Have you ever found yourself crossing the street just to avoid having small talk with someone you know? What about hiding behind the bananas at the grocery store?
Do you feel rejuvenated after having a night alone? Do you love having the house to yourself to recharge?
If you answered yes to these questions, you may be an introvert.
I know I am...I just spent the last 6 days at home alone while my boyfriend was in Colorado, and despite missing his presence, it was quite wonderful to have the house to myself. I listened to music, read in my bed, and sang while I cooked. I taught my yoga classes and saw a few friends throughout the week and spent the rest of my time alone in my house. That was enough social interaction for me to feel totally satisfied.
I was called "shy" as a young girl, refrained from speaking up too much in school and avoided being the center of attention. Unfortunately in our society, the "extrovert ideal" of having an outgoing and gregarious personality is often praised over being quiet or cerebral. It was difficult for me growing up quiet and softspoken. Sometimes I wondered what was wrong with me for simply being myself.
Luckily this year I found Susan Cain's book, Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking. I was so relieved to discover someone researched the topic of introversion. When I read her book I realized, I was not alone in my need to be alone.
I learned many introverted people are born that way, have a more sensitive nervous system, become overwhelmed easily by large groups and are more sensitive to public speaking. One way to tell if you are more introverted or extroverted is to ask, "Do I feel recharged when I have time alone? Or after being out and about with a big group of people?"
I learned being introverted is not the same thing as being shy. Many introverted people thrive on connections with others; they just prefer connecting to one or two people at a time, and need their alone time at the end of the day. I also learned almost half the population is introverted. So even if you aren't an introvert, you may be dating one, or have an introverted child or family member.
A great trait of being an introvert is a powerful ability listen. I think that's why I love my new role as a health coach. My clients feel safe to open up and tell me what is really going on in their lives. They share their deepest fears, their biggest dreams and sometimes things they never heard themselves say before. My clients leave the sessions feeling heard without judgement, and through my questions and listening, are able to come to new discoveries on how to reach their goals.
Susan's book helped me see the power in being quiet. Many leaders throughout history have been introverts such as Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. This year I've embraced my softer side by teaching more yin, restorative and gentle flow yoga classes as opposed to "power vinyasa". Living in my strengths has connected me to a new sense of power.
I've also began to speak up more as a "quiet" leader, because I realized if only extroverted people stepped up to lead (or teach yoga), the world would be quite imbalanced (and exhausting).
However, one struggle I've had as an introvert is going to parties and networking events where I don't know anyone. I used to think I "should" attend these events and felt guilty when I chose to stay home and read a book.
But, when I let go of who I thought I had to be, I discovered I can enjoy going out and connecting with groups of people I don't know. I even found myself telling stories and being the center of attention sometimes!
So here is what I told myself to be more courageous, step outside my comfort zone and make connections with people I don't know...
1. You can leave when you want to
I used to think I had to stay til the end of a party. Then I realized I was totally free to leave. I found when I gave myself full permission to leave as soon as I felt like I reached my social capacity, I started going to more parties and events. I didn't feel obligated to stay somewhere I felt uncomfortable and made some excellent connections by being willing to show up.
2. You don't have to drink
I remember the first time I went to a bar in San Francisco and ordered a club soda with lime at the bar instead of an alcoholic drink. Did you know it's free? Just because everyone else is drinking, it doesn't mean you have to. If you find yourself ordering drink after drink at an event, ask yourself, "Do I really want to be here?" You may be masking the little voice inside of you that just wants to go home. Try skipping the alcohol and listen to your instincts.
3. It's okay to connect with just ONE person in the room
I used to think I had to talk to loads of people when I went to a party or networking event. Then I realized the event would be a total success in my mind if I could just connect to ONE person. I started looking around for someone friendly and introduced myself. When I was in conversation with just one person, there was less pressure to "impress" and I felt like I could sink into being myself. I skipped the small talk, asked more meaningful questions and created an authentic connection.
So where could you be a little more courageous in your life? What have you wanted to do to step outside of your comfort zone? Is there a networking event coming up around the corner? Or a party you've been trying to avoid?
Or do you need to take a step back from your social life and recharge with some alone time? Let me know in the comments...
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