How to Navigate the 5 Phases Along Your Own Journey
Introversion is not a state of being. It is an evolving journey that we all began long ago. If we continue to travel down this path, we will surely find the peace and tranquility we all seek. How you navigate your own path is up to you. Some may get stuck in a phase for years or even decades. The important point is that we have the capability to learn, to grow, and to thrive with our introversion. Which phase are you in?
Unaware- Many of us know we are different from others from our earliest childhood memories. I was nudged outside to play by my mother when all I really wanted was to do my own hobbies inside by myself. I always had a small group of 2-3 friends but wondered why I was tongue-tied in groups and was never confident as a kid. I didn't even hear the term 'introversion' until my late teens and didn't connect with it until my early 20s. This phase is often the longest, especially for those of us that grew up in the '70s and '80s when loudness and sociability were en vogue. Others may have received open support from friends and family to accelerate through this stage. The longer we stay in this phase, the more damage we may suffer to our self-confidence and the harder it can be to move on.
Uninformed- As adults, most introverts eventually connect with their introspective label, yet many don't really understand what it means. Many confuse shyness with introversion. Others bare such deep scars from decades of fighting societal norms, not to mention their own personal torment, that they consider introversion nearly a death sentence. I wandered in this phase from my early 20s until my mid-40s. In our informal Facebook poll, most respondents didn't move out of this phase until their 40s or 50s. No one mandates a long stay in this stage. We need to take the lead on our own peace and tranquility to move on.
Enlightenment- Most adults eventually do move into this phase prompted perhaps by a book (Susan Cain's Quiet or others), a caring friend or a mentor. Others are spurred on by their own sense of curiosity, sometimes prompted by a mid-life crisis or other life-changing events. During this stage introverts finally recognize there is nothing 'wrong' with them. Everyone in the world is different. We have plenty of strengths that are just different from our extroverted friends. Take a quick, free quiz here to discover your own strengths. Rather than thriving in social gatherings, debates, or brainstorming sessions, we often excel with listening, planning, curiosity, creativity, measured consideration, and thoughtfulness. Once we realize the importance of these traits, it's often as if a veil is lifted and we can see the opportunities that lie ahead. I traveled through this phase in my late 40s and continue to seek new insights about introversion and about myself to this day. This phase can often be the shortest as we are fueled by optimism, excitement, and determination.
Contentment- Though our learning and growth in the enlightenment phase should never end, we can reach a point of contentment. We may finally embrace our introversion, indeed our true self, for the first time. We are at peace alone. We understand how to manage our energy levels to continue to perform during long days. We are confident in who we are and understand that others will benefit from hearing our perspective and feeling our warmth, both at work and at home. This is a good place to be, a tranquil and satisfying spot.
Ambitious Introvert- Many introverts, fueled by the power of their own strengths and often pent up ambitions and dreams, seek to put their personality to work for them. They not only champion their own introversion, but they also share in the hope of short-circuiting this long journey for their kids and others. They may apply their bolstered confidence and style to lead at work, create independently, or may opt to change professions altogether. Many will find a home using their introspective traits to teach, create artistically, write, or somehow share the wonderful talents that were bottled up for so long. Not everyone seeks to enter this phase. For those introverts that do, a dose of patience and self-compassion goes a long way as you stretch outside your comfort zone.
The most important point of all is to recognize introversion as a journey. Regardless of where you are, find support amongst a trusted family member, friend, mentor, or therapist. Seek to learn from those that have come before you (see my Resources page for many helpful books and podcasts). Know you are not alone. Celebrate your differences and travel your own journey.
The world needs you and your personality, and you need to find the peace you seek and deserve.
Every time I see the online thesaurus synonyms for introvert, I steam..."recluse, hermit, loner, shrinking violet!" So I've decided to do something about it. Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, join me in petitioning the online thesaurus to update their listing for introvert. Click the button to leave your name today. I am building our petition in partnership with Introvert, Dear. I hope you will join us in righting this wrong!
Self-Compassion for Introverts: Embracing your Introverted Self in an Extroverted World
Guest Blogger: Dr. Karen Bluth is faculty in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, and a research fellow at Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, where she is founder of the Frank Porter Graham Mindfulness and Self-Compassion Program for Families (https://selfcompassion.web.unc.edu ).