Introversion is still so misunderstood and I don’t think the term “introvert” is always helpful. In studying, and just observing day-to-day interactions, I often hear and read things like:
“He is a total introvert”… when they really mean he is shy.
“I am a little bit of both”… as if to apologize for the introverted part. I find it sad that some people think being introverted is a negative thing.
“I am an introvert, but can be an extrovert when I want to“… as if you can just turn off your hard-wired personality trait. Sure, you can be outgoing in certain situations, but that doesn’t make you an extrovert.
“You need to act more extroverted”… Being extroverted — meaning that you process information externally — is not a choice, and it doesn’t mean being gregarious or outgoing.
The label itself — if not understood properly — can be meaningless and perhaps even harmful. The label is truly only helpful when you learn what it means for you and you use it to get to know yourself and how you operate best.
Understanding my introversion has been key in changing my life and helping me be more successful. For example, being introverted does not mean shy. But as an introvert, I usually think before speaking. If you are thinking while others are speaking it is easy to be seen as quiet or shy, and when you perceive yourself as shy, you often lack the self-confidence to speak up. Now that I understand how I work, I give myself the time I need and insist on it with others. I am not afraid to let people know I am thinking or need some time to think.
So instead of describing yourself in terms of being an introvert or an extrovert, or a little bit of both, describe yourself in terms of how you function best and what you need. Describe what your strengths are. Once you understand your strengths and how to make your introversion work for you, you can determine the best strategies to accomplish your goals – working with your natural gifts instead of against them. Figure out how each day looks for you, how you will accomplish your goals day by day and week by week. What do you want to achieve? You can do what you want, and have what you want, but you may just go about it differently than someone else would.
Below are some examples of some needs and strengths I have discovered in myself:
1) I have learned that I need to try to carve out a little time each day to be alone. Often this is early in the morning, either at home when my family is asleep or at the office when I go in before anyone else gets there.
2) After too much interaction with draining situations or people I may need a little time alone to recharge. This is not the same everyday, so I need to have some contingency plans. Often the drive home from work takes care of this, but sometimes I need a little recharge time even after I get home. Or maybe I need to make an excuse to slip away from what is happening for a few minutes, before going on to the next meeting. It depends on the day and the activity.
3) One of my strengths is that I am very analytical and am able to keep the big picture in my head. I have learned to honor this as one of my strengths and also accept that someone without this strength may not fully appreciate it or buy into my well-thought-out ideas without explanation. I know that I have to work hard to get my ideas heard and be ready to explain quickly and succinctly what I have spent hours thinking about.
4) I care deeply about others, but it is not as easy for me to build relationships quickly as it may be for someone else with strength in this area. I recognize that I need to be more thoughtful about building relationships and may need to strategize on how to do this best.
I choose not to be jealous of others’ strengths, because I have my own unique set. No one person has all of the strengths, and even introverts all have different strengths. Like it or not, we all need each other.
These are a few things I have discovered about myself as I progress in my journey of self-discovery, especially when it comes to introversion. You may relate to some things and not to others, but the point is that you need to figure out what works for YOU. I am far from the end of this journey, but since it began I am much happier and more successful than I have ever been. There is so much great information out there and so many people sharing experiences. Find your strengths, embrace what is unique about you, and be your best!