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What's Below the Surface?

10 Proven Strategies to Embrace our 'Introversion' Labels...and Ourselves

We are all different people. Thankfully so. We all have our nuances and challenges - some deeply hidden and some worn on the surface for all to see.

We oftentimes feel our plight is most unique and egregious, but if we knew what others are dealing with below the surface, most often we would not trade places and perhaps we'd be a bit more endearing to our own character, as well as generally more empathetic to our fellow man (or woman).

We all have many conditions that lie below the surface. Resist accepting stereotypes and we can all learn about ourselves and each other.
We all have many conditions that lie below the surface. Resist accepting stereotypes and we can all learn about ourselves and each other.

Labels Without Learning

There are many people who think labels are unnecessary and hurtful. Certainly some bully or try to diminish other's value by describing others with these labels without striving to understand the individual and how that trait makes them a unique and interesting person. They accept the stigmas and stereotypes attached to the label and miss the opportunity to learn and perhaps to bond with another. Labels without learning can be very destructive.

How to Embrace our Labels...and Ourselves

In my twenties, I heard the term introversion as it applied to me during a company personality test. Unfortunately, the test really wasn't accompanied by

explanation, so I affixed the term to the mythical description of introversion, much the same as I'd had my discomfort as a kid - anti-social, shy, slow, aloof.

Embracing Our Labels

Yet labels can also be quite empowering. I believe I likely share some struggles with other introverts during my life journey. For most of my first two decades, I was an "Unaware" introvert. I knew I felt different, especially in social situations and at school, but I didn't know why. I was uncomfortable talking to others. I got tongue-tied with strangers. I froze up when under pressure to answer questions in class or approach a new situation. I'd never heard the term Introvert. I just assumed I was anti-social, shy, or not normal. That's what school maters and even teachers and parents assumed and called me. I just didn't know any better.

It took me many more years to discover the true definition of introversion. I was as normal as anyone. I had talents and strengths as much as anyone. Those quirks like being alone or leaning on calendars and organization were actually traits to be proud of.

Finding Our Selves

My lesson was like many others, don't accept labels at face value, but ask questions, learn and explore. Once I finally did, my self-confidence grew. Seemingly, every time I read a book like Quiet by Susan Cain or The Introvert's Way by Sophia Dembling, I found more of my true self. And when I connected with podcasts like The Impostor Syndrome Files, Shrink for the Shy Guy, and Unlocking Happiness, I realized if I embraced and practiced my newly identified strengths, I could not just survive but thrive in social and work situations.

This realization may be like a light bulb, but the path ahead can be time-consuming. Learning and practicing by stretching ourselves and offering self-compassion until we finally develop comfort in previously anxious situations and more importantly in our true selves.

Once I began this path, I've been enamored by our strengths and the need for our true selves to be around the dinner table and meeting table to provide unique perspectives and meaningful balance. For every socialite, we could focus on one relationship at a deeper level. For every flippant comment, we can observe and listen, gathering insights for more thoughtful conversation. For every prompt decision, we can challenge statements with analysis and consideration.

From this, introverts can conclude it's not just about being okay in our own skin, but that we are needed to bond family and friends and drive more solid and creative business decisions.

Ten Proven Strategies for Introvert Success

Over time, I've found these introvert strategies have been most helpful for me. We are all different indeed, so you may connect with many and discard others:

  1. Manage our energy: understand what drains us (social, pressures) and what energizes us (solo hobbies, small groups, quiet time) and spread them both out during the day. Read more here.

  2. Network one at a time: we are much better at small group, short-duration engagements at familiar places. Read more here.

  3. Show up early: get out of the gate early with a comment or question to get involved in the meeting or social and relax your anxieties.

  4. Listening is learning: when you observe you are gaining important and unique insights to share.

  5. Stretch, don't leap: small accomplishments and stretches build confidence; big leaps build fear. Read more here.

  6. Sis boom bah: be your greatest cheerleader instead of your relentless critic.

  7. Self-compassion is courage: applaud your efforts and allow yourself to fail in order to find life's sweet spot. Read more here.

  8. Journaling decompresses our mind: getting thoughts and worries out of our brain helps us get in the flow of the day. Read more here.

  9. Moderation is sustainability: no need to reach for the extreme, only to shrink from exhaustion later.

  10. Take care of #1: if you aren't healthy and happy, you can't take care of others.

Don't reject labels or labeling. Whether you are just discovering your introversion or continuing to grow in your skin, embrace your label. Learn about introversion and yourself. It is your most important project.

Share the Love

If you are confronted by others who choose to make assumptions about your introversion, educate them, let them know the true you. Practice that same curiosity and grace with others and perhaps the world will be a bit of a better place.

If you are looking for more resources to explore your introversion, check out my website's resource page for recommendations.


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