If you are an introvert, chances are you are trying to fit into the world of extroverts.
Even though 51% of us are introverts, we live in a world that rewards us for acting in an extrovert manner. So oftentimes we tend to violate our personality in order to fit in. This can often lead to unnecessary suffering for us.
If you are an introvert, you might have a hard time trying to adjust to the requirements of the extrovert world.
Some things you do can align well with your personality, but sometimes you find yourself way out of you comfort zone just trying to fit in. This is not the “getting out of your comfort zone” that’s good for you.
For an introvert this can be extra hard since you oftentimes hide your true feelings. People around you don’t always see how you feel and what is going on inside you.
Internalizing our feelings
One of the traits of introverts is that we tend to internalize our feelings. This can be both a relief and kind of a curse sometimes. We don’t go around telling people how we feel, but we want people to know anyway. But how?
Many of us express our feelings through art, writing, music and other artistic ways. But that might not always be enough. People still don’t get us. We might judge ourselves too hard, and if we manage to work up the courage to DO speak out and tell others about how we feel, we instantly regret it. You know that conversation that goes on in your brain: “Why did I say that?” “Now they will think I’m an idiot for sure.” “How come all the others never seem to have a problem with saying exactly what’s on their mind?” “How can they be so articulate?”
Just to be on the safe side, we say nothing at all.
Challenge yourself a little
Now I don’t suggest you start blabbering about everything, since this contradicts your behavior as an introvert. I don’t want you to start violating yourself. But I do want you to start challenging yourself a little bit. Small baby steps towards letting go of the things that stand in our way can be a way to start.
So that’s why I’ve put together this UN-DO-list for you today. Hopefully this will help you solve some of the most common problems you may have as an introvert and develop some skills to cope in an extrovert world.
The introvert undo list
Problem 1: You say yes to everything.
Solution: Say no.
As introverts, we tend to say yes way too often for our own good. We want to be liked and not be seen as weirdos. So we say yes to that boring conversation with that co-worker who nags on about their new leaf blower or something equally mind numbing. Don’t say yes to this. Your life energy is worth more than this.
If you constantly say yes to tasks, events or people even though you’d rather say no, start to challenge yourself by saying no to something small to begin with. It can be hard to say no to something your boss tells you to do, but you really don’t have to put up with people pushing you around just because they have the habit of asking you for any favor they need. If you don’t tell them how you feel you can’t expect them to know.
If you say yes to something, you say no to something else
Every time you say yes to something you don’t want, you are also telling yourself that the things you want to say yes to can wait.
It is not rude to say no, and most certainly you will feel empowered when you do it. Instead of saying “I can’t”, which implies that you would want to, you can say “I don’t”. This is quite empowering actually and you will get the power back on your side.
Problem 2: Energy vampires
Solution: Set clear boundaries
I like to call them vampires because that’s what they are. But instead of sucking your blood they are sucking your life energy. Energy vampires are dangerous and scary and you should be watching out for them all the time. They strike when you least expect it, and before you know it they hold you tightly in their grip without a chance for you to to get away. If you have been a victim of an energy vampire you know what I’m talking about.
They have tricks that is hard to get around. All nice at first, but the only reason for this is for them to be able to get you close enough to start humiliating you, almost invisibly. Oftentimes they give you small hints and bully you with small insinuations, and if you ever get the courage to tell them what you feel about it, they don’t seem to know what on earth you are talking about. How can you be so rude to think they would mean something like that with what they say? But the truth is, every time you spend time with an energy thief like this, it drains your energy completely.
Get out of the vampire castle as soon as possible
This can be dangerous for your health and wellbeing. You must stop engaging with these kinds of people. They are experts in draining peoples energy levels, and they do it for one reason: to feel better about themselves once they have accomplished for you to feel lousy about yourself. You can feel totally drained and have feelings of guilt, shame and anxiety when you have spent time with them.
If you think you have an energy vampire in your life, please do anything you can to get out of that kind of relationship. Sometimes you have to break the contact completely. But setting boundaries can be a way to start. Get them to realize that they can’t gain the energy they desire from you.
How to escape the energy vampire
This is how you do it: If they say something mean to you, ask them “What do you mean by that?” I know this can be hard, but try anyway. Your life energy is worth so much more than to have them steal it from you. If you think you never could do it, practice by visualizing something they would say, and answer immediately: “What do you mean by that?” If this is someone you know well, you can almost hear what the other person would say. Continue the practice with the conversation in your head. This I know you can do. Your’e an introvert for crying out loud.
Problem 3: The phone fright
Solution: Alternative ways to reach you
One thing you hate for sure is answering your phone, am I right? We introverts tend to scan every phone call, with the possible outcome that people will get mad at us for not answering our phone when they want to reach us. This can be easily fixed. Set your voice mail to this message:
You have reached NN. I don’t listen to my voice mail, so if you want to get in touch with me, either send me a text message (insert phone number) or an email (insert email address) and I will get back to you.
Done. Problem fixed. Now you might argue that most people would get annoyed at this, and that this doesn’t really fix your phone fright. That might be true.
But another, more important issue is that the person calling you has to apply your rules. Either they do as you find convenient or they don’t hear from you. Simple as that. You could of course check your voice mail once in a while, but if you decide to call them back at least you have a chance to rehearse what you are going to say.
If they want to get in touch with you, they’d better do it your way. Their way is no better than your way, and you should be the one to set the rules for your own phone. This is also a great way to let people know that you would rather communicate by email or text messages than speaking on the phone.
Problem 4: Your party skills
Solution: Let people know that you might be leaving early
This is me: I get an invitation to a party. YEY! I accept the invitation right away. Followed by immediate regrets. Why did I do that? What if I don’t know anyone at the party? How am I going to fill all the awkward silences that are about to occur during the evening? Do they at least have animals so I have someone to talk to? (ok, that last one was a bit of a joke but you get the point.)
We introverts often over-obsess and worry way too much, and a party is a big issue for us. We know that we might get drained of energy during the party, and that we are going to want to leave early. But just thinking about it sets a whole range of guilt.
My suggestion is that you are totally honest about it, and tell the host how you feel and that you might be leaving the party early. It has nothing to do with them. It’s just the way you are.
Problem 5: Feeling guilty about being an introvert
Solution: The power of being an introvert
As an introvert you might have practiced the feelings of guilt your whole life. You feel guilty about being different, that you don’t want the things other people seem to want, and you might feel sad that nobody seems to enjoy and want to take part of all your amazing special skills.
It’s time to set your mindset from being an outcast to being a super hero. Super heroes also feel lonely from time to time, because no one gets them either.
Instead of being sad about why people don’t seem to care about your grammar skills, your interests in photography or 1800th century literature, see these skills as super powers and make a list of them all. Then list every influential person you can think of that has those skills.
Being able to focus long enough to be an expert is one of the most important traits for an introvert. We wander in our own inner landscapes, and oftentimes it’s thanks to us that people have something to read. Being an introvert is a bliss. We just have to see ourselves this way, and try not to measure ourselves with the noisy extrovert world.
Problem 6: People want to hang out
Solution: Respect your solitude
The other day a friend called me and asked me: “What are you doing?” So I answered: “Nothing.” “Ok then, shall we grab a cup of coffee?” she asked as if she hadn’t heard what I said. “Actully no”, I said. “I said I was doing nothing. I didn’t say I was yearning for a cup of coffee”.
Now I know this person very well, and I also know that people would think I’m a complete nutcase if I said that to a random person. But seriously, when we introverts say that we are doing nothing, we also kind of want people to get that that is exactly what we intend to continue doing. It’s not like we just sit in a room and stare at a wall. We read, pin on Pinterest, write, do lots of stuff. And we want to do it by ourselves, thank you very much.
Give people the chance to get to know who you are
But we have learned that it is rude to say no to an invitation to hang out, so we say “sure”. And then we plot our escape. This is disrespectful to both ourselves and to our extrovert friends. How are they supposed to know that we WANT to hang out with them, it’s just that we…don’t really want it as much as doing nothing i.e. doing alone time stuff like reading. And for an extrovert, who gets their energy from other people, it can be hard to understand. But give them a chance to do so.
We have to give them time to getting to know us, and the best way to do this is to actually talk about it. I’m sure they will understand you. If they can’t respect that you need your solitude once in a while, then they aren’t much of a friend anyway. Tell them that you need this, and that you are a much better friend if your needs are fulfilled.
Problem 7: People don’t get you
Solution: Get a life guard to watch over your interests
As introverts, we often have certain special interests. This can be everything from crafts to reading learning to play the piano. If you have interests that might seem weird to the rest of the world, my suggestion is that you guard these interests with your life. Don’t give in on the impulse to abandon something you love just because someone once told you that you can’t make a living out of this, that you are wasting your time or things like that.
Anything that makes you happy and alive is the right thing. This is part of being who you are. Even if it seems weird in other peoples eyes. So don’t give up on those interests. Instead, develop some new ones if you like.
If people don’t want to get to know you by being curious about you and your interests, they will never be able to get you and who you are. And it is sad. For them.
Problem 8: The disease to please
Solution: Be a Wednesday Addams
Being nice to people lies in our core behavior as introverts. The risk of being looked at as weird is way worse than to do things you don’t really want to. But this is also a violation against our beliefs. We want to be able to say “f**k off” once in a while, but we wouldn’t dream of doing that. Instead we push down our feelings and get all passive aggressive about it. But remember: You don’t always have to be nice. Sometimes an extrovert prefers to be told in their face what they do wrong. If we don’t tell them, how are they supposed to know that we don’t feel that way at all?
Sometimes it can be as simple as saying “I don’t agree with you”. The fear of disappointing someone if we would say that holds us from actually saying things like that though. But I encourage you to try. Start by practicing with something that doesn’t matter that much. It can be something as trivial as you don’t share the same taste in ice cream. Just say “I don’t agree” and see what happens. If they get angry (which is the worst fear but most likely won’t happen) just say “it’s not the end of the world. So we don’t have the same taste when it comes to ice cream.”
Be a Wednesday Addams
This can be hard enough for an introvert. But by taking these baby steps, you can go further and start practicing on the serious cases. I like to think of Wednesday Addams, the little girl in the tv show Addams Family. I love her, and she is one of my greatest inspirations. No way she would compromise her integrity. And that’s what this exercise is all about: reclaiming your integrity by not being a people pleaser. No one will get hurt and you will be able to gain some confidence back.