Being introverted in a society that thrives on extroverted energy can feel like a tumultuous place to be. Our culture often seems to reward the loudest and most aggressive one in the bunch. So what does that mean for us introverts? Are we best served by modifying our personality to fit the order of the day? In my opinion, no. However, I do think that being introverted in an extroverted society gives us a special opportunity for self-reflection. Are there components of our introverted personalities that we can nurture and develop that will make it easier for ourselves? Heck ya there are! Lets take a look at a few things that can make our lives much better:
1) KNOW THAT IT’S OKAY TO BE YOU
Some of the best advice I ever received on this topic was, “be yourself, you don’t need to become an extrovert.” What a relief! It wasn’t until I actually read those words that I realised I was unconsciously trying to push myself to be extroverted, trying to push myself to be louder, more assertive, and social. I began allowing the silent lulls in conversation. I stopped trying to fill the space. I became okay with not always having something to say. Silence is beautiful too.
Rather curl up with a book at home than hit up a party? Completely acceptable behaviour. We do not need to reference outside ourselves for what we “should” want, or “should” do.
Know that you are not alone. There are heaps of people who feel just like you – even if it doesn’t seem like it. In fact, many of my friends would probably not pin me as a full-on introvert. But that’s because I’ve learnt to come out of my shell, learnt to embody a truer version of myself. These next three points helped me get to where I am today…
2) MOVE THROUGH SOCIAL ANXIETY
I can say from first hand experience that social anxiety absolutely sucks. Tightness in the chest, nervousness over going out in groups, panicky vibes once you’re there – just a few of the not so pleasant side effects of social anxiety.
Now I’m not saying that all introverts have social anxiety. However, I do get the feeling that it’s more prevalent among us with an introverted disposition. I don’t have any fancy sage advice. For me, what worked was pushing myself to go out and put myself in uncomfortable situations over and over again, until these situations were no longer uncomfortable. Essentially exposure therapy. Now I know what you’re thinking, “this sounds tortuous and unappealing” (and on many levels you are correct), but for me, this method totally worked. From the other side, I can tell you that it was worth every ounce of discomfort. Why? Because now I am not limited by my fear and aversion to social situations. Step through the fear, freedom awaits you on the other side.
3) LEARN TO NURTURE YOUR EMPATHETIC NATURE
Empath: A person who is capable of feeling the emotions of others despite the fact that they themselves are not going through the same situation.
Sometimes “feeling too much” can get a bit overwhelming. Being sensitive to other people’s energy, especially in large groups, used to make me feel heavy and scattered. As a result, I would avoid certain situations.
Avoiding situations and people was limiting. I knew I had to make a change. I started by slowly building my tolerance to triggering situations. Spend a small chunk of time in situations and with people who feel overwhelming to your sensitive nature. Gradually increase these chunks of time. It will get easier as you acclimatise yourself.
Don’t own what’s not yours. If you are sensitive to others, odds are you take on what they are putting out there and experience their feelings as your own. It does not have to be this way. Ask yourself, “Are the feelings I am experiencing my own? Am I obligated to hold onto these feelings?” If the answer is no, then simply give yourself the permission to let those feelings leave your system. You will be surprised how well this works.
4) SAY “YES!” TO NEW EXPERIENCES
Spending the night in alone, taking on a solo project, or opting for a bike ride alone may seem like very appealing endeavours. Do you automatically revert to the solo experience over the group option? Perhaps you’re missing out.
There is nothing wrong with spending time alone. However, life is constantly offering us a myriad of opportunities to grow and learn, and spending time with fellow human beings is an excellent way for us to accelerate our growth. People are able to push our buttons, giving us a perfect opportunity to turn inwards and investigate our triggers. I believe that we are able to accelerate our growth by surrounding ourselves with people who can mirror our weaknesses back to us.
Say yes to the unknown. A new experience in and of itself offers opportunity for growth. You can’t say that you won’t like it until you try it. You may even surprise yourself and have some fun along the way!
I hope sharing my experiences gives you some material to reflect upon. I encourage you to take the points that resonate and leave the rest. At the end of the day we are just one big human family. Whether you are introverted, extroverted, or somewhere in between, don’t let these labels define you. You are completely unique and have a completely original way of being to share with the world. Embrace it.
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