Why Introverts Live on the Introspective Edge between Entrapment and Empowerment - and How to Harness Introspection as a Strength
Introverts spend a lot of time in their own heads. After all, being alone with your thoughts is more appealing than being with other people. This natural tendency for solitude creates more frequent opportunities for reflection and introspection. One might conclude then, that introverts would naturally be more self-aware.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a guarantee.
Welcome guest blogger Kara McDuffee. Her approach of using questions to build awareness and confidence is inspirational. Her post today provides a unique perspective on how introverts can harness our introspection for good. -Steve Friedman
Self-awareness is one’s ability to identify and manage thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. On a grander scale, it’s our ability to understand who we are and where we fit into the world. The benefits of being self-aware are endless: stronger relationships, more success, improved wellbeing, better performances at work - the list goes on and on.
But if self-awareness is so beneficial, why aren’t more people talking about it? And why aren’t introverts naturally more self-aware?
For a whole slew of reasons, humans are wired to lack self-awareness. What’s worse, our biased brains and societal conditioning make us think we’re more self-aware than we are.
Introverts don’t escape these pitfalls when it comes to self-awareness. In fact, you may be more susceptible to some of the self-awareness traps that plague our brains. However, if you educate yourself on what to avoid, you can turn quiet introspection into your self-aware superpower.
Three primary traps that make us lack self-awareness
1. Your brain is biased.
The word “biased” gets thrown around quite a bit, and often with a negative connotation. Biases can be harmful, but the fact of the matter is that they’re inevitable. Our brains rely on biases to function. Many of our biases - a tendency to focus on the negative, disregard contradictory information, and stereotype - are founded in our survival instincts. As the human species evolved, these basic brain functions helped us to stay alive and avoid threats.
However, as our world modernized and the threats decreased, our biases did not. Your brain will still turn to its default settings when looking at the world and when looking at yourself. How does this inhibit self-awareness? As you turn inward, your brain biases will influence your reflection in inaccurate ways. For example, your confirmation bias might make you disregard facts that might make you feel vulnerable. Or perhaps your optimism bias leads you to believe you deserve more success than others.
Whatever the bias, you must understand that it is present and affecting your introspection. You may be alone, but your biases are still with you.
2. Introspection is not always positive.
Another trap of self-awareness is the idea that introspection is always positive. Many of us believe that thinking about ourselves must be beneficial to our self-awareness. After all, it makes inherent sense, right?
The problem is that how we think about ourselves drastically affects our experience. Consider a time when you couldn’t stop thinking about something you did or said (or when your mind felt like it was on a loop).
This cyclical thinking, called rumination, doesn’t give us any more insight. In fact, it leaves us moving backward rather than forwards because we can’t break free of the negative cycle.
Introverts find quite a bit of time to sit and ponder about their lives. But if that pondering isn’t helping them gain any new information, it might be doing more harm than good.
3. We need external feedback.
Because our brains are biased, and it’s easy to fall into harmful rumination, our self-awareness depends on external feedback from others. No matter how much soul-searching and self-evaluation we do, we’ll always miss something because of our brain design.
Have you ever tried to solve something for hours, and then someone walked over and figured out the solution in a few seconds? They provided a fresh perspective that you couldn’t do - merely because of your proximity to the problem. The same logic applies to self-awareness. Sometimes we’re too close to the source - because we are the source. Our emotions and biases prevent us from seeing the whole picture and drawing accurate conclusions.
As introverts, this pitfall probably feels heavy. Don’t worry; you can still develop your self-awareness without needing to talk to an army of people about yourself. Simple strategies can go a long way in helping you avoid the traps of self-awareness and find the feedback you can use.
How to Develop your Self-Awareness Without Talking to Other People
To break your brain away from some of its biases and unreliable insights, try out some of the following strategies.
1. Get into a journal of any kind.
As any introvert knows, living in your own head can be great - until it’s not. In those moments of rumination and anxiety spirals, it’s critical that you find a way to outlet your thoughts. More extroverted people may run to friends or family to talk things through. You, however, can run to a different kind of listener: a journal.
The simple act of writing down your thoughts and feelings will automatically trigger your brain to release some of its ruminating cycles. Have you ever had an “aha” moment as you were writing something down? That’s not a coincidence. Journaling helps us manage our biases and view our situations more objectively. Not only does it force our brains to slow down, but it also activates different areas of our brain - thus opening us up to different insights.
2. Have two-sided conversations.
Conversations help give us a new perspective, but what if you don’t want to talk to someone? A powerful trick to improve your self-awareness is to have a two-sided conversation with yourself. Most importantly, you should name the thing you’re talking to. You might be naming and talking to an emotion, a decision, a body part, or even a thought.
Does this sound silly? It might feel silly, too, but that’s okay. When you name something, you allow separation between yourself and the designated thing. It’s in this intentional separation that you can avoid the traps, biases, and negative loops that we too often fall into. You can also ask questions that will help get you closer to unlocking the truth.
Next time you’re stuck on something, try having a conversation with it - either in your head, out loud, or in a journal. You’ll be surprised by what you discover.
3. Learn to listen to your body.
The last invaluable source of feedback comes from your body. Many of us view our body as a vehicle for our brain. Not only does this viewpoint prevent us from tapping into an intelligent resource, but it neglects the primary player in the game of self-awareness.
Our emotional brain sits at the foundation of our brain, so our body feels, reacts, and moves before we even make a conscious decision. As we look for insight into ourselves, our body provides significant clues.
Most of us aren’t good at tuning into our bodies. However, learning to identify and label the feelings in your body will give fantastic feedback about your thoughts and emotions.
Conclusion: Use Introversion as your Self-Awareness Superpower
It’s a common misconception that introversion automatically lends itself to greater self-awareness. The traps of self-awareness are harmful to everyone, but they’re especially harmful to introverts. In particular, we need external feedback to become more self-aware.
Fortunately, introverts can use their personality to turn self-awareness into one of their greatest superpowers with the correct strategies. External feedback doesn’t have to come from other people. Simple strategies - such as using a journal, having two-sided conversations, and tuning in to your body - can give you the feedback you need to become more self-aware.
And from there, the possibilities for you are endless.
About the author Kara McDuffee
Kara McDuffee is the writer and founder of My Question Life, a community dedicated to helping you discover yourself and find the answers you’re searching for. She gives you the questions you need to become more self-aware and vulnerable in your everyday life.
To read her posts or download her free eBook The Art of Being Self-Aware, check out her blog.
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