Do you naturally seek out peace and quiet? Do you find yourself needing down time more than most people you know? Does the idea of going to a party fill you with dread? If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, chances are you’re an introvert. There are a lot of myths out there about being introverted. Some people think it means being shy, socially awkward, or anxious. Some may even see introversion as a problem that needs to be fixed. In actuality, introversion is a personality trait which means a person is focused on their inner world more than the external world. This often leads to introverts seeking out more solidarity activities, having a smaller group of friends, and needing to have some alone time after socializing.
As an introvert myself, I’ve come across a lot of the negative stereotypes. For a long time I believed that being introverted put me at a disadvantage and it was something I needed to overcome. Once I read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, I realized that there isn’t one type of perfect person and that being introverted is not a pathology that needs to be cured. Yet not everyone has this perception. I remember raising my hand to protest the professor who said that introverts couldn’t succeed in business. In fact introverts can succeed in business or any other pursuit that they are determined to achieve. In this series of blog posts, I will focus on how you as an introvert can add wellness into your life. This post focuses on the importance of self-acceptance but be sure to come back for my second post on how to get out of your comfort zone as an introvert.
1. Know that there is nothing wrong with you
Introverts are a minority estimated to only make up about 25% of the population. Not only does this small number contribute to introverts often being misunderstood, but we also live in a culture that praises very extroverted behavior. The heroes and celebrities of our culture seem to be the ones who make the most noise with the most outlandish behavior. This favoritism towards extroversion can be felt early in childhood. I bet you have memories from your formative years where you were teased for being the “quiet” kid and were forced into group presentations and team sports by your parents and teachers. The feeling that your quiet nature needs to be changed can be hard to shake, but it’s important to look past the judgments of other people and learn to love yourself the way you are. Self-acceptance is hard for anyone regardless of their personality. It’s easy to think about all your flaws and all the things you want to fix. In order to build self-confidence and feel emotionally satisfied with your life, you must be alright with who you are. Being the quiet type is totally okay!
2. Give yourself the downtime you need
Not only does society praise outgoing people, it also praises a busy over-scheduled lifestyle. It might be tempting to keep up with everyone else around you. You may want to join your friend’s kickball league, go to yoga three times a week, and attend all the work and social functions you’re invited to, but you know deep down that committing to all of these activities will only leave you completely exhausted. There is nothing wrong or selfish about leaving room in your schedule for yourself. This is critical for everyone’s mental wellness, but especially for introverts since your energy levels become drained the more you interact with the external world. Allow yourself the downtime you need. You may pressure yourself to accomplish more or your friends may not understand your need to stay in on a Friday night, but do not underestimate how important it is to let yourself have the rest you need.
For Families: If you have relatives that are on the quiet side, please don’t think it’s your duty to change them or “get them out of their shell.” There is nothing that will make introverts retreat into their inner world more than being made into the center of attention or being prodded into speaking more. Let conversations with your introverted loved ones follow naturally instead of forcing them to happen.
The Golden Takeaway: Introversion is a personality trait, not a defect that needs to be fixed. Introverts can have fulfilling and successful lives just like any other type of person. The first step on the road to introvert wellness is to accept yourself for who you are and give yourself what you need.
Be sure to read the second installment of these series, Introvert Wellness: Getting Out There.
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