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!
Love this! my headphones get me to my innie space when I need to recharge and drown everything else out for a bit! 😉
I was a teacher too! I could not get the students to give me my space! I taught junior high, and they thought it was “funny” when I asked them to stay out of my personal bubble! I finally had to retire a year early because I couldn’t fake being OK anymore. I am hoping to start a business or get a job working out of my home now. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
I found this page today after googling ‘is teaching a bad job for an introvert?’. I’ve been teaching full time for just 3 and a bit years and feel like I’m drowning. I am so drained and am crippled by my geelings of not being good enough but I love my kids so much. I just don’t think the classroom is the right place for me. This page is giving me hope that I am not alone and one day I can find my calling. Thank you.
I am an INFJ, and this is my 20th year teaching. I love it. I know many other long-term, successful, full-time instructors who are also introverts. Take heart–it can be done.
I began classroom teaching at the college level, and did that for 7 years. I really enjoyed it, but I had the same physical response as the author of this article–every day, I would come home from campus and promptly fall dead asleep for at least an hour. (I didn’t know I was an introvert back then.)
12 years ago, I got the greatest gift I think an introverted instructor can receive–I got to start designing and teaching online courses for a community college. The ability to manage contact, the lack of draining face-to-face time, and the freedom to set my own work schedule have been life-altering. (It also really helped when I finally came to understand what my introversion actually was–this happened about 4 years ago.)
If you are struggling with the energy suck in-person teaching creates, I would strongly suggest you consider teaching in the hybrid or fully online setting.
Feelings* Excuse the typos!
I am a male INFJ, after two years of teaching in a middle school, I think teaching part time or tutoring is better for INFJs, I hate being interrupted but a lot of middle schoolers can’t digest this, standing in front of students when your tiniest behaviors are noticed and copied by them doesn’t feel good, after some teaching, introverts need some alone time but this private place rarely is found in public schools and large schools. Managing, for example, 25 to 30 students, is not ok to the nature of INFJs. I have social anxiety, too. These are personal expriences and understandings, but may help some one.