Introverts: Shed Your Mask and Stand Tall
Embrace Your Introversion & Discover a Whole New World of Possibilities
Stop wearing a mask at work or shrinking at social events. It's time to get out of your own way and embrace your introversion.
As part of our 2023 journey toward Contentment and Flourishing, in January we covered the Unaware and Uninformed phases of introversion. But the solitude and solemnness of the first two phases don't have to be a lifelong sentence. While those are not very uplifting phases, we all go through them until something jolts us into Phase 3: Enlightenment. For some, that happens as teens, for others, it may never happen.
That "jolt" from the doldrums of the first two phases can take many forms:
Your gut tells you there must be something better
You hit rock bottom and face a major life decision
You discover trusted resources that flip your script
For me, all three of these "jolts" happened in my early 40s. I was on a new work assignment overseas. Expectations were high. I was charged with turning around a team's performance. I moved to London and managed a group of over 20 scattered around the world. I also interfaced with customers, suppliers, and competitors within the energy industry. I think many introverts can relate when I say it was not just overwhelming, but terrifying. But as I'd done for the first 20 years of my career, I put on a good face and I did my best. I scheduled lots of meetings, I traveled over half the time, and I made the changes I felt the business needed.
But along the way, I was sinking. The stress was intense. I tried to cope with alcohol, food, and long hours, but these only masked my internal torment. As the angst came to the surface in the form of sciatica, shingles, and red-faced rosacea, my doctor said he could treat the symptoms but the cause...that had to come from me. So while I was pretty depressed, I knew this was not normal and life had to get better (JOLT #1).
In 2007 I was on a two-week business trip to the Far East and opted to spend my weekend touring Hiroshima. I took a bullet train from Tokyo and toured riveting museums and enjoyed watching an exhilarating game of Japanese baseball. In between, I sat on the shore of the Motoyasu River to journal. I reflected on life, my situation, and my need for change. However, I also felt the pressure to continue to provide for my family. I was torn.
After that weekend, I continued my work trip to Singapore. One evening I met an old friend to catch up. After a heavy dose of wine and sake, I passed out in the taxi, only to wake on the floor of my hotel room the next morning, unsure how I even got there. My "coping" skills were becoming more dangerous.
A few days later, I returned to my office in London and began to debrief my manager. He stopped me mid-track and told me he was going to combine my team with another and that I would need to find a new role within the company. It was time to go home to the States (JOLT #2).
Rattled by this unexpected news, my unknown future, and my withering mental condition, I enlisted the help of a therapist who helped me get to the source of my issues. She asked frank questions and helped me to find a new path. If she didn't save my life, she certainly helped transform it (JOLT #3).
I began to discover what introversion truly was. I read Susan Cain's Quiet and I reflected on how I could work and lead without the destructive stress I'd gotten so used to.
Soon we moved back to Houston. I started a new job that enabled me to lead with authenticity. I was on the road to Enlightenment.
Phase 3: Enlightenment