One of the most surpising introvert problems
Like many introverts, I used to be drawn to structured activities because they gave me more control over my social life. They also made me feel like a good little citizen of the planet extrovert.
In my teens and early twenties, I joined organized sports and organized religions, whilst I dutifully organized activities as a volunteer and students’ council representative.
While these activities did help me build a sense of confidence, it was a situational confidence that was limited to certain environments and scenarios. I felt good about myself when I was wearing my volunteer hat, or in a leadership role, but in regular circumstances I floundered.
Without the safety of structure, I felt exposed. Vulnerable. I didn’t know what to say, or how to behave in a lot of situations. Worse than that, I was always worried about what other people would think of me. Like many introverts, I couldn’t see my value beyond what I could do or achieve.
Every introvert I spoke to neglected this
The other day, while talking to one of my introvert students, I heard a familiar story. Jamie told me about her passion for self-improvement, her love of learning, and her desire to be a better person. What stood out was what was missing from her long list of goals and ’should-do’s’.
Like every introvert client and student I’ve spoken to, Jamie neglected to see the importance of unstructured play.
The word “play” alone is a tough one for introverts. It causes us to imagine all the activities that deplete our energy, or make us feel like fun is simply not in our DNA.
That’s because an extrovert’s version of play is often different than ours. I define play as any unstructured activity that is done for no other purpose than to bring you pleasure and joy.
You see, we innies get caught up in the need to always have a purpose for everything (another one of those notorious introvert problems). If it’s not something we can tick off our to-do list, what’s the point?
I was chatting with one of my innie girlfriends the other day, Julianne. I asked if she had read any Nicolas Sparks novels. “Yeah, I’ve read one or two. They were pretty good,” she replied. “but I don’t have time to read books like that with the huge pile of personal development books I’m trying to finish.”
It was hard for her to justify reading books simply for pleasure. We introverts often wonder, if there is no concrete purpose behind the activity, what’s the point?
The purpose of play
Our preferences for play, or anything else for that matter, serve an important purpose. They show us the path to personal fulfillment. Instead of honoring our desires, introverts tend to get very good at brushing them off as silly or unimportant.
When I asked my innie student Jamie what she liked to do for fun, she said hesitantly, “Well, I do really like going to the movies, but I know that’s not really …”
“Yes! Going to the movies is great if that’s what you like to do,” I chimed in, before she had the chance to completely discredit her preferences.
There is no need to deny our authentic preferences. They have the power to lead us back to that childlike sense of lightness that is quickly overshadowed by the responsibilities of adulthood.
The fear of letting go
You might worry about letting go of some of your structured activities. You imagine that these are the things holding you up. Without them, your sense of security and confidence will deflate. I used to think this would be the case, but the opposite happened.
I learned how to build core confidence that persists in nearly any situation – even the unstructured and unpredictable ones. Now this is exactly the kind of confidence I help my Unbreakable confidence for Introverts students cultivate. Take a peek inside. >>
I hope that you can forget your introvert problems and enjoy a little bit of unstructured play today.