Introversion / Extroversion

Whether because of our biology or because of culture, we as humans love to categorize stuff. We like to organize and generalize and put things in boxes so that it’s quicker and easier to think about them. Perhaps more than anything else, we love to do this with other humans.

Race, nationality, gender, sex, Myers-Briggs personality types, astrological signs, enneagrams; there are so many ways by which we try to fit individuals into boxes so that we can make assumptions about them without actually knowing anything about them. And while I think there is some merit to some of these classifications, their presence also has some potentially destructive consequences, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Anyways, I want to talk specifically about the designation of a person being an introvert vs an extrovert. I’ll start by saying that I do think these are real observable classifications, a person can be introverted or extraverted. However, I don’t think that the classification is an innate quality.

At least for this, I tend to fall on the nurture side of things (though as with probably everything, there’s at least a bit of both). Often I hear that the designation depends on “where you get your energy,” either from being with others or being alone. For a long time I considered myself an extroverted introvert; I could turn “it” on when I want to and be outwardly extraverted, but at the end of the day or if it goes on too long I’ll shutdown and retreat into myself.

Over the past year I have really had to push the limits of my extroversion, and have actually enjoyed doing so. I’ve come to think that introverts are actually just extroverts in denial. Deep down, most if not all, people crave connection, they crave community and belonging. However, interacting with other people is seriously hard. And because it’s hard, we fail at it more than we succeed. We have awkward silences where we feel like someone needs to say something; we say something that we shouldn’t have (or think we shouldn’t have); we come up with the perfect witty response a little to late for it to be relevant; we say a joke that falls completely flat. There is no shortage of perceived social shortcomings and so it’s no surprise that people want to hide away by themselves after being subjected such internal torment.

I just listened to Conan’s latest podcast¬†with Stephen Colbert and they both talk about how energizing it is to have a good crowd and how demoralizing it is to have a bad one (they also talk about a bunch of other stuff that I think is really meaningful so check it out). Both in some way expressed how a good crowd, that makes them feel affirmed and heard, puts them on top of the world, while a bad crowded, that makes them feel separate and “other,” makes them want to quit their jobs. To me this is just social interaction on steroids.

“Extroverts” and “introverts” are subject to the same torment, where they differ is in their attitudes toward that torment. In my experience extroverts embrace tend to embrace it, whereas introverts deny and avoid it. Personally, I would proclaim myself to be in introvert because I wanted there to be an innate, unchangeable reason as to why I was socially awkward. I always admired extroverts because I sought social connection, but lacked the “gene” for it. In pushing myself to interact with others over the past several years, and especially this last year, I’ve noticed my perspective on my interactions shifting. Making a connection with another person is a privilege and it’s energizing. There are times at work when I manage to truly connect with someone, and have an amazing and productive conversation. That there is the “paycheck.” More frequently there are times when I try to connect and fail miserably, leaving me despondent. Those moments, those possibilities of utter failure, are what make interacting so hard. But keeping with the theme that I feel like I touch on constantly, when something is challenging that usually that means you are heading in the right direction.

A Case for Curiosity

I just read a paper on curiosity in medicine. It’s relatively short and I definitely recommend reading it if you get a chance. Essentially the author is saying that curiosity makes for a being better physician. I’ve always thought curiosity to be among the most valuable of ideals, and seeing it in the context of clinical practice was refreshing and encouraging for me. Medicine has a reputation of being primarily based on precision and cold, hard facts, but even in medicine, curiosity can be the difference between the good and the exceptional.

Curiosity is not a singular ideal though. One cannot be genuinely curious without also being humble, inquisitive, and tenacious. And the author of the article argues that being curious can make you more empathetic and caring (or at least makes you seem like it). If you care about something or if you want to figure out a solution to a problem you need to ask questions about it, you need to be curious. If you want to know what another person is experiencing, ask them about it (don’t say you can relate or that you understand), and not only will you get some insight into their experience thereby increasing your capacity for empathy, but you will likely be perceived to be more caring and empathetic.

So does curiosity lead to empathy, or does empathy lead to curiosity….. maybe they both lead to each other….. I don’t think it really matters. That being said I am a strong believer that curiosity is something that can be trained, taught, and strengthened, (and more easily than empathy) and the world would be a better place if we all practiced a little more of it.

 


 

I feel like I’m a bit all over the place with this one, at least more than usual, so I apologize. I would still love to know you thought though ūüôā

Combating Complacency

Complacency looks different depending on where you are.

In driving, it’s not using your blinkers or wearing your seatbelt.

In the morning, it’s not making your bed.

In the bathroom, it’s rinsing your hands for 2 seconds instead of washing (or not washing at all).

In school, its rote memorization and studying (or teaching) to the test.

It’s not vaccinating your kids; it’s using social media as your “sources”; it’s forgetting your P’s and Kyou’s; etc.

When things become routine, when we start getting comfortable, when we take things for granted, we tend to forget to mind the basic, but important details. Don’t get me wrong, habit and routine are extremely valuable, but I think it’s important to check-in every once in a while to take a look at where we are going.

I’ve been giving into complacency in some of my obligations, but I’m trying to course-correct. For me fighting complacency is finding new ways to interact and connect with guests at the museum and patients on the streets; it’s being on-time with my commitments; it’s double checking and keeping my schedule; the list goes on. If I want to grow and develop I need to constantly be creating and innovating; complacency is in diametric opposition to that end.

What does complacency look like in your life? And what does it look like to fight it?

Dream Project

One of my dream projects, perhaps when I’m retired, would be to create my own museum. It would all about the human body, and would take guests through an¬†Osmosis Jones √ó Magic School Bus-esque tour through different organs and organ systems throughout the body.

There are so many characteristics and functions of the body that are complex, but can be understood and observed in other contexts. I had some really amazing teachers throughout my academic career who made it easy to understand big ideas through relatable and simple comparisons, and once I was able to make those connections I would get super excited about the subject. The goal of my museum would be to evoke similar feelings in my guests. And coming up with creative ways to showcase how amazingly complicated, but reducible, the body is sounds like a lot of fun.

What’s your dream project?

Party Culture

Potentially unpopular opinion: contemporary party culture sucks.

I feel like there is some unspoken understanding that says the best nights of your life are the ones you don’t remember. There is a certain pride that goes with drinking alcohol to a point where you are no longer physically or mentally capable to function. Isn’t that kind of sad? We define some of the best moments of our lives as those that we can’t even remember what happened, what we did, who we were with, and how we felt. And then we relive and piece together those memories using 5 second clips on Snapchat and Instagram. If I am at a party, why do some friends insist that I black out or otherwise end up incapacitated. Why am I suddenly a lame-o if I would rather share a meaningful experience with people I care about instead of testing the limits of my metabolism (I have some ideas why, but maybe it’s too soon). I’m not claiming to be above any of this nor am I trying to tell anyone how to live their life, but I am trying to point out how ridiculous it kind of is.

All that being said if a certain lifestyle makes you happy, and I mean truly happy, then more power to you. If you resonate with any of this, where do we go from here. If you disagree or are upset by any of this, why do you think that is? Perhaps this has less to do with a culture of partying and more with culture of escapism. Everything feels better when we can forget about our problems, our anxieties, our fears, and our responsibilities, but there has to be, and are, better, less destructive ways to do that. Forgetting and avoiding is the easy way, but doesn’t fix anything; confronting and resolving, is much harder, but may fix everything. Pick your poison.

Thoughts on “The Spiderman Paradox”

In one of Seth’s recent posts, he talked about the famous Uncle Ben saying, “With great power, comes great responsibility,” and how rather than embracing their power, people end up repressing it in fear of the responsibility that goes with it.

Once again that theme of fear as the great inhibitor comes up. We’re afraid to stand out, afraid to make a change, afraid to challenge the status quo, because to do any of those things is to become vulnerable. By making a choice to be different we open ourselves up to scrutiny and to blame if things don’t work out the way we hoped. Or perhaps even more frightening, if things might turn out exactly as we hoped, then we are expected to take on more responsibility with a proportionately increased expectation to succeed. Win or lose, action comes with that burden, all we need to do is accept it. Fortunately, I think taking responsibility for one’s own actions is almost universally respected (which kinda makes me think about certain groups/ individuals who I have little respect for who want all the power and none of the responsibility). And to refuse that responsibility is to give in to powerlessness and inaction, at which point you are basically a vegetable. But even vegetables do as much as they can given their circumstance, so you’d actually be doing less than a vegetable. Think about that…

 

The Self-Love Fallacy

I was talking with one of my very good friends, Aaron, the other day on our drive home from Six Flags Magic Mountain (there you got your shout-out), and as we often do, we got deep in a conversation about a variety of stuff. One topic in particular that we were talking about was the idea of being happy with or for yourself rather than trying to find happiness in others.

Like with most things I think the ultimate idea of this is all well and good, but also like with most things I want to talk a bit more specifically about what the words mean and how people may interpret them.

Self-confidence and self-esteem are of utmost importance for an individual. There is a sweet spot here though. Too much confidence and your verge on arrogance and self-centeredness; too little and you can introduce a whole set of personal problems. Today we are often told that our self-worth and our confidence should come from within ourselves and I believe that to be true to an extent. However, we often take that to mean treating ourselves and buying nice clothes for ourselves so we can feel good. This idea of self-love and self-care leads to confidence that is grounded in our possessions, appearance, and other superficial metrics. I’m not saying we shouldn’t do nice things for ourselves, but that should not be the basis of how we care for ourselves.

Personally, a lot of my self-love comes from my volunteer work. In Doctors Without Walls, whenever a person we work with expresses their gratitude for what we do, my mentor always says to me afterward, “That’s the paycheck right there.” I don’t think this feeling is in anyway unique to me or the people I work with. Everyone has a sense of this, but contemporary culture has a specific image of what self-love is and that typically does not include doing something nice for someone else.

If it makes someone feel good than when they can make another person else feel better or make another person else feel happy, does that mean they rely on others for their happiness? If it does, what’s wrong with that (of course at the extreme we can get into¬†compassion fatigue; again moderation is key)?¬†We are social creatures by nature and I think some of our happiest moments come when there are other people in our lives. I think idea behind self-worth and self-love is being happy during the in-betweens. Our relationships and interactions with other people should not determine our self-worth, but I think it definitely can be a part of it and I think we should embrace that.

Happiness does not¬†have¬†to come from others, but that does not mean it¬†shouldn’t.

Lessons and ‘Lutions 2019

Wow we haven’t spoken since last year!

thx for my steam profile pic

K now that that’s out of our system lets talk lessons and ‘lutions. This post isn’t about the semantics or effectiveness of setting goals for the new year, because I think any opportunity to try and better oneself is good and if that means setting a starting point like the new year, so be it (end rant). Anyway 2018 was a big year for me in terms of personal and professional goals. I think this blog is somewhat of an archive of some of the lessons I’ve learned and ideas I’ve mulled, so rather than detail that, I want to talk about the future.

So here is a list of things I hope to accomplish in 2019:

READING – I collected a very exciting stack of literature in 2018, especially during this past holiday season, some of which is in the photo above. I’m starting with¬†The Gene. If anyone has read any of these, or plans to, let me know, I’d love to have a discussion partner!

Get a podcast of the ground – I participated in a podcasting fellowship of sorts this past summer, but wasn’t able to be as involved as I would have liked due to MD school apps and other obligations. Now that I have a bit more time I really want to get started on this, maybe even collaborate with my sister (http://www.frankievictoria.com/blog/).

Get into Medical School – Applications are in, now I just have to go through interviews. Feeling nervous because I have so far only gotten an interview at 2 of the ~20 schools I applied to. Hopefully I hear back (yay or nay) from the rest soon. In the end, all it takes is one yes.

Travel¬†– Once the dust settles on all the MD school stuff I really want to go somewhere. Not sure where, thinking somewhere in Asia, but I don’t know. This will kind of be my last opportunity to really travel for a while if I do get in this year.

 

That’s major stuff, if I end up thinking of others I’ll probably come back and add them in for myself. Do you have any thoughts on New Year goals? Did you make any?

Sincerely,

Niko

“Better and Bad”

Result from the rest of the world.

I’m on a new book now titled¬†Factfullness with the subtitle “Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World–and Why Things Are Better Than You Think.” One of the main points of the book is that we (especially people who live in relative wealth [defined as >$32 per day]) have a tendency to see the world worse than it is. He bases this on years of surveying various groups including professionals in international relations (read the book if you want more details). This is not to say that we should stop worrying about the state of the world or that we should stop trying to improve things. Rather we need to focus our efforts appropriately.

Without getting into a philosophical discussion on what is truth/ reality/ objective/ fact, data tells a story, and one can argue that data and statistics give us the closest thing we have to “truth.” And the data shows how much progress we’ve made in medicine, in education, in public health, in conservation etc. While some of this progress seems obvious, educated people consistently performed worse than random on the multiple choice surveys asking questions about the current state of the world.

Anyways, the author, Hans Rosling, talks about things being simultaneously better and bad. Just because there is some messed up shit in our present world doesn’t mean things aren’t better than they were. If we want to continue making things better, we must proceed with a clear picture of our present and a clear vision for our future. And just as looking back through history at our mistakes serve as lessons on what not to do, looking at how far we’ve come is important to knowing where we should go and how we should get there. Thoughts?

Smile

I try to make it a point to smile a lot and I think everyone should. Not in a “You’d be handsomer/ prettier if you smiled” type of way. Smiling just makes me feel good; it’s free and it’s a really easy way to spread a little joy around, which I think we all could use a little more of. Obviously there are situations and circumstances when smiling may be not a great idea or perhaps be inappropriate, but I think only good things can come from being bit more (responsibly) liberal with our smiling capabilities, even if that means just smiling to ourselves every now and then.

BONUS: Here’s a TED Talk about smiling