Introverts and Showing Up

Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes. ~ Carl Jung

As a self-proclaimed and Myers-Briggs labeled introvert (I certainly have extroverted qualities, but for as long as I can remember, I have leaned and related more toward my introversion), I find that there is nothing sweeter than quiet time where I can reboot and replenish after the emotional output required in my day to day. My preference in relationships and social gatherings is the one-to-one or small group dynamics versus the bigger groups and large parties.  It is in the more intimate settings that I feel a sense of connection and authenticity.  The bigger and less intimate gatherings have always felt more on the surface, less substantive, and not as safe.  For a long time, I struggled with my bent toward this and actually thought something was wrong with my wiring.  Why wasn't I more comfortable in this life and the many daily interactions that I had from being on sports teams to school to being part of a big family?

One of my greatest desires since I was a little girl was a need to belong and be safe and be known.  When those criteria were met, I could operate at my best and take risks.  I think this is true for most of us.  When we feel safe, we can grow and be free.  

Interestingly, I began to default to my introversion and avoiding social interactions whenever life got to be too much.  Only until I came upon coaching and started looking at the WHY of my motivations and what thoughts created those feelings did I begin to wonder if I was overly relying on my introversion and using it as a shield.  An armor.  A place to hide.  What was I afraid of?  At the time, I couldn't articulate it.  Now, I can say that it was the thought that I was not enough, and showing up as I thought I needed to show up, and not as I truly was, required incredible amounts of energy. 

Fast forward to working my with fabulous clients and I am starting to see a very common pattern with my self-proclaimed introverted students.  As they peel away the layers of years of habits and behaviors, what appears to be their introverted tendencies in situations that require vulnerability, there is often a mode of self-preservation and protection.  This protection is in place because of the fear of being truly seen and known and being rejected once they are "outed".  One of my clients told me that she worries that if she were to truly share her thoughts with her friends and family, it would be too much for them to bear.  She felt her deeper and more intimate thoughts were seen as outside what would be acceptable.  There's a fear of just being too much on all levels. Another client told me that he has always been known as the nice guy, nothing more and nothing less.  He is tired of this label and longs for more, but his fear of not being liked by everyone takes precedence.  He admits that being nice can be exhausting.  It leaves him feeling empty.  And lost. Why? My guess is that by going against the grain and trying to morph into something "more acceptable" requires considerable mental energy. 

I am completely fascinated by how we try to mold ourselves into the person that we think is desirable, but by doing so, we totally lose our way and become liked by people as someone that we are not. What the what?!  It makes no sense and yet we do it all the time!  I choose to believe that people do us a favor by not liking us since their thoughts about us are more about them than they are about us. Regardless of what we do, they size us up pretty much from the get-go and either they have thoughts that are for us or against us.  It really requires no energy on our part.  We can just be who we are and be that very well.  Their assessment is all about them.  But, that is for another blog.  :)

As an exercise for my clients, I ask that they foster an awareness when the desire to "hide" or close down creeps in, and then understand what is going on to create that trigger.  Is it that you truly are spent and need to recalibrate, or is it because you would prefer to avoid a person/situation and fall back on your introversion as the excuse?  It's all in the awareness of the thoughts surrounding your actions, and what is driving your behaviors.  Stay clean on these things, and stay true to who you are and what you need.  In time, the desire to hide will not be such a strong force/motivating factor because you will own who you are and make no apologies for it.  You will start showing up just as you are, in whatever setting you find yourself.  It's all good.  Much love!  ox

To free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves – there lies the great, singular power of self-respect. ~Joan Didion