If you find yourself feeling guilty about doing, saying, or being the wrong thing I know how you feel. Introverts often struggle with chronic guilt. And if you grew up religious like me, that guilt is compounded.
You might feel guilty about some of your introverted needs and how they are perceived. After all, it’s hard to strike that balance of setting healthy boundaries, while not coming off as a cranky Scrooge.
I used to feel guilty a lot about my quietness and tendency to wander off without telling people. Likewise, I felt guilty for getting grumpy when my social batteries were depleted and wanting to withdraw.
In those moments of exhaustion and guilt I was enveloped by an avalanche of ‘shoulds’.
“You should be more fun, outgoing, and friendly,” chided a mean little voice in my head.
Meanwhile, I really just wanted to escape and find solitude.
Nowadays, I still get drained and grumpy at times. However, I’ve learned to give myself what I need, without guilt. I can leave the party early, I can go quiet, I can withdraw, I can be HUMAN…
And NOT see any of the above as a sign that I’m a horrible person who doesn’t deserve to be loved.
Guilt from perfectionism
Of course, there are other reasons introverts might feel guilty. If you have high standards for yourself, it’s easy to feel bad when you don’t reach them.
Perfectionism is a ruthless boss who never takes a break. She’s always there driving you to do and BE more, without ever giving you a pat on the back for a job well done.
Instead, she smacks you with a stinging sense of guilt for the one thing you got wrong.
Meanwhile, you write off everything you did right as ‘just a fluke’ or ‘no big deal’. With this attitude, you really can’t win. At least, not with any sense of mental peace.
Single introvert guilt
If you happen to be a single introvert, that comes with its own set of guilt traps.
Maybe you feel bad about not having the relationship thing figured out by now. You think you should be coupled up, even though there are millions of single people in the world.
You wouldn’t label any of them as fatally flawed simply because they don’t have a date for New Years. And yet, you’re so damn hard on yourself for being alone during the holidays.
If you’re an introvert who is actively going on dates, there are plenty of mishaps and disappointments for the guilt monster to gnaw on.
There is the guilt of not being as smooth and suave as you’d hoped to be.
There is the guilt of choosing the wrong person…again.
There is the guilt of pushing someone wonderful away and getting hooked on Mr. or Mrs. Unavailable.
And, of course, there is the guilt of being an introvert who hates small talk, but needs time to open up to someone new.
If you can relate to any or all of the above reasons introverts feel guilty, believe me, I understand your pain. Although I’m still hard on myself at times, I have an arsenal of tools to keep the guilt monster from wreaking havoc on my self-esteem.
When I’m feeling especially guilty, I consciously practice self-forgiveness using an exercise that I learned from one of my mentors, Elizabeth Purvis.
A powerful self-forgiveness exercise
I forgive myself for ____________________________.
I understand that I truly believed that I was wrong for ________________________.
I understand that the positive intention behind my behaviour/actions/feelings was ____________________________.
I know that the part of me that felt __________, ___________, _____________, really wanted
__________, ___________, _______________.
I understand that now it is time for me to take back my power by __________________________.
I now choose to forgive myself and release all shame and blame surrounding ________________.
I forgive you __________________.
Here’s an example of the exercise filled out:
I forgive myself for getting overwhelmed and pushing people away.
I understand that i truly believed that I was wrong for having ‘messy’ feelings and I didn’t deserve real love just as I am.
I understand that the positive intention behind this was protecting my energy, and staying in control.
I know that the part of me that felt overwhelmed, unloveable, and afraid, really wanted acceptance, unconditional love, and space to be me.
I understand that now it is time for me to take back my power by cutting off all contact with toxic people and choosing people who accept and respect me.
I now choose to forgive myself and release all shame and blame surrounding pushing people away.
I forgive you [insert your own name].
A while ago I wrote an article about how to overcome self-critical and guilty thoughts: Introverts: Don’t Believe Your Thoughts
P.S. If you’re new to the blog, allow me to introduce myself. I’m Michaela Chung, author of The Irresistible Introvert and The Year of The Introvert, and creator of this amazing innie community we have here. For several years, I’ve been building up a labyrinth of introvert resources that will take you on a magical journey toward more confidence, connection, and self-love. Start with this free Introvert Connection Guide.