I've only recently admitted that I'm an introvert. I spent the past 40 years pushing myself to be outgoing, chatty, and social in an attempt to fit into an extroverted world. But as I get older, I'm more keenly aware of what works for me.
Being an introvert isn't the same thing as being shy. Introverts’ and extroverts’ brains actually work differently. The brain activity of introverts is quite high when they are alone, and it's easy for them to feel overwhelmed with too much external stimulation. On the other hand, the brain activity of extroverts is lower when they are alone, and they enjoy the stimulation they get from the presence of others. They can feel understimulated if they spend too much time solo.
Realizing much of the stress in my life was caused by a lack of alone time was a huge relief to me. Now that I've embraced my introverted nature, I'm carving out time in my life to make sure I keep my mental balance. Here's how:
1. I make time for acceptance and self-love.
The first step to being happy as an introvert is accepting your true nature. There can be a stigma attached to introversion, which is only amplified by feelings of self-doubt and a negative self-image. Neither extroversion nor introversion is better than the other – both are healthy, normal ways to function. You’ll find that life is easier and more enjoyable when you embrace your perfect, introverted self.
2. I have more understanding and support.
It’s important that those close to you — from your significant other to your family to your coworkers — understand your introverted nature. Introverts can be misinterpreted as cold, snobby, or uninterested, especially by the extroverts in your inner circle who just want to play with you.
You can explain to the people you spend time with frequently that you find inner peace when you have alone time every day. Introverts need solo time to recharge, which may be a hard concept for extroverts to swallow — but unless you tell them, they’ll come up with their own reasons for your distant behavior.
3. I've found compatible work.
I spent years in a very socially inclined career that was not well-suited for an introvert. I was mentally exhausted every day, which eventually led to physical exhaustion. Now I’m a writer — a career path much more compatible with my true nature. If only I’d figured this out earlier in life!
If you are an introvert, choose work that allows you to get in the mental zone where you thrive — otherwise you could end up experiencing more stress than you’d like. We spend a lot of our time working, so that may as well be time spent maximizing our brain’s natural tendencies rather than going against the grain.
4. I enjoy downtime every day.
Introverts need downtime, period. And we need it every day. Without time alone we can become perpetually overwhelmed and frazzled. So if you are an introvert, carve out this time in your schedule. Figure out the nourishing activities that make you feel relaxed. Put them on your calendar if you need to. Read a book, take a bath, go for a run, write in your journal — whatever it is, do it every day, and, truly, give it as much importance as eating or sleeping. For introverts, this downtime is just as critical to our well-being.
5. I know when to bow out gracefully.
Social events can be fun for introverts and extroverts alike, but introverts may get their fill earlier. After a lot of interaction with others, introverts need to mentally process all that they’ve taken in. Knowing this, think ahead when planning your social calendar and build in a way to bow out gracefully whenever possible. This may mean driving separately to a party or asking houseguests to go exploring on their own for a couple of hours each day. Advance planning can help you avoid anguish and overwhelm in the future.
When I told my extroverted husband that I’m an introvert, I was worried he’d freak out. But he didn’t — he called me a sexy librarian. And now that I’m embracing my true nature, I am happier and more at peace with the world than I’ve ever been before. So, for all you introverts, I hope you embrace your true identity too! Because being an introvert — once you accept yourself and live your life accordingly — really is wonderful!