Updated: Mar 1, 2022
Many of us struggle with our own introversion for decades. We think we are different. We think we are alone. Like all introverts, we are traveling the Phases of Introversion, though we may not know it yet. We can accelerate our journey to explore our own introversion, to reach Contentment and Flourishing, with self-compassion and vulnerability.
There are many tactics to help us along the way - read a book about introversion, see a therapist, journal your thoughts, take incremental steps to build confidence, and test-drive your innate skills.
But the #1 tactic for us is often the most difficult one - so difficult in fact that we skip the step and prolong our own misery just to avoid it. That silver bullet is to talk to others and specifically your family, about your introversion.
But we are hardwired for introspection, to bottle up our thoughts, put on a happy face, and keep to ourselves. After trying this path for years, I can tell you this is not helpful. We are not alone, so let's not force ourselves to discover our introversion by ourselves.
Thinking of Others
Do you think other family members (parents, kids, spouses, siblings) may also be introverts? Have they shared this with you? Often times the answer is "no," despite the fact half of society and therefore most families, workplaces, and educational classrooms, are similar to you. Maybe your introverted family members need a partner in this journey as much as you do?
This outreach is so critical. It can reveal a path for this journey, develop a safe haven to learn and grow, and best of all not only benefit you but others in your family and the household dynamics overall.
Like many, I knew I was different from the beginning. My stay-at-home mom nudged me to play in the neighborhood most afternoons, weekends, and summers, only reinforcing my sense of loneliness. My three older sisters were enamored with their social lives and often stood out as what I considered normal - talkative, popular, fun, and active. So I felt all alone in a very busy house. No one to truly confide in to help calm the voices in my head and accelerate my own journey...
...Except perhaps for my dad
Dad was a personable guy. Very hard-working, often playful with the family. But a bit distant at times. My mom would nudge me to go on hikes with Dad since he loved to stroll through nature. This seemed less than appetizing to an adolescent boy. Dad loved music and often played the clarinet with Mom singing at the piano. He was busy around the house with his woodworking crafts and other hobbies. None of this really enamored me. I was more apt to dedicate time seeking my mother's affection and spoilage as the youngest and only boy. Yet my pathway to greater peace was right in front of me - my dad!
Hello! In retrospect, he was clearly an introvert. Quiet time, hobbies, silly, warm, limited friends outside the family. He was an introvert, yet he never talked about this common trait - NEVER! Not when I was growing up feeling different. Not when I was working and dealing with my stress and insecurities through food and alcohol. Not when we were both older and I had belatedly begun my own Englightnment Phase toward embracing introversion. NEVER!
Life's Biggest Regret
Now that Dad has been gone for 8 1/2 years, I reflect on this lost opportunity. I suspect my dad never raised the issue over the fear of his own vulnerability (it was the 70s and 80s after all, and I think preserving the family hierarchy was a much different concept back then). Or perhaps he hadn't really labeled his own introversion and progressed through his own phases, even in his 50s until his death at 83. In fact, even in his later years, my sisters recall a sense of depression that may have been associated with his discomfort in social situations and his disdain for sharing innermost feelings.
I suppose I shielded myself from the same sort of misery as I stumbled through my Enlightenment Phase - reading and learning about this trait of ours but ultimately not flipping it from a curse to a blessing until I emerged into Contentment around 2015, two years after Dad's passing.
Regardless of the reasons for both of us, two verifiable introverts living under the same roof for 18 years and within our close family unit for 49 years, yet we were strangers in many ways.
I wonder what each of our lives would have been like if we had let our guard down and discovered introversion together. How close we could have become? How could we have accelerated each of our journeys?
Maybe Dad's life would have been less troubling? Maybe I would have had more confidence in the corporate world to succeed without the crutches of alcohol and overeating? And surely our bond would have been life-changing. We just never dug deep enough to find the common bond.
I love my dad. I've always admired his dedication to family. And now I see myself in him often - when I convene with nature, when I display a determined work ethic, and throughout my own journey as an introvert trying to find myself- like so many of us.
I share this story to encourage you to make the connection within your family. Don't let anything get in the way. You may discover a deeper relationship than you ever imagined, and together, you both can help each other flourish with renewed confidence, support, and purpose.
Three ways to kick off the conversation:
1) Take the BeyondIntroversion Talent Survey together and compare results
2) If you notice they take a greater interest in reading, hobbies, and alone time instead of lots of parties and networking, they are waving the "Introvert Flag." Ask about their hobbies? Share your aversion to big crowds or feeling on point in front of strangers.
3) Talk about the perfect day. It likely involves a bit of solitude, close personal relations, hobbies, and more that you can share and bond over.
4) Discuss how you both reenergize at the end of the day or week.
From there, you can gradually go down the path of introversion. Share your journey, your strengths, your dreams and ambitions, your apprehensions and concerns. Read Susan Cain's Quiet and discuss together. Check out our blogs on the Phases of Introversion, Finding Your Energy, or Five Ways to Connect.