Embracing Introversion: Advice for Extroverts

 

Positively Present - Introvert

 

When you hear the question, "Are you an introvert or extrovert?" you likely have one of three reactions: "I'm such an introvert!" or "Extrovert is so me!" or "Hmm... I'm not sure which one I am..." Each one of those answers is valid and valuable. The problem is, society tends to be dominated by and structured for extroverts, which makes it really difficult for the rest of us -- everyone from the 100% introvert to the ambivert (it's a spectrum, after all!) -- to function in a ways that are comfortable and enjoyable. If you're not sure exactly what the differences between the two are, here's a very general idea, based on some reading I've done. These don't apply to every introvert/extrovert and they can vary by degrees, especially for those who find themselves in the ambivert camp. 

 

  • Introverts recharge with alone time. Extroverts are energized by other people. 
  • Introverts focus on inner thoughts and feelings. Extroverts seek out people and experiences. 
  • Introverts prefer reflection. Extroverts tend toward action. 
  • Introverts are more likely to avoid conflict. Extroverts are often at ease with confrontation. 
  • Introverts would rather observe. Extroverts prefer to participate. 
  • Introverts enjoy being introverts. Extroverts enjoy being extroverts. 
  • Introverts are excited by ideas (internal). Extroverts are enlivened by the world (external). 

 

I personally tend to identify pretty strongly with the introvert tendencies listed above but, as I said, these are set in stone and can vary from person to person. The important thing to remember is that both introverts and extroverts have value, but one category (the extroverts) is given a lot more attention and acceptance in today's culture. See, introverts and extroverts are kind of like the night and the day. We need them both. They both add value to the human existence. But one -- the day -- is given a lot more attention and convenience. Society is set up for daytime living. If you were to try living only during the night, you'd have a lot of hurdles to overcome. That's kind of what it's like to life as an introvert (in a metaphorical way -- not an introverts-are-vampires way). 

I've been an introvert my entire life, but it was only when I got into my late-twenties that I finally started recognizing (and trying to work with) my introvertedness. Before that, I'd either been very moody and mercurial (my childhood) or I'd used substances to cope with my introvertedness (high school and college socialization was conducted under the extrovert-inducing veil of alcohol or drugs). Getting older (and sober) taught me that, like it or not, I fall heavily on the introverted side of the spectrum. I've learned to accept and cope with this the best I can, but lately I've come against quite a few people who just don't get it and, as a result, try to push me into extroverted activities that I just don't enjoy. 

One of the biggest challenges introverts face, or at least that this particular introvert faces, is people not understanding introversion and, worse still, trying to change it. The problem lies, I think, in one of the greatest misconceptions about introverts: that, deep down, we're all longing to be extroverts if only we could be a little braver / louder / more social. This idea stems from the false belief that all introverts are shy. Shyness is possible in introverts, but it's not part of what it means to be introverted at all. (It's like saying that all extroverts are attention-seekers. Yes, some are, but that's not what being an extrovert is all about.) Shyness is a painful experience, and those who are shy might, in fact, long to be more extroverted. Introverts, on the other hand, are perfectly happy being introverted -- typically only bothered by it when it's frowned upon or misunderstood by others.

This, I think, is at the root of my personal struggles as an introvert. I'm not shy. I'm not quiet. If I'm in a group of people, I have no problem being the center of attention, and, in fact, I quite enjoy it. These attributes can be confusing to extroverts. They see similarities -- a willingness to speak up, a boisterous laugh, a friendly smile -- and assume that I am like them, that I'm feeding off of the energy of others in a positive way. But, in reality, time spent with people -- even those I love and enjoy -- is draining my energy, minute by minute. For an extrovert, who receives energy from being around others, it can be nearly impossible to comprehend how social stimulation could literally (and mentally) exhaust an introvert, particularly if the introvert isn't quite, withdrawn, or reserved. Many introverts, myself included, have learned how to adapt to the extrovert-focused culture. I know that it's socially unacceptable to sit down at a party and just watch people. (Just try it and see how quickly you get the, "What's wrong? Are you alright?" questions.) 

When I'm with people, particularly people I don't know well, I'm often putting on a show. I'm doing what I can do fit into the culture: engaging, laughing, asking, smiling, sharing, talking. I learned to do this as a child, I'm guessing, and I can be quite good at it when I want to be. But, the thing is, the older I get, the less time I want to spend pretending. (I think that's true for all of us. The older we get, the less time we want to waste on what's not positive for us.) For people who have known me for decades, this is likely to be a little confusing. I used to be more sociable, or so it seemed. But, in reality, it was only that I was better at pretending (or perhaps just more willing to pretend) back then. Also, alcohol used to help a great deal with this. When I drank, I became much more social and extroverted, as many people do. Now that I no longer drink, I am more myself, but that self isn't always aligned with what extroverts want me to be. 

While I, of course, have lots of wonderful and positive experiences with other people, I almost always feel exhausted by being in new or overstimulating environments (even with people I love in places I love). When I need time alone to recharge, it isn't necessarily because I need to get away from people. It's often because I need to get away from overstimulation. This can be confusing (and frustrating) to extroverts who are having a good time, feeding off of the energy of others. I totally understand this frustration because I, on the flip side, feel frustrated by extroverts' need to constantly be around people. 

It's difficult for introverts and extroverts (particularly those at the far sides of either end of the spectrum) to understand each other and find common, enjoyable ground. And, because society tends to be set up for extroverts, introverts often have to either grin-and-bear extroverted experiences or stay away from them. Over the years, I've seen more and more attention brought to the struggle of introverts in an external world. Susan Cain's Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking and the Quiet Revolution have had big impacts, as have books like Introvert DoodlesText, Don't Call: A Guide to the Introverted LifeQuiet Girl in a Noisy World, and The Secret Lives of Introverts, but I have to wonder how many extroverts are actually reading these things. Books like these are amazingly helpful for introverts to feel less alone and more accepted internally, but they aren't changing the fact that most extroverts don't get introverts. And, to be honest, that's not really even the issue. 

Sure, it would be nice if the world were a bit more introvert-friendly (the internet does help a lot with that, though!), but, at least for this introvert, that's not really the problem. I've learned to deal with the extrovert-focused world as best I can and, after thirty-five years, I've gotten used to it. I hope for changes, but I'm able to cope with how it is. What I do struggle to cope with is extroverts who try to change introverts. Extroverts don't have to be introverted. (No one is saying you need to stay home -- though most of you could benefit from a little quiet time!) Extroverts don't even have to understand introversion. (Though it'd be nice if they'd at least try.) Extroverts need only to accept introverts for who they are. 

Here are just a few ways extroverts can be supportive of introverts: 

 

  • Invite introverts, but don't be offended if they say no. 
  • Don't pressure an introvert (or anyone) who has said "no." 
  • Realize that introversion isn't a flaw. It's how we're born.
  • Respect the personal space of introverts (and all people!). 
  • Don't call if there's a way to text (or, if a call is needed, text first!).
  • Try not to take introverts' need for alone time personally. 
  • Consider the level of stimulation before inviting an introvert. 
  • Aim for deep conversations over banal small talk. 
  • Don't make introverts do too much work in groups.  
  • Give introverts plenty of down time after socializing. 
  • Ask introverts what would make them most comfortable. 

 

This isn't meant to put all of the pressure on extroverts to accommodate introverts but, in an extrovert-focused world, it's helpful for extroverts to pay attention to the introverts who are generally just doing their best to make the most of a society that wasn't designed with them in mind. Introverts and extroverts both have so much to offer but we just have different ways of presenting our gifts to the world. As Susan Cain said, "Everyone shines, given the right lighting." If you're an introvert, know that you, too, can shine. If you're an extrovert, consider how you might allow the introverts in your life to find their own kind of lighting. 

 

I'd love to hear your thoughts on what it's like to be an introvert or extrovert. Do you identify as one or the other? What are some experiences (good or bad) that you've had with someone who is different than you are? Let me know in the comments below!  Also, let me know if you want me to write more about this topic. I feel like I could write all day about this! 


Announcing... Positively Present on Patreon!


Patreon Screen


For years, I've been working solo on Positively Present, and I absolutely love what I do, but I've been looking for ways to expand on my work and on the Positively Present community. Like many who create primarily online, I've struggled a lot with friction between wanting to create and share and not feeling as if my work is valued (and, in some cases, stolen, even by large companies). 

The world of online creating is still a bit like the wild west. We're all trying to learn the rules, to figure out how we can consume and share and create in thoughtful, productive, and rewarding ways. A lot of online creators choose to run advertisements or work with brands. I've done these (and may continue to do so), but, at times, it feels disingenuous. Even if I love a brand or product, it's turning me into a salesperson when I'm a creator. I want to make things you like and I want to be able to afford to do it, and I don't want to have to sell you random stuff you don't need (even if it's my own stuff!) in order to do so. 

I'm not the only creator who feels this way. Luckily, someone came up with the awesome idea for Patreon.

 

WHAT IS PATREON? 

Patreon is a membership platform that allows patrons (people like you) support creators (people like me) while getting access to exclusive benefits. What I love about it is that it's a direct relationship between the creator and the patron. It's a way to show creators that you value their work and to support those who spend their lives trying to make the world a better place online. 

Creators set up a series of tiers and the more a patron contributes each month, the more rewards s/he receives. You can see the various tiers (starting at just $1/month!) on the right hand side of this page. Basically, it's like this: you pay a set amount each month and you get access to cool things you wouldn't otherwise see. 

  Patreon


WHO IS PATREON FOR? 

Every creator's Patreon platform is unique, but, for Positively Present, Patreon is for... 

  • People who love Positively Present and want to support my work
  • People who want to support writing and art in general 
  • People who don't want ads or sponsorships interfering with content
  • People who want behind-the-scenes looks at what I'm working on
  • People who want access to exclusive digital content
  • People who want to contribute ideas and inspiration for Positively Present
  • People who want to download Positively Present artwork
  • People who long to learn more about creativity and digital art
  • People who get something valuable out of daily (free!) posts

WHERE CAN I LEARN MORE? 

If you've never heard of Patreon before, you might be like, Wait. What is this? I still don't get it. Don't worry! You can learn more about it by checking out the Patreon page or my FAQ post. And, of course, you can reach out to me via email if there's anything you want to know more about! 

 Patreon

 

I've been hard at work setting this up, but it's still a work-in-progress, so stay tuned for updates (and even more rewards for each tier!) coming soon. I know the idea of directly supporting a creator might sound odd at first, because it's still relatively new, but the digital landscape is changing and more and more of what we use and consume is going to be online. If you are regularly consuming something you enjoy — whether it be a piece of digital art or a piece of delicious cake — you should want to compensate the person who created it. Yes, it feels like you get content for free, but nothing is really free. There's a give-and-take for everything. If you're consuming something that someone else worked hard on without ever giving something back, that leads to an imbalance that puts a lot of pressure on the creator.

The creator either has sell you a product (which can be great, but isn't ideal in a world where we all have so much stuff or where people have come to love the digital work and don't necessarily want things), sell an ad for another product (leading to the same problem of more consumption and/or the often icky feeling that comes with selling things randomly -- take note of all of the creators pushing Audible or Skillshare...), or sell a service (which isn't always doable or reasonable to expect of someone who already has a job creating content on a daily basis).

The more creators have to balance advertising, sponsorships, brand deals, etc., the less time they have creating content that you really love and find valuable. When you join a creator's Patreon, you'll have access to extra cool rewards and a community of people who love the same stuff you do. Plus, you become a real-life patron of the arts, which, let's be honest, just sounds fun and fancy! 

I've been so excited working on this for the past few weeks and I'm so excited that it's now going live! If you have any questions / comments / etc., let me know in the comments below or via email! 

 


5 Types of Baggage You Don't Need to Carry

Baggage-Positively-Present
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You know how when you go on vacation and you somehow end up having way more stuff when you head home than you did when you left your house? Life's kinda like that, too. We tend to pick up baggage as we go through life, and, just like when you bring home random souvenirs, if you don't sort through it and get rid of what you don't really love, you end up with a bunch of junk that you'll drag around from house to house for no other reason than the fact that it's been in your closet for years and it feels easier to just pack it up than to think about whether or not you actually want it.

That attitude isn't all that problematic when it comes to souvenirs, but when it comes to emotional baggage, dragging around what doesn't add value to your life will really weigh you down. And, just like the idea of sorting through mementos, the thought of sorting through emotional baggage can feel like such a daunting task that it's sometimes easier to just put it off. But, unpleasant as the sorting might be, the longer you put it off, the more you'll have to sort through. 

Just as we've all likely accumulated a wide variety of knickknacks, we all carry a unique set of emotional luggage. Sorting through it all is an individual experience; it's something we each have to do for ourselves, in our own time. But I thought this week I'd talk a little bit about five kinds of emotional baggage many of us are carrying around — suitcases of inner burdens that make each of our paths a little bit more difficult to travel. 

 

YOUR PAST

The first bag we could all benefit from setting down is the past. Yes, there's value in remembering what's happened so that you can learn from it, but dragging it around with you doesn't serve much purpose. Like it or not, the past is over. What's done is done, and you cannot go back (no matter how much you might want to at times!). Recognizing this — acknowledging the past, learning what you can from it, and letting it go — is one of the best ways to lighten your emotional load. Having a hard time letting go of the past? Read this (super old!!) post, Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad Past?, that I wrote when I was really struggling with letting the past go. 

 

NEGATIVITY

The next load of luggage we need to set down is a negative attitude. For many of us (including me!) negativity feels like safety. Imaging what could go wrong (or noticing what is going wrong) can feel like a form of self-protection, a way to cope with (or potentially prevent) bad things in life. But focusing on the negative aspects of life is like lugging around a bag of rocks while trudging up a mountain — all it does is make your journey more difficult. No matter what you're experiencing in life, focusing on the negativity will always make the situation worse. Check out 5 Reasons to Nix Negativity in Your Life, and you'll realize how important it is to set that bag down. 

 

GUILT

Want to lighten your load even more? Then it's time to let go of guilt. The concept of guilt is closely tied with the past, but it's not quite the same. Even if you've done your best to let the past go, you might still cling to guilt, feeling as if you deserve to lug around the blame for something that's happened, even when you know it cannot be undone. Guilt is a waste of time, and what is life, really, but doing what we can to make the most of the time we've been given. If you're struggling to let go of guilt (or understand why you should), read the post (with a video!) I Don't Feel Guilty (And You Shouldn't Either!).

 

EXPECTATIONS

Letting go of expectations is essential if you want to carry around less weight. Expectations (both of ourselves and of others) often lead to a lot of stress and strife, and quite frequently you don't even realize how much they weigh you down. They might seem like something beneficial — guidelines that should you what you do and don't want — but they are heavy. It's not until you begin setting them down that you realize down cumbersome they are. Struggling with the weight of expectations? You might want to read Love Without Expectation or Why You Need Lower Expectations

 

OTHERS' MISTAKES

Finally, something many of us carry around that we really need to set down? Others' mistakes. The past of others might not seem like something you're carrying, but you're likely doing so without realizing it. Whether it's parents, siblings, colleagues, friends, or children, many of us drag around the weight of what others have done (either because we feel partly responsible for it or because we've been hurt by it), and, just as with our own pasts, the pasts of others cannot be undone. Do yourself a favor and set that extra weight down! (Not sure how to separate yourself from the baggage of others? Check out Preserving Your Perimeter: 4 Steps to Set Boundaries and Live and Let Live: How Detachment Can Improve Relationships.)

 

Setting down one (or all!) of these things is no easy feat, but the effort it takes is so worth it. Life is a tough climb sometimes and lugging around extra weight only makes the ascent more difficult. These five types of baggage are the first that came to my mind, but I'd love to know: what else would you like to set down? Let me know in the comments below! 

 

 

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