The first time I told someone I was an introvert, there was a dryness in my mouth, like I was saying something taboo or admitting to hating puppies. If you’re an introvert, you know some people might call you shy, quiet, or reserved. You also know that these words don’t have anything to do with it! I had always been outgoing. I could be loud. I was a performer and enjoyed attention. I enjoyed being around people. But yes. I love alone time. I like quiet. My inner life is fed with books and journaling, despite my love of spirited discussion and nights out with friends. I could be a social butterfly, but where would I turn when I needed to recharge? Inside. This self-discovery was quickly tailed by the realization that the world doesn’t operate this way. We tend to see more people speaking than listening. More action and less thought. The need to turn inward for answers usurped by the infinite knowledge of the internet. Being inclined to access your inner life for energy came off as timid or reclusive. Navigating the world with a new lens, I learned a few things along the way. Here are some things to remember when you find your introverted self in the extroverted world.
1. You do not need to be fixed.
I once told someone I was an introvert, and their eyes went big with fear. They showered me with advice on how to be more social. How to “command my space,” encouraging me to put myself out there. I realized this person thought that I was missing out on a certain quality of life because I did not externalize my energy the same way as others do. They felt sad for me and wanted to help get me out of my shell. Well, there is no right way to care for your inner life and the inside of the shell is often times just as fruitful as the outside. Some people get energy by being with others. Some restore energy by being alone. There is no need to adhere to someone else’s rules. You know what is best for you.
2. Your are not reclusive, you are receptive.
It’s easy to say “I don’t like crowds” and think nothing of it. While being around people can be challenging for those who are introverted, it is because of their ability to be observant and sensitive that draws them to recharge by themselves. Introverts can sometimes be empaths or even clairvoyants—constantly moving the subtlest energy nuances from the outside inward, to reflect and digest. Extroverts tend to move from the inside out, wanting to take action. Being especially receptive can be emotionally draining and at times confusing. We need time to sift through our feelings and thoughts, setting aside our genuine emotions and putting away things we might have picked up from someone else. Tending to your inner self can help sharpen this skill. When you know yourself well you can know others well too.
3. No one can steal your abundance.
Sometimes when I’m with my extroverted friends, I become resentful. I start to think of them as thieves, feeding off my energy when I spent such a long time in solitary cultivating it. I tell myself it’s unfair to live in a world where extroverts run the show, taking my energy and then labeling me “antisocial” or “socially anxious,” for not complying with their standards. But I realized, I have this amazing ability to take bubble bath and feel completely restored. I am abundant in energy and richness. I can harness and cultivate a juicy inner power any time I feel low. The more grateful I became of this ability, the less greedy I felt. I let go of my need to hoard what was mine and asked myself: Can I be so abundant in my energy that I can be generous with it? Can I feel so secure in my ability to rejuvenate myself that I can let go of the fear that I’ll run out? My mantra: I have and will always have enough.
4. You can ask for what you need.
I’ve recently entered into a marriage with an extrovert. Ah! Sometimes I come home from work and he is waiting for me. He wants to hear all about my day and tell me about his or talk about what to have for dinner. I am so lucky to have such an involved partner, but in order to be a good partner myself, I have to ask for what I need. It’s okay to say “I am so excited to hear about your day. I’m going to read my book for ten minutes while I decompress though. Why don’t you find a nice recipe for us to make tonight?” Without asserting my need for self care, my husband might never know to give me that space. When I take the time I need for myself, I am able to then practice my abundance and be a more generous partner. Win win!
5. You never need to apologize.
Yes, it can be awkward to excuse yourself from a group of extroverts to take a walk by yourself, and many extroverts might assume you are upset. But you do not need to apologize for doing what is best for you. When I need to take step back and connect with myself, I try to resist the urge to say “I’m sorry” or “Is that okay?” If people become concerned I just say “I needed some time to myself. Thank you for understanding.” When you respect your own needs, others will respect them, too. Over time, they’ll understand that it’s not about them and you can do your thing!
It took time for me to find some self-acceptance, but now I love being an introvert. Whether inward or outward, self-care can be tough, but the best lesson of all is this: Be yourself.
Are you introverted? How do you survive in our extroverted world?
Also by Alyssa: 5 Creative Ways to Stay Grateful
Related: How to Build Your Professional Brand as an Introvert
Feeling Antisocial: The Overlooked PMS Syndrome
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