Brain Dump: how to put yourself out there

by Arhana Aatresh (’23) | March 31, 2023

Art by Kiana Allard (’24)

Readers, this column marks my end as a columnist and staff member of The Lancer. It is with deep sadness that I bid you farewell, but I want to leave on a positive note. 

Spring is a major transition period—seniors accepted to college are starting to make friends over Instagram pages, while freshmen and juniors alike are taking a chance on new activities such as spring sports and Student Council. No matter the pursuit, everyone can agree that putting yourself out there (something you may have thought you were done with after the start of high school) is the most difficult part of starting something new. 

Embarking on these new journeys can be particularly hard because it requires vulnerability with other people. For example, running for Student Council is like reintroducing yourself to the school after overcoming the fear of talking to strangers to make friends. 

While struggling with vulnerability is nothing new, your brain can be your biggest ally in overcoming this fear. The hippocampus, a region of the brain located deep in the temporal lobe, plays a vital role in regulating memory encoding, consolidation, and learning. Because this region assists with retrieving information from memories, it helps us connect new experiences with similar past ones, which can help us react to unfamiliar situations. 

So, if you have had previous experiences being vulnerable without negative consequences, chances are that your brain will help you overcome the fear of being vulnerable by recalling those experiences. Being more mindful with vulnerability can help further encode these experiences.

Being open to other people does not necessitate being an extrovert. While extroverts are perceived as loud and sociable and introverts are perceived as quiet and reserved, their traits are more complex. Extroverts receive more gratification from surrounding themselves with other people, while introverts are more inclined to be introspective and require less external stimulation. 

The brains of people with more extroverted traits compared to those of people with more introverted traits are also molecularly different. According to a 2013 Cornell University College of Human Ecology study, when people with more extroversion receive rewards, their brains are flooded with more dopamine, a neurotransmitter that allows people to feel pleasure. Thus, they “experience more frequent activation of strong positive emotions,” according to lead author Richard Depue. 

Vulnerability takes a combination of introspection and comfort with other people, meaning that putting yourself out there takes a combination of introversion and extraversion. However, assigning yourself the label of introvert or extrovert can also manifest those specific prescribed behaviors, almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

Emerson Sawyer (’23) says “If you find yourself thinking that you’re going to be judged when joining something, join it anyway because you’ll find people there that are also passionate about that, which will make the fear of judgment go away.” Explaining that making friends and doing what you’re passionate about go hand in hand, Grace Cargill (’23) says that “being willing to be yourself is very important” and that “it wasn’t until junior and senior year that I started doing things I actually wanted to do, which were the places I made friends.”

Alexander Chang (’23) adds that “your style when approaching new things does not have to be like other people’s. High visibility does not equal high impact. When putting yourself out there, it’s not about shaping yourself to fit the world, it’s about shaping the world to fit you.”

Categories: Column, Science

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