Extroverts Vs. Introverts: Survival of the Fittest

Leads To: Extreme Competition Reduces Adaptability

Why is extroversion better?

The answer is common sense for the extrovert.  When we look at the world around us, extroverts are in demand, have higher status, are the life of the party, get what they want.  In the competitive jungle of society the fittest survive.  The extroverts who fight their way to the top are clearly the fittest, the introvert who can’t even find friends or make contacts with powerful people is a clear loser of the game.   Extroverts understand ‘fitness’ as one football team eliminating another from the playoffs, one worker getting that promotion over another.  Extrovert fitness is the concept that one achieves survival in direct competition by having greater prowess and determination than one’s rivals.  “May the best man win.”

The truth, however, is that ‘fitness’ is a minimalist proposition.  In nature, those creatures that reproduce the most for as little cost as possible win.  This often doesn’t mean being competitive in any way that occurs to Loud people.  After all, one can hardly imagine a stadium full of fans screaming fanatically for a team called the ‘dodos.’  Yet dodos were very much ‘fit’ until sudden change came along.  Their lack of wing development and their inability to move quickly were desirable traits because it costs a lot of energy to grow strong wings or speedy legs.  Many people who do well in social competition look down their noses at the welfare parents who are losing the game.  These parents may be at the bottom of the social scale, but they are the most biologically fit in a post-industrial society.  They produce the most offspring for as little effort as possible.  They have a model of survival in which they don’t have to be smart, skilled, fast, or strong to reproduce.  Thus, they are the truly efficient survivors who exemplify fitness.  The mighty animals and competitive strength that extroverts love to idolize develop among the species always as a last resort when all the cheapskate strategies have failed.

I’ve just discussed the issue in terms of biological fitness when the extrovert is worried about social fitness, but the same principles apply.  In human society, just as in nature, the more energy one invests, the higher the stakes and the higher the return one’s effort must yield just to break even.  Fighting the way to the top of human society takes huge amounts of talent, energy, and risk.  Just being a homeowner competing with the Joneses across the street can make for a nervewracking existence.  Being a winner of human society is inherently difficult but what is the prize that makes all the strain and stress worthwhile?  In industrialized society it isn’t about being able to produce more offspring than other people.  On the contrary many great social winners have few if any children.  Indeed some are so busy striving for social fitness that their biological fitness is compromised.  If being the ‘fittest’ in the social sense isn’t about reproducing what then is the goal?

The end objectives obviously are recognition, adulation, power, wealth, desirable mates…  But why have all of these?  Any extrovert could consult their common sense and say that these are all very nice to have.  They’re things that make us feel good.  Not having all these things can make life horrible.  It makes us feel bad.

So we could succinctly say that the goal is an enjoyable life or simply happiness.  Yet being socially fit doesn’t even necessarily yield happiness.  Lots of people at the top suffer under the pressure of the huge expectations that come with their station and can never easily trust anyone precisely because of the high rank they’ve worked so hard for.

Surely, if happiness is the basic end goal, there has to be a more efficient, more reliable way of getting there than going down the long, treacherous path towards social fitness.  If we were to strip away the complex layers of this problem, we eventually reduce down to the self.  Certainly by focusing on this much smaller, much more immediately controllable problem we can arrive at the goal both more reliably and more efficiently.   Achieving the overall goal through these means could be considered more ‘fit’ than the whole notion of a competitive system of social fitness.  It is no coincidence that self-cultivation is the domain of the introvert.

Competing socially in an attempt to squeeze some happiness out of existence is a rather illogical approach, but it’s what we’re taught and what we’re pressured into doing all through our lives.  Only by stopping and thinking about our existence do we realize that complete devotion to the orthodoxy won’t necessarily fulfill any of our desires.

Introverts, Extroverts, and Exercise

As one who habitually works out, I am constantly asked.
“Isn’t it boring?”
“Where do you get the willpower from?”
I try to explain that I enjoy it for its own sake. But the response is usually a sort of patronizing amazement, as if I were a specimen of some rare and curious species.

Extroverts working out on their own are easily spotted:
-Their hearts are never in it. When jogging they plod along leaning sloppily forward into their sluggish steps. The person in question might very well be young and athletic, but their mental self-defeat is complete.
-Their face has a sour, bored, “I’d rather be doing anything else” kind of look.
-Their head is plastered with all the latest electronic devices to provide some form of distraction. Without the sound of the human voice at all times, they would simply go insane.
-At least one wire coming from the head flops awkwardly around slowing them down more still and screwing up their form.

How do I explain to such a person:
-How on a long run I get lost in the corresponding rythyms of my breath and heartbeat?
-The sheer joy of being in the outdoors?
-How I become completely absorbed in the rush I get while doing a max clean and press or squat?
-That it’s a socially sanctioned means of spending time alone, even when the sun is still up?

I sometimes say truthfully it’s just a part of my routine I wouldn’t want to do without, that it makes me feel fantastic, that it untangles my thoughts.
“Wo-ow, you’re so dedicated.” an extrovert glibly responds.
In that moment the wide gap in understanding becomes obvious:

-For the extrovert, exercise is merely penance for that cheesecake last night. Working out is just one of many unenjoyable activities required to maintain Surface social appearances.

-For the introvert exercise is an enjoyable activity of recharge and renewal on a spiritual level. Working out is a celebration of the individual’s mastery over the bodily domain. It is about getting away from social expectations.

When extroverts exercise seriously, it is for the sake of competition and social status. There are some very fit extroverts in high school and college, but their physical activity comes abruptly to an end when it loses its usefulness as a social tool in adult life.

The introvert often lives their young life in hiding and only emerges to discover their own physical potential well into their twenties or even later. Exercise is internally motivated, a personal exploration, a spiritual self realization.
Because motivation comes from within, introverts who exercise tend to exercise through all of life, decades after the extrovert has given it up with the exception of an occasional painful weekend jog or a short-lived new years resolution gym membership.