Can you spot an introvert?
Is it that person sitting alone in the library reading a book?
Is it the girl who blushes when she’s asked a question?
Is it the actor singing and dancing on stage?
Is it the politician giving a speech?
I self-identify as an introvert.
Being an introvert doesn’t mean you’re shy or anti-social.
Being an introvert doesn’t mean you won’t stand up and give a speech.
Being an introvert doesn’t mean you’re a hermit who never leaves the house — although lounging around in my Pyjamas is my favorite thing ever.
You can be an introvert and also be shy, but it’s essential to know the difference.
Personally, I link shyness to fear, anxiety and overthinking. Whereas for me, introversion is about energy, stimulation, and how I process information.
This is generally how psychologists and researchers see it. But I’m not here to debate that.
In this article, I want to share how understanding your introversion can lead to a happier, healthier life.
From self-conscious to conscious
Throughout secondary school, I was the quiet one.
I’d never make conversation if there were three or more people in a group.
I tended to have one best friend at a time and liked it be just the two of us hanging out.
I became painfully shy in my early teens. So much so, I couldn’t walk past someone on the street without blushing like a tomato.
It took until my late teens to get a handle on that.
But when I think back to being a little girl, I spent a lot of time on my own, reading books, playing with toys, and I loved to sing. I’d perform for anyone who would sit and watch.
I certainly wasn’t a shy child. But I enjoyed being on my own and thrived creatively in art and music.
After school, I decided to pursue my passion for singing. I studied music and performed throughout college and into University. It gave me the social confidence I’d lacked during my shy period.
But I still felt different.
While my housemates enjoyed watching TV together, I’d be hiding in my room.
I preferred to be on my own more often than not. And I still found it hard to talk in large groups.
For so long, I put this down to being shy. But it didn’t feel the same to me.
I didn’t feel anxious or embarrassed.
I just felt more comfortable and relaxed on my own.
It wasn’t until I learned of introversion that everything clicked.
It was around three years ago. I’d just started freelancing and went to as many local networking events as I could find.
Yes, I had some anxiety around that – I mean, standing up in front of a room of strangers to introduce yourself is pretty daunting for a lot of people.
But I found it challenging to keep up with speed of conversations, and to try to listen, process and think of responses quickly with all the chatter distracting me.
It felt like my brain short-circuited with so much going on.
And after, I felt so drained.
It wasn’t just in person either.
I also found online social interaction draining, just to a lesser degree. The benefit with social media, though, is that I have more time to think and can put it down whenever I want.
The more I learned about introverts, the more I realised why I had these challenges.
Learning to Embrace the Introvert Within
I believe there are three stages to learning to embrace to introvert within, accepting your introversion, understanding it and adapting to it.
It all starts with acceptance.
Every time I read a story from a fellow introvert, I’d think ‘that’s so me’ or ‘I totally relate to that’.
It was such a relief to realise that this is how my mind (brain to be exact) works, that there isn’t anything wrong with me and I’m not alone.
As I learned more and more about myself, my mind and my body, I began to accept and adapt as an introvert.
By listening to my mind, body, and my energy, I’m able to take better care of myself.
I know it will take me up to 12 hours to destress and reenergise if I spend more than 4 hours around a group of people or in a stimulating environment,
I make sure to eat high energy foods, rest before and after (cat naps are my favourite) and limit my time around large groups.
I understand and work with my introvert strengths.
I use my practical strengths like writing, creative thinking and observation and my character strengths like empathy, intuition and understanding to help me build a successful business.
I also know that overthinking and shyness is different to introversion, and I can continue to work on that part of me as I have most of my life.
After accepting and understanding my introversion, I’ve adapted to embrace it.
I prepare and plan ahead, making sure I have notes and ideas written down for meetings.
I work virtually and one to one whenever possible to limit over-stimulation.
I practice and rehearse talks and speeches over and over, as I know that ‘off-the-cuff’ or ‘winging it’ isn’t something I’m capable of.
I allow myself the time I need to re-energise and usually spend time alone reading or doing something creative.
How can this help you?
Accepting, understanding, and adapting to my introversion helps me lead a happier and healthier life.
If you’ve related to this in any way, I implore you to learn more about introversion and start working with it rather than against it.
It’s time to embrace the introvert within.
Here are some of the best resources for introverts: