Updated: Dec 29, 2018
Life as an introvert can be tricky but learning to notice what is happening and managing this can make a huge difference.
I am amazed and inspired by bloggers and the people I follow on Instagram. They put themselves out there and allow themselves to be vulnerable to help and inspire others. Introvert Struggles posted the photo with the caption 'Life is a soup and I'm a fork' and I think it is a great way of capturing the feeling on living life as an introvert. Sometimes life feels so set up for extroverts that it seems impossible, like eating soup with a fork, but there are lots of strategies for introverts to live the life that suits them.
I love introverts. They are amazing, creative, sensitive, aware, empathic, loyal and engaging. To converse with an introvert and scratch below the surface is always a fulfilling and enriching experience.
But it is a struggle to be constantly out there, keeping up with life at a pace determined by others. Susan Cain is a great knowledge on how to manage our own introversion, but also how to be aware of parenting an introvert or being in a relationship with one. She has written numerous books - a great one is Quiet for Kids. If you are a parent , its best to read it first but I think that it is a helpful read for young people as it is full of ideas of how to make school, social and family life work better for you.
It is also good to work out at a young age, whoever you are, that it is OK to be yourself and live life in the way you need to live it, while respecting that others may need something different.
Susan Cain has this post on Ted talk which explains her journey or self-discovery and she also has a Quiet Revolution website with lots of articles and resources. For example, in one of her parenting podcasts she talks about how each child needs to 'takes off' from a different length runway and as a parent, let them have as much runway as they need, without worrying about what others are doing.
I also think that The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney is an inspiring read. I really highlights the strengths of the introvert and why the world needs them, Wrongly, introverts are considered shy people who don't like to socialise. Introverts have a great capacity to tune into their inner world and like people and enjoy socialising. However, unlike extroverts, their energy tanks can be drained by high energy activities, a busy diary and socialising, and they need space and time to recharge, which may appear antisocial at times. The ability to tune into themselves makes them particularly good at deep connections, understanding of others and intimacy, looking for nourishing experiences. Extroverts on the other hand are energized by talking, being with people and activities - they are able to 'spend ' a lot of energy because it can be replenished easily, on the move! The problem comes for introverts, when systems, institutions, socialising and communication, amongst others, is set up in a way that is constant, high energy and highly social. Think social media, parties, team building, group work, conference calls, to name a few.
So, what can an introvert do to make life a bit easier. Well, I think that there are a few things that are key. In her book, Olsen suggests the 3 P's to help - personal pacing, priorities and parameters:
Personal Pacing. Set your own tempo for life, be it walking, working, eating or talking. This ensures you maintain your energy supplies and accept your unique rhythm. This might include breaking activities down into realistic and manageable tasks. Tackle the tricky ones when your energy is highest, which might also include social engagements! Setting limitations is not negative but rather a way to maximise your enjoyment and productivity. This is how you are. Its not bad to know when you have had enough and bow out gracefully. Giving your best for a short time is better than feeling like you have been over stretched.
Priorities. Understanding what has most meaning for you is also important and you have a choice as to what you do. Identifying your goals and priorities in any areas of your life will help you to feel motivated and energetic for that task. Introverts can dip into greater reserves of energy when there is more meaning to the given task.
Parameters. Putting boundaries around yourself is vital to regulate your energy. The outside world can be too stimulating and it is important to carve out time to recharge. Saying 'yes' to everything may lead to depletion and a much less satisfying time for you. But how can you do this without disappointing people? Try suggesting an alternative that suits your needs and theirs, or buy time to process your feelings, by saying 'maybe' and coming back to them later or sleeping on the decision - introverted brains like to review things overnight.
Cain, S (2016) Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts. Penguin; London.
Laney, M (2002) The Introvert Advantage. How to Thrive in an Extrovert World. Workman; New York.