Any veterinarian worth her salt will tell you that what’s good for your dog isn’t necessarily what’s good for your cat. While there are obviously some similarities—four legs, two eyes, one tail, and your heart wrapped around their little paws—they are in facts different creatures and thus require different forms of care.
It’s likewise silly to assume that all personality types will benefit from the same advice when it comes to personal growth. While there are a handful of general principles we all should adopt—eat right, exercise, get enough sleep, etc.—we also need a more customized map, one that incorporates an understanding of our personality type.
One of the best starting places for such a map is to explore Introvert – Extravert differences. Given that these types approach life with entirely different strategies and attitudes, it’s no surprise that their paths to growth are in essentially opposite directions. Nonetheless, if everything goes right, these types should end up fairly similar places, despite starting from opposite sides of the personality map.
According to Jung, Introverts are self-oriented—attuned to inner, subjective territories—while Extraverts are more object-oriented—concerned with external objects, people, and events.
Introverts’ approach to life, at least outwardly, is characteristically restrained. Too much external hubbub can quickly wear them out. They thus require plenty of time alone to recoup, reflect, and store up the energy they need to face life’s demands. They often work fewer hours, have smaller circles of friends, and live more meager lifestyles—all in attempt to reduce undue stress and obligations. This is particularly true of those higher in Neuroticism, for whom even small amounts of stress can feel burdensome or overwhelming.
In short, when it comes to material possessions and external obligations, Introverts can be seen as “doing more with less.” As the Introverted philosopher-poet Schiller once mused, “As a contemplative man I am capable of desiring nothing from all things… and of wishing nothing added to them.”
As discussed in my book, My True Type, Extraverts exhibit a more extensive, diversified, and active outer life. They typically have wider interests and wears lots of different hats. They might rise at 5 a.m. to exercise, work long hours, participate in a couple different clubs or boards, attend all their children’s events, etc. And what’s particularly strange, at least from the Introvert’s perspective, is that all of this seemingly frenetic activity doesn’t exhaust Extraverts. Indeed, it seems to have precisely the opposite effect—it energizes them!
Instead of shying away from people and external demands, Extraverts welcome and embrace them. In contrast to the Introvert’s “do more with less” approach, Extraverts simply go out and get more! The idea of conserving energy or resources is foreign to them. In their view, everything is infinitely abundant and within their reach. The possibility of scarcity, if it enters their mind at all, is but an afterthought.
Type Development: Expanding into Unknown Territories
A key aspect of type development is embracing and capitalizing on our strengths. Hence, both Introverts and Extraverts are wise to identify their natural preferences and harness them to the fullest extent possible. As discussed in my post, Introverts’ vs. Extraverts’ Career Path, this includes identifying careers suited to the needs, interests, and abilities of their type.
Undoubtedly, embracing our type’s dominant function strengths can take us a long way. But this is only part of our overall growth journey. Type theory informs us that each type is equipped with four functions, each of which can be developed and integrated. Type development thus involves an expansion of our typological repertoire—branching out from the dominant function to explore other functions that promise new ways of living and being. In the words of novelist Herman Hesse, “Reunion with God means the expansion of the soul until it’s able once more to embrace the All.”
Introverts’ expansion into unexplored territories is largely Extraverted in nature, while for Extraverts it’s characteristically Introverted. It’s easy to assume that Introverts have the harder job here in having to confront and overcome their Extraverted fears. But many Extraverts find it equally challenging to forsake external distractions and devote time to looking within.
In either case, deviating from our typical mode of operating can be a bit scary. After all, there’s a sense of safety and security in doing what we know and find familiar. Our ego—our beliefs, values, identity, historical ways of operating, etc.—much prefers familiar territories. It wants to stick with what it knows, thus reinforcing its sense of identity, power, and dominion.
Self-expansion requires stepping outside the ego’s stomping grounds. It means placing our fate in the hands of something beyond the ego, something we don’t fully know or understand. And this is never easy, regardless of our type.
Growth for Introverts
As we’ve already discussed, the first phase of type development entails embracing and capitalizing on our type’s signature strengths. While this can sometimes prove more difficult that it initially seems for Introverts, most eventually find a suitable niche, one which usually incorporates their Extraverted auxiliary function.
Developing the auxiliary function can be exhilarating, entailing a new way of being vis-à-vis that of the dominant. But there are times when doing so can be scary or intimidating. For instance, INFPs and INTPs may develop their auxiliary function, Extraverted Intuition (Ne), by engaging with external (E) ideas or theories (N). But there’s a big difference between entertaining ideas and delivering a public talk or lecture, which we all know can induce great anxiety.
Growth for Introverts thus requires gradually building up their confidence in Extraverted arenas. This includes finding ways of reducing anxiety and increasing comfortability in social contexts. It almost goes without saying that Introverts don’t feel particularly at home in outer affairs. And much of this discomfort is a matter of pace.
When Introverts are alone, they generally proceed rather slowly and leisurely. Once they step out the front door, however, everything seems faster, which can make them feel hurried and flustered. Extensive deliberation becomes less of an option, as many decisions must be made on the fly. And once anxiety starts rearing its head, Introverts can feel overwhelmed and start looking for an escape hatch.
A key question for Introverts thus becomes: How can I learn to stay calm and collected while going about my outer life?
Managing anxiety (and related issues, like self-consciousness) is in many respects a prerequisite for their Extraverted development. This can be accomplished with some combination of Introverted (e.g., meditation, breathing) and Extraverted methods. With regard to the latter, gradual immersion and exposure can be surprisingly effective. If you’re really anxious about interacted with strangers, for instance, start by simply being around them, such as spending time a local café. While there, draw on your Introverted tools to help you stay calm throughout the process. Once you’ve mastered that, take another small step by smiling, greeting, or having simple interactions with others. Start with small social wins and build out from there.
For Introverts who aren’t highly anxious or really want to expedite their social development, working with or around other people can be an effective strategy. For instance, an INTJ friend of mine with moderate social anxiety worked at Disneyland for a couple years and found it helped his social comfortability. Intimate relationships are another great way to develop social and emotional know-how.
In many ways, the expansion of Introverts’ personality parallels their attitudes toward, and level of participation in, outer life. Those who remain isolated and insulated may feel like the world is closing on in them, that their life options are shrinking to a bare minimum. Those who are more socially confident and active, by contrast, will start to see the world as their oyster—full of new possibilities to explore.
According to Jung, Introverts’ unconscious personality is chiefly Extraverted in nature. So whenever they mindfully engage with the outside world, they are, in effect, paving pathways to their unconscious. There’s a sense in which the outer world is both a portal to, and reflection of, Introverts’ unconscious. It reminds them of all the things they habitually ignore or don’t pay close attention to.
For instance, I’m sometimes struck when out for an evening walk just how blindfolded I am to the details of my physical surroundings (Se). Since I’m usually up in my head, the physical environment is almost always lost on me, relegated to my subconscious by default. So I will sometimes make a conscious effort (which admittedly rarely lasts more than a minute or so) to notice and appreciate the details of the world around me. Doing so reminds me of just how much I routinely miss—the things I’ve walked by a hundred times and never noticed. It’s strange to consider that I lived most of my life behind these Introverted blinders and how Extraverts’ experience is apt to be entirely different.
This illustrates that there’s more to Introverts’ growth than merely social development (Fe). It can also entail increasing engagement with sensory and environmental details (Se), circulating ideas (Ne), and external structures / modes of organization (Te).
Growth for Extraverts
Research suggests that Extraverts are generally less anxious and self-conscious, as well as more optimistic, than their Introverted counterparts. In seeing the proverbial glass as “half full,” it’s not always obvious what might be missing from their lives.
One thing Extraverts commonly lack is self-restraint. As touched on earlier, they rarely concern themselves with limits, and this makes them more susceptible to various forms of over-indulgence—be it excessive eating, spending, drinking, etc. Indeed, some Extraverts need to hit rock bottom or experience burnout before they will finally recognize the value of self-restraint.
Self-restraint is largely an Introverted skill. It involves seeing the value of self-imposed limits as well as the potential harm of over-indulgence. It’s also predicated on self-awareness—the ability to monitor and evaluate one’s behavior in light of desired standards or principles. Of course, anything which disrupts Extraverts’ spontaneous flow and engagement with the world can feel like a “killjoy” and may thus be met with resistance. Extraverts may also worry that self-restraint will make them less entertaining or fun to be around.
Another growth-related issue is, in looking to the world for affirmation, Extraverts may place too much of their self-worth in the hands of others. Hence, even those who appear bold and self-confident may be quite insecure deep down. Building self-worth around externalities can lead to problems that Introverts are less likely to experience. By placing less stock in the world, Introverts have less to lose. They have an inner stability that often eludes Extraverts. As Jung observed in Psychological Types, “The Extravert discovers himself in the fluctuating and changeable, the Introvert in the constant.” By building up their inner stability and resources, Extraverts will be better equipped to weather external storms and shake-ups.
Earlier we talked about growth in terms of personality expansion. While this is technically true for both Introverts and Extraverts, there’s a sense in which growth, for Extraverts, is more like a consolidation. Instead of bouncing around the world like a pinball, Extraverts need to develop a stronger sense of who they are and what they want as individuals. If perpetually lost in the world and its happenings, they may fail to clearly delineate where they start and the world ends. By learning to better delineate and consolidate who they are, Extraverts can develop true self-esteem and self-knowledge.
Extraverts can also strengthen their Introverted capacities through activities like meditation, journaling, solitary walks, etc. Just as Introverts need to gain more experience and comfortability in the world, Extraverts need to learn more about themselves apart from outer circumstances. As the Extraverted Goethe remarked in his correspondence with Schiller: “You have led me from rigorous observation of external things… back into myself. You have taught me to view the many-sidedness of the inner man with more justice.”
Learn more about Introverts and Extraverts—their traits, preferences, functions, and paths to growth—in our books:
My True Type: Clarifying Your Personality Type, Preferences & Functions
The 16 Personality Types: Profiles, Theory & Type Development
Introverts’ vs. Extraverts’ Career Path
Why INFJ, INFP, INTJ, & INTP Types Struggle in Modern Life