Updated: Jan 8
All those terms swirling around in my head. It can be dizzying. After addressing the Thesaurus BS in last week's blog, now it's time to tackle some definitions. Definitions can be dangerous. But they can help us to understand ourselves more clearly, a critical step for us to embrace our true selves and go Beyond Introversion.
I will preface by saying I am NOT a doctor or therapist. But having many of these traits and enjoying this broad community, along with conducting a bit of online research, please grant me some space to lead this tour. Some of these terms may be new to you. So let's explore them together.
INTROVERSION: Many will define introversion as getting energy from within or from being alone as opposed to extroverts who get energy from the interface and social situations. I can certainly relate to this definition but I think it's deeper than that.
I love my alone time and I do get energy. I find this to be the most creative and productive time for me. Planning, dreaming, learning. But it can also be the most dangerous time. Left alone too long, I can also sink into intense introspective hyper-analysis. Why did I do that? Why can't I socialize? Why can't I be as confident as that person? My head can be swirling as contemplation turns to condemnation. Thinking inwardly is our jam but can be our arsenic. We must be cautious to moderate our introspection and practice Positive Self Talk.
But I also enjoy social time. For me, it depends on the situation. I have more energy to interface with family and close friends. I've discovered I'm especially comfortable when I arrange the social events myself. I think it's a "home turf" thing. Maybe because I chose the theme or occasion, the food and entertainment, the attendees, and the venue? As the host, I can engage with people on stimulating topics often of my choosing and also take breaks to cook food or escape to a back room to reenergize. But even those most comfortable of situations wear thin and as my battery drains, my energy noticeably evaporates. It's like I can sense when the social switch goes off and the countdown is on! And if I'm not the organizer, my energy drains in a fraction of that time. All good things come to an end. I relax with a book, writing, TV...ahhh, solitude. From one good thing to another. Click here to read more about Introversion from Susan Cain, who brought introversion into public view with her Quiet Revolution.
SHY: Shyness is different from introversion. While Introversion is one's preference for solitude, shy people can be afraid to be with others. As with introversion, this is not black and white. I am shy in large social situations where I don't know anyone. I do realize now it's not just that I want to have my alone time, it is that I fear these unfamiliar social situations. I doubt my ability to enter and maintain conversations. I loathed conferences with large cocktail hours when I worked. It literally drove me to drink as seemingly my only and obvious coping mechanism for such events. Most of my reading on this subject indicates shyness stems from low self-confidence or self-esteem. I can relate to that. While introversion seems to be a part of our DNA, shyness can be managed, at least to some extent, by practice and by improving our own self-confidence and self-image. It doesn't mean we'll become the gregarious life of the party as we are still introverts, but easing shyness can help us feel less anxious and able to use limited social situations as a source of enjoyment and networking. Click here to read more about Shyness in Psychology Today.
HSP (HIGHLY SENSITIVE PERSON): This term is often used alongside introversion. Yet it is different. Being highly sensitive can be both physically and emotionally demanding. HSPs can be very sensitive to loud noise or crowded rooms, having an intense need to remove themselves. They can also be sensitive to other people's comments or feelings. As with introverts, HSPs may ingest comments which shake them to their core. Common thought is HSP is innate or inborn, sort of like our DNA. It cannot necessarily be "overcome" but skills can be developed to avoid some situations and cope best with emotions, much like introversion. I actually enjoy loud music (typically classic Rock 'n Roll, not the more violent, headbanging stuff of today😵 ). I don't like crowds but don't tend to get shaken by such environments as others. Click here to read more about HSP from Dr. Elaine Aron, the recognized guru for HSPs.
EMPATHS: Empaths are highly sympathetic people that tend to absorb other people's emotions. Dr. Judith Orloff notes, "They feel everything. They know where you're coming from." This can be quite exhausting as they may take on the happiness and joy but also the stresses and strains of others. This can be affiliated with the emotional sensitivities of HSPs but can often be more extreme. Like introverts, alone time provides respite but should not be used to avoid others completely in hopes of avoiding the challenges of empaths. Empaths do possess keen intuition and have highly tuned senses. As the title implies, they are highly empathetic and thus can be strong allies and friends, sometimes to the detriment of their own health. Being aware of their tendencies and introspectively being centered helps to avoid the extremes that can be so detrimental. Like introversion, Empaths possess a gift that, when understood and managed, can be quite fulfilling. Click here to read more about Empaths from Dr. Judith Orloff.
ANXIETY: Anxiety is a bit different than the above four qualities, but it surely can arise when we struggle to understand these traits and how they may affect us. Indeed, anxiety is an expected and often motivational aspect of life. However, in some situations, it can become a Disorder which tends to be defined as an intense, excessive and persistent worry or fear about particular circumstances, so much so that it becomes physical...sweats, shakes, high blood pressure, rashes, aches, and panic attacks. This anxiety can be over a specific situation (large crowds, public speaking, heights, insects, airplanes, dating, etc) or a general sense of worry. Introverts may have tendencies toward Anxiety Disorders. During our introspective alone time, we can often ruminate about upcoming events or challenges to the point of physical exhaustion, stress, and intense nerves. I have battled anxiety especially around large social gatherings and public speaking. Anxiety Disorders can often be traced to genetics and early childhood events. My mom wrestled with Agoraphobia for years (fear of being in public, enclosed, or unfamiliar places) which is perhaps an extreme form of anxiety. Anxiety Disorders can be addressed through therapy and /or medication. Attending to our anxiety and our mental health, in general, is definitely less taboo than in the past. As we see doctors for what aches and pains us, we should do the same for our own emotional wellbeing. Personally, I view dedicating an hour every few weeks to talk about myself as a gift I certainly deserve. Click here to read more about Anxiety Disorders from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
While many of these conditions can be quiet similar to introversion, they are not synonymous but perhaps somewhat cousins of each other. Introverts may relate to some, all, or none of these conditions beyond introversion. Yet there is a common theme. Introversion itself, or any of these other conditions, in and of itself, may not the problem.
There are many great traits represented and many mechanisms to avoid the repercussions of extreme reactions to each of these. But the greatest damage is inflicted when we don't understand who we are and thus can't embrace ourselves, instead comparing ourselves to the superficially visible societal norms. This leads to a sense of being broken or not normal. Rather, it's helpful to recognize that everyone's personality is different. We all have our strengths and challenges.
The world needs introverts and empaths, HSPs and shy people. These qualities themselves are not the problem. It is the torment we and others place on ourselves and each other that is most dangerous. It's time we give ourselves the gifts of knowledge and acceptance.
If we can reach that point of self-acceptance, we can truly leverage our strengths of intuition, empathy, introspection, perception, analytics, cautiousness, and preparation that lie within each one of us.
We are all on our own journey. Rather than hide in the dark, we should seek information and community. We don't need to do this alone!
Beyond Introversion Facebook Group
For those looking for more interaction with fellow Introverts, join our new Facebook Group - Beyond Introversion Group. The Group will complement the information posted on our website and weekly blogs. This Group is a Community for us all to share experiences, perspectives, and resources.
Check it out on Facebook or just query Beyond Introversion Group on your Facebook Group page.
January 29th we have an amazing guest blogger...
Norma T. Hollis
Authority on Authenticity and Self-Awareness,
Authentic Leadership and Authentic Communication
Consultant, Trainer, Speaker, Coach
Celebration of Life Day – January 22, 2020
January 22 is National Celebration of Life Day! What a perfect day to reflect on who we are and revel in our strengths. Embrace those strengths and share them with the world...with family, friends, and co-workers. Celebrate your Life!
Check out the MentalHealth.gov website for more information, resources, and communities for sharing.
ASPECTS IN ART: SNOW TREE (1/08/2020)
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