What am I missing out on?
We will certainly struggle to understand why we do what we do, or how to cope with our differences if we don't know we are introverts. Many of us will continue to be driven by fear and low self-esteem from cultural norms instead of pride and comfort in who we really are.
You are Not Abnormal. You are Not Alone!
Once we understand we are introverts, we can begin to normalize this and develop coping skills like preparation and alone time to reenergize. Finally, we can embrace our strengths like thoughtfulness, planning, curiosity, and creativity so we can rebuild our self-esteem to be happy and manage the challenges of the world around us. We can become content in our own skin, shedding our nagging voice inside of what others might think.
How can we find peace and happiness without years of frustration?
When did you discover you were an introvert?
When did you embrace your introversion?
Can you remember the day you realized you were an introvert?
In a recent Facebook poll, over 75% of respondents became aware of their introversion around mid-life: in their 40's and 50's. Everyone polled understood they were "different" much earlier in life - typically in their childhood - but didn't understand it was just part of their innate personality until mid-life. That means so many people were often left confused and alone to battle societal norms that insist quiet solitude is "just not right."
Those customs made us feel like we were just wallflowers, anti-social, and abnormal. Introversion itself doesn't mean we have low self-esteem, but being subject to other's taunting can affect our self-confidence from our early childhood days. As we grow up, often we take that pain and self-consciousness with us into our adult life, our relationships, and our workplace. Here, the struggles can become more detrimental when placed amongst the challenges of dating and providing for our family.
Have you embraced your introversion and all its strengths yet?
If discovering our introversion is illuminating, embracing our introversion is empowering. This is the most difficult yet most rewarding step of all. Reading Susan Cain's Quiet opened my mind (discover more books and podcasts for introverts here). I finally understood I was not alone, that I had just as many strengths as anyone else, just different. Take a free, personalized quiz to find your top strengths! Once we explore our strengths and become proud of our own style, our confidence can return. Suddenly, those most treacherous situations become easier when we can plan for those meetings, manage our energy level during social outings, and relax and enjoy our alone time without being self-conscious.
A Story of Desperation
My personal story mirrors many others. I had never really heard of the term "introversion" until I was in my twenties, and even then I didn't stop to understand what it was and how it applied to me. As my career progressed with greater social and project engagements, I felt like I was out of place. When I was 38, my family and I were transferred to London on an ex-pat assignment. Though we had amazing family travels, my work promotion meant my job was a combination of internal politicking and external socializing. I was very much out of my element and unable to find a way through. I turned to alcohol, overeating, and overworking to try to squelch my fears and still meet my personal standards.
After about two years of spiraling downward, I found myself passed-out on my hotel room floor in Singapore. I had no idea how I'd gotten there and the brief flashes of what appeared to me to be a police station scared me to death. I believe I was just extraordinarily lucky not to be in jail or dead in a strict foreign country half a world away from home.
In my award-winning memoir, In Search of Courage: An Introvert’s Story, I share my struggles and triumphs both at work and at home. Others hail my story as both "heart-wrenching and heartbreaking."
"I cannot imagine how scary it must have been for the author to share so much of himself with the world but I think the fact that he has, proves that he has found the courage that he was in search of. Perhaps this book will help others to do the same!" -Nonfiction Authors Association
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When I returned to London, I began seeing a therapist to try to cope with the pressure and pain. We talked about my introversion, and I was told it was okay. Yet, I still had a lot of work to do. As I began to learn more about my personality, I tried to adapt to survive this work assignment. However, it became clear I was fighting an uphill battle - too much pressure, too much socializing, and not enough time to learn skills to find my way out.
Fortuitously, my manager opted to combine my job with another and I was forced to find another assignment inside the company. I was upset and confused at the time, but this became a great gift to me. This provided a pivot point for me to remove myself from the stress of this job and return back to the US and find a new assignment that better suited my style.
I landed a new job in a smaller team that was more focused on the supply & logistics skillset I had embraced decades ago and I began to use my strengths to navigate the inevitable social calls. As I settled into the job I continued my journey of self-discovery. I realized that I was not abnormal or weird just because I needed to reenergize during the day or because I planned my day in detail or prepared for meetings well in advance. Once I understood this was just me, and that these skills were valuable at work and also soothing to me, I found my groove. I relaxed, built closer relationships using my own social style, and ensured I found time alone to refuel during the day. Suddenly, my self-confidence returned, our team productivity improved, and I found happiness in life again.
Why Does It Take So Long?
Why did the vast majority of Facebook respondents say they didn't discover their introversion until mid-life? Why does it take so long for so many of us? Introversion is an innate trait derived from our DNA. We may try to deny our introversion. We often waste time trying to conform to social norms. However, introversion is not something we overcome. Instead, we build up defenses and suffer from the pain of trying to be someone we are not. Then, life gets busy and we are trying to just stay afloat.
Finally, our mid-life often provides us with the courage to reflect, wish for more, and explore ourselves until we realize there is a better way. I encourage all of us not to wait. Discover and embrace your introversion and encourage those introverts around you not to waste any further time. More confidence, happiness, and contentment may be just around the corner.
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!
Greater Health Risks for Introverts:
How can we take steps now to protect our future?