Years ago, as a teenager, I remember learning about introversion and extraversion and trying to place myself somewhere on that spectrum. The problem was that we’re told that we can only be one or the other, with the extremity of tendencies varying from person to person. The thing is, however, that sensitive souls fluctuate between the two in response to energetic signals from their surroundings. As a sensitive soul myself, I have had to firstly realize that this is okay and normal, and secondly learn how to navigate these ‘phases’ as I like to call them.
Just as the moon moves our tides, our emotions also ebb and flow. After all, we are energetic beings full of life and as such we must respect our needs as and when they change. Like in yoga, the ‘in’ breath and ‘out’ breath are used in harmony with our movement. We can view introvert and extrovert phases much the same way, with the ‘in’ breath being a time to go within and grow and the ‘out’ a time to contribute to the world.
Opinions will differ on which personality is higher maintenance. Extraverts require constant stimulation, are more at risk of feeling left out and frequently run themselves into the ground over the desire to do, do, do. Introverts are constantly at risk of over-stimulation and need much more alone time to process their thoughts and emotions. I have operated from both sides myself and have experienced the demons of each. While there is no ‘ideal’ option from the two – nor should there be as what we really need is balance – there are tools you can use to respect how you’re feeling at any particular time. Today I am going to focus on some techniques which have helped me – and I hope can help you too – when an introspective phase is looming.
What collective opinions do we have about introverts? The terms that initially spring to my mind are: ‘loners’, ‘shy’, ‘quiet’, and ‘nerdy’. While it is true that spending a lot of time alone could technically deem you a ‘loner’ and that a dread of large social groups can make you come across as ‘shy’ or ‘quiet’, it is vital that we stop trying to put everyone in a box, and stop trying to label everybody. Each of us is unique and should be understood on a case-by-case basis. It is off-putting and creates closed doors if you feel as though somebody has already summed you up before even getting to know you. If you are interacting with an introvert, do your best to be open and willing to truly learn about them as they unveil themselves to you. If you feeling introverted yourself, see some pointers below for how to flourish during these ‘quiet’ phases in life.
1. Insist on your alone time. This can be tough if you live with others – particularly if they are more extraverted – but the key is having somewhere that is yours: a safe space. This way, there can be mayhem going on around you, but you know you can rely on that one space to retreat to after over-stimulation. This is an introvert’s way of refueling ahead of the next interaction. This can be a bedroom, a study, a treehouse or whatever other space you can find.
2. Don’t be afraid to say no. You may feel obligated to accept every single invitation for fear of insulting your friends, but real friends would much rather you preserve your mental calm than force yourself to get together with them. Follow your gut instinct and do what feels good. If that is getting involved, then absolutely do so, but if it’s taking time for you then follow that path instead.
3. See the innocence in people. It can be really difficult to walk into a party of people you don’t know if you’re an introvert. The anticipation of small-talk makes you wince and you’d rather not bother. But, you may just make a new best friend, so approach each person as a new page in a notebook and see how the interaction unfolds. Remember, you’re not meant to hit it off with everyone, so don’t be disheartened if the conversation comes to a standstill; make a swift mooch over to the next bystander and try again.
4. Realize the gift of this ‘you’ time. The future could hold a plethora of parties or a medley of meetings, so with potentially a more sociable phase looming on the horizon, take this introspective phase to work on you. Invest in creative projects, practice wellness through meditation and yoga or whatever exercise you enjoy, cook nourishing foods for your body and enjoy the company of the select few friends and family that you relish spending time with.
At the end of the day, none of us know what the universe has planned for us and how exactly we’ll each evolve. This time where your desire is to go within and be quiet could be limited, so make the most of it. Take care of yourself in ways that feel good and fuel you, because it is only then that you are able to truly thrive.
Also by Kat: 6 Ways to Create a Work Sanctuary
Related: How to Deal with Social Anxiety
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Photo: Kat Kennedy