Being an introvert is not an easy feat. We live in an extroverted society where introverts are generally misunderstood for either being ‘shy’ or having ‘social anxiety’ issues. Lack of truthful knowledge and education about introverts may leave us wondering what could be wrong with us. Or, you may be like me, who at one time didn’t even know I was an introvert because I could easily be friendly and very talkative in comfortable situations.
Introverts differ from extroverts in that they need ‘alone time’ to recharge their batteries in order to maintain their personal life balance. Professor David Keirsey describes introverts in his book “Please Understand Me” as needing to draw their energy from a different source than the extrovert. While an extrovert gains energy being around people and socializing, the introvert is quickly left feeling drained, tired, and off-balance in this type of environment.
I used to be a full-time high school teacher for many years. While I put on a convincing exterior, I was often going home at the end of the day and falling asleep for a few hours before I could get on with my evening. I spent my evenings and weekends desperately trying to find some alone time, and avoided invitations to various different social engagements that everybody seemed to be attending. I felt guilty about wanting to be alone.
When I did go out, it would often be to loud pubs or parties where the buzz of people talking and the loud music would drive me crazy. I remember being part of a “splurge group” where once a month 12 of us got together for an evening of food and fellowship. As much as I enjoyed some of the people in the group, I found the monthly outings overwhelming. Inside I started to feel uncomfortable when I knew I had to go to the next one…
That’s when I knew things had to change; my intuition was telling me something was wrong. I desperately craved solitude. Then one day I looked at my unfinished basement and set up a makeshift desk and space. I put a few of my writing notebooks all around, made it cosy with pictures and personal items that gave me inspiration.
This little ‘cave of solitude’ was slowly becoming a haven for me to recharge my batteries and come back to life. I began looking forward to the projects I would complete in this space, and noticed I could read and write more freely. I became less worried and anxious about how I would say “no” to that next party invite. I developed strength, insight, and began to think more creatively.
My intuition was leading me towards my dreams. I felt confident to quit teaching and moved to London, England to pursue my dream of an artistic career in fashion and music. And the rest is really history. Every day I find a little place by myself in a café or quiet pub, in order to tune into my innermost thoughts after a busy day of outward stimulation.
Although I still find it a struggle to balance work, life and friends, knowing about my ‘condition’ as an introvert has greatly helped me to regain balance in my life. Here are a few suggestions I want to tell you that worked for me, and hope they will help you too.
1. Make a sacred introvert space.
It could be a spare room, part of a room, a café (lots of introverts hide here!), a library, or even a pub. Make the space is yours in order to unwind, relax and inspire you. Headphones are a wonderful way to shut the outside world off for a while.
2. Educate your friends and family.
Chances are, some of your friends and family are extroverts and won’t understand that you operate differently. Don’t be afraid to voice your needs and reclaim your power. I found this particularly difficult and still do to people who want to write off the introvert as “shy”, “socially awkward” or plain just don’t believe me because they have seen me be “outgoing”.
3. Map out your days in a diary or planner.
Fill in the activities that take up the most time, such as work, exercise routines and mandatory engagements such as going away parties, staff meetings, Christmas parties, etc. Make sure you allow enough “introvert time” for yourself. When there are days when this might not be possible, at least you may look ahead on your calendar to when you will have time for yourself.
4. Investigate and research about extroverts and introverts.
This will help you to understand who you are and how you best operate. Have a phrase ready for when you just don’t want to commit to going out when you have planned time already set aside for yourself. Be prepared for the “Awe, c’mon, you always say no” or “have a bit of fun!” type answers. Remember extroverts operate opposite to you and those very social engagements are where they draw their energy from. Assert what you want, and that is time for yourself!