Honor Your Inner Introvert
For too long (maybe forever) introverts have been misunderstood, maligned and marginalized. Lambasted and labelled as, if not an out-and-out danger, certainly something to be wary of:
The quiet observer.
The shy one.
The strange kid.
The socially inept.
The overly sensitive.
Ahhh… you may have heard it all before. Been pegged as one or the other sometime in life. I know I have.
And, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
It’s never been easy. Especially when society tends to shun those deemed “weak” or “shy.”
In this article you will learn what an introvert is, and how to honor that side of yourself without shame, fear or embarrassment.
What is an Introvert?
The website Introvert, Dear, defines an “introvert” as:
someone who prefers calm, minimally stimulating environments. Introverts tend to feel drained after socializing and regain their energy by spending time alone. This is largely because introverts’ brains respond to dopamine differently than extroverts’ brains.
That’s just the way we are. Nothing broken; nothing needs to be fixed. Introverts and extroverts are just wired differently, that’s all.
It isn’t so black & white either.
Just like humanity in general, there are many shades to introversion. Some like to be in social situations, while others prefer solitude.
Some are expert speakers, while others prefer to stay in the back of the room.
Some are outgoing, while others hardly say a word.
You get the idea.
According to a presentation given at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology in 2011 by psychologist Jonathan Cheek, and his colleagues Jennifer O. Grimes and Julie K. Norem, of Wellesley College, there are actually four types of introverts:
Social: they prefer socializing with small groups over large ones. Or sometimes, they prefer to be alone.
Thinking: they are introspective, pensive and self-reflective. They are also likely to let their imaginations run wild and get lost in a rich, internal fantasy world.
Anxious: they feel uncomfortable and achingly self-conscious around other people, and aren’t very socially adept.
Inhibited (or Restrained): they move a bit slower than others, take time to think before they talk, judge their actions before acting.
...and of course, combinations of all the above. Heck even so-called extroverts have probably experienced one or more of these behaviors.
This research stemmed from Cheek’s initial discovery that the accepted view of introversion differed from what we, real-life introverts, would describe ourselves as.
It’s an interesting approach, to be sure. And refreshing to know someone is looking at more than what meets the eye.
Benefits of Introversion
Sure, growing up introvert was a challenge. One I wouldn’t trade for the world. Even though it wasn’t until adulthood, perhaps, that I learned to truly appreciate what a gift this trait truly is.
Perhaps you have come to realize, as I have, introversion comes with a host of benefits, such as:
Introspection: Being alone with your thoughts, and sorting things out in a cool, calm, collected way - and hopefully leading to something revelatory - is always welcome. Introspection can also help us devise ways to interact with others in a meaningful way.
Thinking Before Speaking: This is a big one. Sure, we all can sometimes spout off what’s on our minds without thinking it through first. However, introverts tend to organize their thoughts and form their expressions carefully before speaking. This ability, and I should say skill, is a true asset in any situation.
Listening: Truly listening to another person when they are speaking is another skill introverts tend to have. I mean really listening and making sure you understand what is being said, and assessing if a response is needed. Introverts make some of the best sounding-boards. Be sure that you aren’t being taken for granted, or taken advantage of though.
Enjoying Silence: Powering down is another one of our skills. Being able to unplug and just “be.” Silence isn’t something we fear, it’s something we welcome and embrace like a trusted friend.
Deep Thinking: Similar to introspection, deep thinking is when we concentrate on an idea or subject and take it apart every which way. We can see the multiple sides to most any topic, argument or situation. Which can be a blessing and a curse (you know what I’m talking about).
Developing Empathy: Another blessing and curse - empathy. Far beyond sympathy, empathy allows us to actually feel what someone else is going through, for better or for worse. Empathy, and being empathic, can be a real drain. But, it can also be an amazing gift that allows you to help yourself others like no one else can.
Honing Intuition: This one is a true gift if there ever was one. Call it what you will; Intuition, Gut Instinct, Vibe… you know full well that feeling you get (wherever you get it) when your inner introvert is telling you what way to go on a particular issue. How often you listen to it, well, that’s another story.
Building Observation Skills: Yes, we are watchers. Introverts tend to notice things others don’t. The minutiae, the nitty-gritty, the so-called “unimportant” or small stuff. If the devil is in the details, we’re usually the ones to root him out.
As you may know, introverts can be a bit more sensitive than other folks. Some might even say highly sensitive. That’s partly due to our empathic nature.
So, it’s understandable that special care and feeding is needed to honor what your inner introvert needs.
Especially at busy times of year such as this when - as fun as it can be - social events can quickly lead to overwhelm and burnout.
One of the most effective ways to avoid social burnout, and people-phobia, is to make sure you are well-rested and prepared before a big event.
This doesn’t only mean getting a good night’s sleep, but it also involves taking time to relax and rest before the event begins.
What this looks like is up to you. Some easy ideas include:
- Take a nap and get those synapses charged.
- Wind-down with a cup of relaxing tea.
- Apply a CBD ointment to your stress points.
- Meditate or zone-out for at least 30 minutes.
- Listen to relaxing music.
- Practice deep breathing.
- Take a hot bath or shower.
- Read something inspiring.
Try to avoid binge-eating (especially sweets), drinking too much alcohol or indulging in drug use. While these things might make you feel better in the short-run, they can lead to disastrous effects down the line.
If you feel anxiety, panic or that the walls are closing in on you during the event, excuse yourself and take refuge in the bathroom stall until you feel collected enough to get back out there.
Or, go out for some fresh air and alone time, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
If this doesn’t happen, find a way to leave the event, if at all possible.
Now, this might all seem scary and a bit “doom and gloom,” even for more extroverted people. The point is that you can manage what may be an intimidating situation on your terms.
Strategize Your Time
Another way to manage social situations is to strategize how you will use the time.
For instance, if the event is expected to go for four hours, can you get there early, meet people, network, socialize, etc. and leave before it gets too crowded?
Or, can you arrive later and take advantage of the hustle and bustle by being present, but not necessarily forced to interact too much?
Another way to strategize is to take in chunks of time. For instance, mingle for 15 minute bursts, then take 10 minutes away from the crowd. Repeat.
That little break gives you time to relax and recharge.
If you don’t want to be a wallflower, and prefer to be part of the goings-on, there are many ways you can be engaged and still avoid social fatigue.
Answer the door and greet people: That only takes a couple of minutes each time and allows you to meet people quickly.
Help prepare the food: The best times are had in the kitchen, aren’t they? And, helping to prepare the food is a satisfying way to be involved.
Serve drinks: You can be the silent observer, while still being part of the crowd. A very important part indeed!
Partner with an Extrovert
It’s more than likely that you have a friend, colleague or relative who is extroverted. And, being so, they are usually at home in a crowd and navigating a room.
Why not ask them if you can partner with them at the event?
As long as you trust them to watch-out for you and trust that you will do your best to honor them.
Basically, it works like this:
You arrive at the event together or meet there, and you accompany Extrovert through the room. Extrovert opens up conversations, introduces you around and provides a way for you to get involved.
You reciprocate by engaging in conversation, even if that’s just introducing yourself, and being as present as possible.
If you start feeling uncomfortable, refer to the closing paragraphs of the Prepare Yourself section above.
Sure, it might be a lot to ask, and hard to get the courage to do so, but it can be an enlightening and fun experience for both of you.
Keep a Healthy Diet
We introverts need to take care of ourselves, well, carefully. A healthy diet supports a healthy brain, good oxygen flow, an alert nervous system, and much more.
You don’t want to feel out of sorts or sluggish, do you? No! You want to be alert and engaged.
Feeding yourself nutritious and delicious meals and snacks doesn’t have to be a burden. On the contrary, it can be - and should be - one of life’s pleasures.
Preparing your own meals is also one of life’s pleasures which goes a long way in caring for yourself.
Heck, even cutting up carrot and celery sticks can be a meditative, mindful experience.
A carrot stick is sweet, crunchy and so satisfying. And, it won’t lead to a sugar crash like that bar of… whatever it is.
Lean meats and fish prepared simply, with rice or potatoes and a veggie is an absolutely filling meal.
Yes, that juicy hamburger and greasy fries is a fantastic indulgence every once-in-a-while… but, it’s not exactly the best thing to have as your regular diet.
Now, if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you have a whole other list of things to be aware of. Principally, making sure you are getting a balanced diet.
When in doubt, consult a licensed nutritionist.
Yes, water is extremely important not only for hydration, but also for oxygenation and healthy brain cells.
We introverts need to keep our wits about us, and keeping our cells healthy and happy is a great way to do this.
Besides, water actually tastes really good. Oh, that’s right, it doesn’t have a taste!
Aside from water, try to drink natural fruit juices. No, not what comes out of the spigot at the local diner or bar.
Real, freshly squeezed honest to goodness juice!
Your inner introvert will be ever so grateful for the vitamins and minerals.
Limit Alcohol Consumption
As mentioned above, alcohol (and other substances) can make us feel great and lower our inhibitions - for a little while. But, it’s also easy to use it as a crutch or a mask.
I know, too much preaching. Buzz kill!
You need to be the judge of what works for you. Just be aware of when indulging starts to go from a fun activity to something else.
Cut the Caffeine
Like alcohol, caffeine is a drug. This one tends to stimulate rather than depress. It effects different people in different ways. And, it's not always pretty.
Typically, caffeine can send your head into a tailspin and send your body into shaking. This might look like you're having some sort of nervous attack, which in a way, you are.
For introverts, this can spell disaster and rev-up social anxiety. So, if you do have caffeine (most typically found in tea, coffee, chocolate and soda pop), be sure you are in tune with your mental and physical reaction.
For example, I know I need to steer-clear of caffeine after 3:30 p.m. otherwise my head gets cloudy, I get moody and my stomach complains. Not a pleasant place to be, my friend.
Perhaps one of the most obvious things introverts enjoy is alone time. This means different things to different people of course.
Some people would love to hibernate.
Others might just need to crawl up with a good book.
Still, others might need to run for the hills and stay away for as long as they need to.
It really is highly individualistic.
But, what can be agreed upon is that time alone to reflect, recharge and reinvigorate is crucial.
Ask your inner introvert what they need, and really listen to the answer.
Not always easy, not always fun, not ever glamorous. Acknowledging, fostering and honoring your inner introvert is one of the bravest and healthy things you can ever do.
Drop me a comment and let me know how you Honor Your Inner Introvert.
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for upcoming posts.
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