Confessions of an Introvert (#4) – A Survival Guide

By: Katie

It’s not always easy out there for introverts. The world just isn’t made for us. The good thing is there are several things introverts can do to make life easier and better.

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Learn how to talk about your strengths.
Knowing how to communicate your strengths in interviews, on your resume, or elsewhere is essential. It’s much easier for extroverts to talk about their related strengths because they are recognized and valued. It’s not always so simple for introverts. That’s why it’s so important for introverts to recognize the skills they possess and learn how to show them off. Being able to use your strengths to your advantage will help you stand out in this extroverted world.

Figure out what environments work for you.
This can include environments at work, in a classroom, or at home. Maybe this means you need a job that allows you to work independently, or maybe this means you can’t live in a rowdy house of people who won’t let you spend time alone in your room. Whatever it means for you, don’t try to fight it, and figure out how to put yourselves in the appropriate environments that will allow you to be who you are.

Learn how to turn on your extrovert switch.
Unfortunately, introversion isn’t valued nearly as much as extroversion. Even more unfortunately, the world is built for extroverts to shine while introverts get left behind. It can be tremendously helpful as an introvert to learn how to flip the extrovert switch on when you need to. Learning how to function as both an introvert and an extrovert will open up more opportunities for you and make you even more valuable as an employee or intern. It will also help you stay sane when faced with the task of networking or striking up a conversation of small talk with strangers, things that probably don’t come as naturally to you as remaining silent.

Take care of yourself.
While you need to learn how to turn on that extrovert switch, you also need to know when you can’t do it anymore. I know from experience that you can reach a point when you just need to step away and do your own thing. If you go through a day that requires a lot of people-ing, go home and sit in silence. If you just want to be inside your head instead of talk, take the time to read or journal or watch Netflix. If you’ve been busy all day or all week, just do nothing on the weekend. It’s so easy to become drained and not allow yourself the time to recharge, so make sure to set your boundaries and protect your mind.

Know when to say no.
This is one of the most important pieces of advice I can give to introverts, although I am admittedly awful at it. I’ve actually had to rely on friends to tell me to resist the urge to immediately accept any opportunity or responsibility that comes along. Knowing when to turn down an opportunity or responsibility is difficult enough already, but actually following through and declining is even worse. However, knowing when to say know and actually doing it can prevent you from becoming drained and overextended. There’s nothing wrong with saying no when you can’t do or don’t want to do something.

Don’t feel guilty about being an introvert.
In a world that believes extroversion is superior and introversion can be considered a flaw, it’s easy to feel like being an introvert isn’t okay. You might end up feeling like you need to hide your introverted qualities or fight against them. When you inevitably lose this battle, you might feel like you’re letting others down or that you’ve failed. It’s important to not feel guilty about needing downtime or alone time, and to not feel the need to justify it. For you, it’s not boring or wasting time, it’s productive. You need to recharge so you can be at your best, which benefits you and everyone around you. There’s nothing wrong with resting your mind and yourself.

So signals the end of the Confessions of an Introvert series – this introvert has confessed just about all she can. Don’t forget to stay awesome, introverts!

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Confessions of an Introvert #3 – Own Your Introversion

By: Katie

It doesn’t take much digging to find lists of articles online written to help introverts stop being introverts. In light of that, I’m totally okay with being the bearer of “bad news” here: guess what? You actually can’t stop being an introvert. (*gasps from the audience*) I know, it’s crazy. Want to know something else? You actually should be proud to be an introvert, and I’ll tell you why.

Introverts are Thoughtful
Introverts are thinkers. They do so, frequently and deeply. While extroverts may respond right away, introverts prefer to take in information, process it, analyze it, come up with something valuable to say, and then speak. This also leads introverts to be great listeners. Instead of interrupting someone to speak or offer their opinions, introverts can simply stay quiet and listen to what others have to say.

Introverts are Creative
The people who easily become lost in their heads also tend to be people who are great at coming up with new ideas. Thinking leads to imagining, visualizing, and planning. Introverts think themselves into a box, and then think themselves right out of it, making them very creative.

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Introverts are Problem Solvers and Decision Makers
With the ability to think deeply comes the ability to concentrate deeply. Introverts easily become absorbed in thoughts and ideas. This leads to focused, in-depth conversations, both internally and externally. Introverts can maintain focus and keep working until they reach a conclusion or find an answer. Additionally, the desire to think leads introverts to make more informed decisions, making sure to consider the options and consequences before acting.

Introverts are Detail-oriented
Fun fact: research shows that introverts are better at noticing detail than extroverts. Introverts show increased brain activity when processing information due to being overwhelmed by stimuli, which is not seen in extroverts. Introverts can observe and take in large quantities of information, picking up on the little details others might not see. This is also part of the reason introverts become tired after being out and busy all day: their brains have been working so hard.

Introverts are Independent
When given the option to work in a group or work alone in class, I’ll work alone. It’s not that I don’t like working with people or can’t do it, I just like to work by myself. Many introverts feel the same way. Not only do introverts like working alone, they’re also good at it. Introverts learn to figure things out on their own without needing to ask for help.

Introverts are Writers
Introverts’ love of thinking and introspection often leads them to be skilled writers. Thinking before speaking and before writing operate on a similar principle: planning what is verbalized before it is actually consumed by others, either out loud or in writing. Writing allows introverts a buffer between their minds and the minds of others, something that allows introverts to clearly and confidently articulate what they want to say.

With all the awesome qualities introverts possess, why wouldn’t you want to be introvert?

The next installment of Confessions of an Introvert will serve as a short survival guide for introverts. It’s not always easy to be an introvert in this extroverted world, but I can help you figure out how.

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Confessions of an Introvert (#2): You Don’t Know My Life!

By: Katie

Lady Gaga. Emma Watson. Mark Zuckerberg. Barack Obama.
Christina Aguilera. Bill Gates. Abraham Lincoln. Mahatma Gandhi.

What do they have in common? Well, not the following things.

Introversion is a commonly misunderstood personality type. There are so many popular misconceptions surrounding what it means to be an introvert, many of which could not be more false. In my previous post, I explained what it truly means to have an introverted personality. Now, it’s time to debunk the common myths surrounding this personality type.

Introverts can’t be outgoing, fun, or friendly
Introversion and shyness are not synonymous, and introversion and sociable are not mutually exclusive. Introverts can be outgoing and extroverts can be shy – none of these traits can be attributed to either personality type. Introverts just may have fun in different ways than extroverts. We often have a limited amount of energy to do intense socializing, so we often enjoy calmer nights with just a small group of friends or a simple movie night. We just may have fun doing things others consider boring.

Introverts can’t speak to people, and definitely not to crowds
If that were true, the world would be much more silent (actually…we might kind of like that…). I identify very clearly as an introvert, and yet I have been in several positions that involved speaking to groups of people: a tour guide, a teaching assistant, a RockStar. I guarantee you there are plenty of introverts in similar positions all around you. Introverts can be great public speakers, actors, musicians, and everything else you’d think only extroverted personalities could handle.

Introvert Myths

Introverts don’t want to speak to people
Introverts don’t avoid talking to people because they don’t like it. Not most of the time, anyway. (If we’re talking about small talk, then perhaps. On more than one occasion, I have said small talk is the bane of my existence. I know it’s cold outside, you know it’s cold outside, everyone knows it’s cold outside. I, along with many introverts, don’t feel the need to say empty words to each other. Please don’t make us. *End rant*) If an introvert isn’t talking to you, it’s most likely they just don’t have anything to say or just need their time to be silent. Introverts often prefer to really think about something before they say it, and other times they just prefer to listen to others and absorb what they’re saying.

Introverts don’t like people
I will admit, I have been known to say this. It’s most often when I’m walking through the hallway and others are refusing to move at a reasonable pace, or I’m grocery shopping and someone is taking up the entire aisle. But I don’t truly hate people, and other introverts don’t either. We just typically prefer a few close friendships to tons of acquaintances, and a few good conversations to tons of shallow ones. We like people-ing (yes, that’s a verb in my world), just not in large doses.

Introverts can’t be leaders
It’s true that many introverts are happy to work further away from the spotlight, but many others love to lead and thrive doing so, including the 40% of CEOs who identify as introverts. Introverts lead, they just lead differently. We may prefer to lead more by example than by command, or more through collaboration than direction. Certain parts of the introverted personality, like the ability to listen rather than talk and think of new ideas rather than follow the old ones can make introverts powerful leaders

Introverts need to fix themselves
Alright, it’s time to drop the sass and get serious. This is the one that gets to me the most. It isn’t typically stated explicitly, but it’s always there. The prevailing viewpoint is that introverts would be more successful and happy if they could just become extroverts. It’s true that it can be useful to be able to turn on the extrovert switch when needed, but introverts in no way need to train the introversion out of themselves. It’s not possible, and would only lead to an unhappy introvert and a loss of all an introvert has to offer. Introversion can make things more difficult, but it also gives a person so many advantages that aren’t as common in extroverts. To all the extroverts out there, don’t try to fix us; to all the introverts out there, don’t try to fix yourselves.

Which sets the stage for my next Confessions of an Introvert post (segue alert): how introverts can recognize their strengths, and how they can use those strengths to their advantage.

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Confessions of an Introvert: Can we all just be quiet for a minute?

By: Katie

I have a confession to make. I…(deep breath)…am an introvert (holds breath and squeezes eyes shut, preparing for verbal attack).

I remember hearing the definition of the word “introvert” for the first time and thinking, “Yep, that’s me.” I also remember thinking how unfortunate it was that I so strongly identified with an identity I thought was the lesser. Unfortunately, I’m sure I’m not the only introvert who has ever felt this way.

In 2010, the American Psychiatric Association considered adding “introverted personality” to the official list of mental disorders. The introverted personality and “introverted disorder of childhood” are included in the World Health Organization’s official list of mental disorders.

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Embedded in our culture is the idea that introversion is wrong and that introverts suffer from an impairment that puts them at a disadvantage. So it goes. The introverted life isn’t always an easy one, especially in a world where extroversion seems to be the gold standard for personality. As Susan Cain explains in her TED Talk, “The power of introverts” (which is awesome, check it out!), many of our institutions are built for extroverted individuals to shine. As a result, the influence of the introverted mind can easily be lost, and the prevailing understanding of what it means to be an introvert isn’t very accurate.

So what is an introvert, really?
In the most basic terms, introversion and extroversion simply refer to the way a person gets their energy. Extroverts gain their energy from interacting with others. For an introvert, on the other hand, the way that energy is gained is more solitary. Introverts rely on times of quiet and solitude to recharge and take a break from a world that won’t stop moving and talking. Constant noise and activity can be incredibly draining for the introverted personality, so times of rest are essential to recover from that overstimulation.

“Solitude matters, and for some people, it is the air that they breathe.” – Susan Cain

The loud world makes it difficult for introverts to think (something we love to do), so they need time to withdraw from others and into their own minds. If introverts aren’t given this time, they shut down. If I’ve been out in the world all day moving and talking, I either become quiet and disengaged or I begin completely zoning out. It’s not fun for me, it’s not fun for you, it’s the worst.

But that’s not all…
Don’t get me wrong, introverts aren’t only happy just being alone. The introverted personality also enjoys spending time with others, they just tend to prefer doing so in smaller groups, particularly when those people are ones they know well. Introverts are the type of people who will probably prefer a birthday party with a group of their closest friends rather than a massive ordeal with loud music and big crowds and fireworks and insanity. Horrifying, I tell you.

These are just a few of the common, natural tendencies associated with introversion. There is much more to the introverted mind than this, and there is much more variation that you might think. (Introverts can love public speaking? Introverts can enjoy going to parties? What?!)

In future “Confessions of an Introvert” posts, I’ll point out the misconceptions people hold about introverts, the strengths of the introverted mind, and how introverts can embrace their introversion and learn to shine in all their thoughtful, quiet way.

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