For years, I tried pretending I was something I wasn’t. I was an introvert, but trying to represent myself as an extrovert because I desperately wanted friends. And I didn’t just want friends. I wanted everyone to like me and I wanted to please them all. It was exhausting. I always felt like I had to be “on.”
Then I read a ton of research on being an introvert and the advantages of being an introvert. I learned that being an introvert could actually be an asset. Then I decided to embrace my true nature and live life as me – a real introvert.
I’ve learned so much about myself in the past few years, and made life changes that I will most likely continue for the rest of my life. Seeking alone time each day, setting boundaries, and learning to say “no” are just a few of the changes that I will take with me.
By embracing my introverted nature, I have realized that I avoiding crowds, shopping early in the mornings, and taking lunches by myself are all things that recharge my battery. These are coping skills I’ve fine-tuned and plan to embrace my whole life. By giving myself space and alone time, I am energized and able to be a better friend and family member to those who mean most to me.
One of the most challenging skills I’ve refined is being in a conversation or group setting, having something to say, and being able to remain focused, present and still, but not need vocalize every thought in my head. I’ve learned to be comfortable remaining quiet. Before, I felt like I needed to have something to say, and being socially awkward, I would rehearse things I might say! Does that sound silly to you? Introverts struggle with jumping into the conversation because we don’t want to be rude and interrupt, and we aren’t as assertive about speaking our minds. I would find myself nervously waiting for my turn to speak instead of listening to what the other person was saying, only to find when I did speak, the other person was going to say what I was trying to say anyway, or saying the wrong thing altogether because of my social anxiety.
There have been so many things about my past year that were freeing, but I also found myself lonely. I went from feeling known and acknowledged by everyone I knew, to a life where I was alone and disconnected from everyone I had made so important. Looking back now, I can say that neither extreme is how I would choose to continue. I don’t care to go back to people pleasing and carrying on like I’m outgoing when I’m not, but I also know that living a life withdrawn from everyone else isn’t what I’m after either.
My goal going forward is to strike a balance. I know now that it’s ok to be quiet, and in the few years, I’ve had others tell me what a good listener I am more than any other period of my life. But I also know that it’s ok to take up space and speak my mind. I know that I have value and I have to remember that my voice has as much right to be heard as anyone else’s. I think that’s a pretty healthy space to be, especially for an introvert.
Check out my blog post 6 Healthy Ways to Process Emotions as an Introvert.