I was listening to a podcast on introversion this week and the subject of “nature versus nurture” came up. The two psychologists were discussing this, and neither seemed to be sure if introversion was caused by nature or nurture.
Here are a couple quick definitions from About Health:
- Nature refers to all of the genes and hereditary factors that influence who we are – from our physical appearance to our personality characteristics.
- Nurture refers to all the environmental variables that impact who we are, including our early childhood experiences, how we were raised, our social relationships, and our surrounding culture.
Ever since my days as a young psychology undergraduate I have considered this debate and how it applied to me personally. I have come to realize that understanding my nature helps me know who I am, where I am strong, and where my talents are. Understanding how I developed or didn’t, due to nurture, helps me realize how I can change.
Part of my definition of introversion is how much a person is naturally drawn to their inner world of ideas and how much this inner world is valued. I have had many epiphanies related to this, but one occurred when I was talking to a neighbor. We were talking about where we worked and it turned out his company is right across the street from mine. The funny thing was, when he told me the name of his company I did not recognize it. He was aware that my company was next to his, but I did not recognize the name of his company that I had driven by every day for over ten years. This is because as I am driving, I am generally in my head thinking. This is so natural for me to drift into thought. I didn’t choose it and I can’t change it.
Another epiphany on the power of nature comes from being a parent. I have three kids that were raised in the same environment. I have an introvert, an extrovert, and probably an ambivert. One child is very much about being social and the outer world. Another child is much like me and drawn to the inner world of ideas. And the third seems to have a balance between the inner and outer worlds. Same parents, same environment, but very different personalities – ever since they were born.
I have come to realize that understanding my nature helps me know who I am, where I am strong, and where my talents are. Understanding how I developed or didn’t, due to nurture, helps me realize how I can change.
As an introvert, I don’t need as much social interaction as my extroverted child. Social interaction is very important to me, I just don’t need as much. Social interaction is a good example for me when it comes to the nature versus nurture argument. In the early part of my life, I had some issues being as social as I wanted to be. I think I can attribute some of this to the environment and society that I was raised in. The lack of understanding of my introversion, along with doubts, fears, and anxiety messages all played a part in this. However, I learned that I could become better at social interaction and enjoy the level of interaction that I desire. Improving my social skills is something I could change by adjusting my thoughts and developing new habits and skills.
I am still learning and growing, and I am still in the process of self-discovery. I know that discovering which parts of me are natural – those qualities I was born with that cannot be changed – and which parts are nurture – those perceptions and habits from my upbringing that can be addressed – help me learn and grow in ways I did not imagine earlier in life. Where are your natural gifts? What do you want and where do you want to change? As you begin to understand the roles that nature and nurture play in your introversion, you can begin your journey in becoming the person you want to be. Be strong!