But the amygdala does so much more than just trigger fear in us. It just happens that fear is the most studied function of the amygdala because it’s the easiest reaction to research according to the neuroscientist, Joseph LeDoux.

(You can watch the lengthier version of that interview here).

But fear isn’t always a bad thing. Yeah, I said it. Click To Tweet

Another job of the amygdala is to associate memories with sensory input from different environments. It then helps you reinforce “appropriate” reactions whether positive or negative.

For example, if a dog bites you early on in life, you’re more likely to be cautious around them. Most would consider this negative because of the past trauma.

But here’s another example: Ever smell pizza and then you’re suddenly hungry or have a craving for it? You’ll probably end up following the scent and having a slice. And for most, having pizza is definitely positive!

One last note about the amygdala: It also plays quite the role in your libido (sex drive). And it makes sense since the amygdala is all about survival instinct. Sex is essential for the survival of our species.

Okay, the amygdala isn’t entirely bad news. But why are we discussing the amygdala so much?

Because your amygdala heavily dictates the kind of temperament you’re born with. Think of your temperament as the configuration of your amygdala.

Let me explain more by introducing two types of temperaments related to introversion, extroversion, and respective differences in the amygdala.

Are you a high reactive type?

Because temperaments vary according to the neurochemistry of the brain, which has more than 150 molecules that vary in size, density, etc. There are thousands of temperaments!

(Mr. Kagan said that in this interview. Believe me, I’m not that smart, ha!)

Luckily, we only need to learn about two types of temperaments:

  1. High reactive 
  2. Low reactive

Each of these temperaments correlates with introversion and extroversion.

High Reactive

Babies with a high reactive temperament are easily excited by unfamiliar events such as new sights and sounds.

These babies have an amygdala that’s wired to be more excitable, which causes them to be highly reactive.

In other words, these babies are easily (and sometimes, overly) stimulated by different environments. Hello fussy babies, lol.

Their natural tendency before kindergarten is to be shy, fearful, and quiet.

Sound familiar?

As you’ve probably suspected, high reactive types typically grow to become more introverted.

Low Reactive

Those with a low reactive temperament are the opposite. They’re more relaxed when experiencing unfamiliar events.

These babies have an amygdala that is configured to be less stimulated by the same unfamiliar events.

In contrast, these babies typically grow to be social, high-risk and enjoy exploring new places.

Yup, you guessed it. Low reactive types typically grow to become extroverted.

Yikes! Are introverts born with a disadvantage?

It may appear that those with a high reactive temperament are born with a disadvantage. After all, their amygdala is built to favor shyness, fear, and irritation when overstimulated.

Wouldn’t that be devastating for us introverts?!

Luckily, this is where personality saves the day.

Many believe that you’re born and stuck with your personality. But that’s not true.

Your personality is developed over time according to your experiences, culture, and what’s been nurtured in you. Parents and caregivers can make all the difference to say nonetheless.

Susan Cain explained this beautifully in her bestselling book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking:

Temperament refers to inborn, biologically based behavioral and emotional patterns that are observable in infancy and early childhood; personality is the complex brew that emerges after cultural influence and personal experience are thrown into the mix.

(By the way, Susan Cain is another big deal, in my opinion. She’s awakened America’s conscience in regards to introversion).

Certain personalities are more compatible with certain temperaments.

A person with a high reactive temperament will naturally gravitate toward vocations and environments that don’t overstimulate them. Hence, they choose a more introverted personality.

On the other hand, low reactive types are constantly seeking more stimulation and therefore, choose to be more extroverted.

Believe it or not, you’ve chosen to be who you are today. Click To Tweet

The introversion and extroversion spectrum is just one element of your personality. There’s so much more but for the sake of the length of this article, we’ll only discuss this element.

You have the power to change

Although those who have a high reactive temperament tend to become introverts, there are anomalies.

In his research, Kagan found high reactive types who grew to be extroverted due to the environment which nurtured them. He also found the reverse to be true–low reactives who grew to be introverted.

This is good news. It also explains why your results from a personality test might change over time.

Many people are actually referring to their high reactive temperament when talking about their introversion. And it’s why some people are in denial about their introversion or falsely claim they’re an introvert. But that’s an entirely different article!

The point is: You’re not fixed personality wise by any means.

You have the power to change and more importantly, to choose who you are.

You have the power to change and more importantly, to choose who you are. Click To Tweet

This isn’t just fluff talk, even science recognizes it!

I’ll finish this article by asking you a question:

Has there been a moment in your life where you chose to change your personality due to a new belief, paradigm, or understanding?

You might have to dig for it, but I’m sure you have such a moment.

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