‘Blossom’, ‘Little Red’ and ‘Statue’ were some of the nicer nicknames I got called back in the day. Hey, I wasn’t just introverted. I was shy, timid and suffered from social phobia (well into my early 20’s).
Sure, discovering that there were labels like ‘introvert’ and ‘INFJ‘ to describe people like me was a relief. But I still spent way too much time, rejecting or denying my introverted tendencies.
There were moments where I managed to do quite well acting like an extrovert (for the sake of work, people I loved and things I regarded highly at the time), but I would always come away feeling depleted, aware that this public persona was a temporary costume that didn’t fit my true self.
What’s that saying:
‘You’ve come a long way baby?’
Yup! Yes, I have. And if I can now embrace my introverted nature – so can you.
This one’s for the introverts
Here are a few common problems you’ve likely encountered as an introvert, along with some well-tested solutions.
CHALLENGE: I can accept my introverted nature but I don’t like it and wish I could change.
Carl Jung (one of the founders of modern psychology) talked a lot about our shadow – the parts of us that we would rather deny or wish away. In a world that still widely favours the extrovert ideal, it’s not surprising that your introversion might be viewed as a deficit of sorts.
The difficulty is that when you are able to accept and enjoy some parts of your personality but reject others, it leads to a type of separatism within yourself. You walk around believing that there’s something fundamentally flawed within you and that leads to a whole lot of unnecessary suffering.
The Solution: Spend some time reflecting on what you specifically and uniquely bring to the table as an introvert. Introversion moves along a spectrum, so your way of operating and communicating with the world is likely to be quite different from the person next to you.
I can tell you that it’s likely you’re a great listener. You don’t need to be talking all the time and there are already many people in your life who love this about you.
Your tendency for introspection can also lead to enhanced powers of intuition and a finely tuned gut instinct.
You might have a tendency to speak quietly and softly and that can be just as captivating as your polar opposite. (It’s true – quiet girls can be fierce!)
Maybe you have the talent of being adept at reading body language and picking up on the emotional cues of others? Maybe you’re incredibly self-motivated and able to immerse yourself for hours without requiring any feedback or approval from your employer?
Whatever the case – you have many strengths and there is room for all of our diversity and uniqueness in this world. Keep tapping back into that and remind yourself that every part of you is worthy of acceptance.
CHALLENGE: I’m awful at networking and/or making new friends.
We all know that relationships are the glue in life and in business. This can be an intimidating factor when you abhor small talk or networking.
The Solution: You don’t need to chat with 20 new people at a conference or make five new friends at a gathering, to view the day as a success. One new contact, one new friend is enough. Check your expectations and give yourself a pat on back for showing up.
Don’t forget that you can always team up with a more extroverted friend and effectively ride their coat-tails for introductions. (I’ve often taken this approach and my extroverted besties haven’t minded at all).
CHALLENGE: Socializing, social media (social anything!) leaves me feeling depleted.
Your friends want to go out twice a week and you’re happy to catch up once a fortnight. You’re having a great night out, but two hours in, you get a wistful longing for a novel and a quiet cup of tea. You need to engage in social media for work and have a genuine love for connection, but find it hard to maintain because it’s so ‘noisy’ and draining.
Solution: You can either beat yourself up for not being more social, or you can learn how to preserve your energy and find a way to navigate your life in a way that resonates.
Accept invitations with a full heart but if you want to leave an event or gathering early – do it!
Prepare to feel liberated when you take radical responsibility for your own life. An hour or so of regular solitude, scheduled breaks completely off the grid, grounding, meditation, leisurely walks in nature – these are some of the things that are likely to replenish your energy effectively.
Give yourself permission to take the time out that you need, and know that you can be there for others and you can be there for yourself. The two are not mutually exclusive.
A final word
Embracing your introversion and being true to your nature is a wonderful place to inhabit. But try not to get too comfortable here!
Set yourself some big hairy goals every now and again. Public speaking, video blogs, chatting with strangers, or dancing on stage are a few challenges that have the potential to transform the way you view yourself. (Last year, I discovered that speaking in front of two hundred people was easier for me than mingling with two hundred people afterwards. Go figure!).
This applies to your private life as well. If you are a consummate introvert, it’s likely that you could easily take a week-long vow of silence or remain cloistered in the comfort of your own home, for much longer than is beneficial to your mental health. People need people – so a give yourself a gentle nudge to get out there a little more than you would normally choose to.
I’d love to hear about what challenges you have had as an introvert (or extrovert) and any tips you have, for showing up in a bigger way.