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Earlier this year I published the blog '5 Phases of Introversion - What Phase Are You In?' I received tremendous feedback from a whole range of readers. This week I'm offering a primer and expanding the discussion to provide action steps to accelerate your journey.
The article you wrote...on the 5 Phases of Introversion was the best I’ve read on this subject. I appreciate your work. Thank you! -Christine B.
One reader said the lightbulb went off and she finally began to realize the talents she had hidden all her life were her greatest strengths. She wished she had learned about her introversion earlier in life. She is 80 years old!
I think it is fabulous that she has continued to discover and learn throughout her life. I finally embraced my own introversion in my mid-40s after struggling to understand my differences and how I could overcome personal and work obstacles. I hope this website can help others find community and strength to flourish as introverted people. My mission is to help accelerate this journey so that we don't have to agonize while comparing our plight to societal norms of extroversion for decades.
I recently shared the new Phases of Introversion Quiz (free link below) to student orientation leaders at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, renowned as the state of Texas' preeminent private college.
We had a lively discussion in which the students learned more about themselves and how they can meet the incoming freshman "where they are" given about half the freshmen are likely introverted. Afterward, the students shared feedback that they felt the session was "absolutely necessary."
Evaluating our own introversion through the lens of these 5 phases invites self-reflection and acceleration.
Definition of the 5 Phases (more detailed definitions are available here)
Unaware: typically as kids, introverts often feel "different and alone." We aren't sure why, but we compare ourselves to more outgoing siblings, classmates, and TV characters, and we suspect something may be wrong with us. Depending on the level of support for our introspective and reserved personality at home and in school, this phase can last a long time.
Uninformed: eventually, we hear the term "introversion" (often through a Myers-Briggs type test) and connect with it, but are not provided with enough proper information to recognize the strengths and possibilities introversion introduces. Instead, we are often left to connect with stereotypical synonyms like anti-social, loner, wallflower, narcissist, and icicle, none of which leave a positive taste in our mouths.
Enlightenment: later we are introduced to a book, blog, Ted Talk, friend, or therapist who truly understands introversion and who we are. They shed a positive light on the subject and we are finally motivated to explore and learn about ourselves. We often conclude introversion is not the curse we had survived all these years, but the blessing that will help us thrive going forward.
Contentment: armed with the knowledge of our true strengths, we apply them in work situations like meetings, networking, and leadership, as well as social gatherings and we embrace our introversion. We become content with our true selves, perhaps for the first time in our lives. We bask in the comfort of our own self-reflections and social strategies and revel in the new confidence we emit.
Flourishing: finally, we reflect on our life goals, especially those we discarded years ago, and reset our goals and dreams based on our newfound skills and confidence. If we have a passion for being a speaker, a salesperson, a comedian, a team leader, or an accountant, we dust off those ambitions and leverage our natural strengths to capture our dreams our way!
Okay, so hopefully you see yourself somewhere in these definitions. And especially the last three sound great. But how do you travel from one phase to another and how can you do it now rather than wait until you are 80?
Accelerating Through the Phases
Moving from Unaware to Uninformed: when we are feeling "different," especially as introverts, we are not inclined to reach out to others for help. I never shared these feelings with my parents or friends. I just wallowed in it for years. Reach out! Talk to a parent, a sibling, a favorite aunt, clergy, or a teacher. Share your feelings. If they simply mark it up to shyness, find another confidante (shyness and introversion are quite different, read here). While introverts should embrace their introspective nature, we all need someone to share with and to be our pressure relief valve when our thoughts become overwhelming.
Moving from Uninformed to Enlightenment: seek the truth about introversion. Don't rely on even today's dictionary or thesaurus. Don't accept that it is just shyness or that some people are less sociable than others. That is all rubbish. Find a reliable source. Susan Cain wrote the book, Quiet, considered to be the introvert's Bible of the 21st Century. Check out my memoir, In Search of Courage, or my leadership book, The Corporate Introvert. Browse my nearly 150 blogs on a wide variety of personal, social, and work-related subjects. Listen to some of my podcasts. Or find other highly skilled authors, coaches, and advocates on our Resource page. Talk to others in your life that appear wise and a good source of advice. Visit a therapist (a highly recommended life-long confidante especially for our community). Replace those antiquated synonyms with true strengths like observant, learner, planner, organized, creative, and thoughtful. These are common talents of introverts according to our Introvert Talent Quiz (join over 1800 others who have taken this free quiz and studied its personalized report).
Moving from Enlightenment to Contentment: take your newfound skills and talents, practice them, and apply them. Lean on our Growth Model to take modest steps, not leaps, to expand your comfort zone. Identify introverted role models and mentors to serve you along the way. The goal is NOT to turn you into an extrovert. Frankly, science would say that is not possible. Don't aim to change yourself, aim to be yourself. Find ways to grow your strengths and apply them in various ways. Oftentimes, the best way to learn is to teach. Champion your introversion. Share it with others. Mentor other introverts who are trying to find their way. Enjoy this new place. Reflect on your journey. Enjoy a book, a meditation, or a meal on your own. Be proud of the true you that you have revealed.
Moving from Contentment to Flourishing: armed with skills and confidence and a bit of bravado, reflect on your life goals. Perhaps you want to dust off those old dreams you discarded years ago for fear it was reserved for the extroverts amongst us, or maybe you have new dreams. Rather than jump in, reflect. Journal your thoughts and ideas. Consider how you can use your strengths to approach these ambitions successfully. Chart your journey and begin. Stretch kindly! It's not really about stretching yourself beyond recognition or to where others might think you should be. It's about enjoying the growth journey and finding a place you feel comfortable, confident, and fulfilled. It could be just around the corner or several blocks away. Practice self-compassion and positive self-talk. Be your best cheerleader. Be proud of the courage and bravery that has taken you here and relax...enjoy...flourish!
This is YOUR journey. No one can tell you how to do it, where to go, or how fast to move. But I encourage you to start. I was about 45 when I finally found Enlightenment. Our earlier reader was 80! Nothing dictates you need to wait that long. In fact, you can start today.
Take our new Phases of Introversion Quiz to help you identify where you are today. Use the report that follows and the information above to begin your journey to the next phase. Lean on others during your travels but know that you are your own captain. You decide what feels right and where you want to go. If I can be of assistance, send me an email. I'm happy to support your journey.
Take the Phases of Introversion Quiz Today
The quiz and report are completely free, quick, and confidential.
Best of the Blog:
Dr. Karen Bluth shares an amazing post on Self-compassion for introverts