6 Ways to Own Your Introversion
For the first couple of decades of my life, I didn’t know I was an introvert. I just thought I was quiet and didn’t like crowds. Thinking back, I was always reading a book at Filipino socials, preferring to have one-on-one conversations at house parties, and never wanting to go out to the clubs in college (but I did it anyway). Once I got to pharmacy school I learned a lot more about introversion because of one professor who had all of us take the Myers-Briggs test as a part of learning more about ourselves and how to work in teams.
Taking the Myers-Briggs personality test and reading the description of my results was like reading my biography. It felt like validation for the feelings and needs I’ve had growing up that I didn’t know how to express. This isn’t meant to sound dramatic because I’ve had a happy life and am fortunate to not have been bullied or anything like that, but understanding these things about myself, my introversion, was eye-opening.
Once I identified as an introvert, the journey to owning it and feeling confident about it was a different story. It still took a while for me to say no to certain social gatherings after a long day of class/work. It wasn’t until years later in residency where I reached a point (alongside everyone else) where if I didn’t own my needs, I would mentally break. I’m not saying everyone needs to reach a breaking point to know how to get what you want, but this is how my journey played out.
Now that I’m in my career, living on my own in a new city with my boyfriend, I have a clean slate. This is the first clean slate I’ve had with this newfound confidence and pride in my personality and my needs. If you’re in a similar boat as me and working on your own sense of self, here are six ways I’ve learned to own your introversion.
1. Understand your needs. It took a while for me to realize that what seemed like quirks are really just facets of my personality and there is NOTHING wrong with it. Things that helped were reading books like Quiet, reading articles about other introverts like Eleanor Roosevelt, Warren Buffet, and Rosa Parks. I also have mentors who are introverts that have gone through a similar journey as me. Essentially, realize you are NOT alone and you are awesome as you are.
2. Acknowledge how your needs may be perceived. Intention and perception are not always in sync. I’ve been told that I’m unemotional, seem uninterested, and like I’m blowing people off. Now that I understand more about myself, I don’t take offense to this. In fact, now I appreciate the feedback so I can 1) clarify and 2) make some adjustments by adding some explanation with my actions in real time. To the comments that I may seem unemotional/uninterested, I will clarify that I’m thoughtful and like to process before I share opinions. To the comments that I seem like I am blowing people off, I say that I’m actually just really worn out from the day and in order to feel well-rested the next day I need to stay in. The more we can help clarify how we are perceived, the more people will understand you instead of project judgement inappropriately (see #6).
3. Be upfront with your needs. Tell people that you’re an introvert and won’t necessarily go to all of the social events with your friends. Don’t apologize for it, be matter-of-fact with explanation (see #2). I’ve found that by doing this, it may inspire others to realize their own needs too.
4. Balance your relationships (i.e., have extrovert friends). It can be easy for me to go unchecked with my hermit status if left to my own devices. If I surround myself with friends who appreciate my needs but also hold me accountable to getting out of the house, it becomes a much more healthy balance. Because as an introvert, I love my solitude, but I also love my friends and family.
5. Plan. Being an introvert does not mean you are shy (you can be, of course, but they do not come hand-in-hand). If there is an event where you know you’ll be around a lot of people, have a lot of interactions, publicly speak etc. schedule time afterwards to have your solitary recharge. Take a bathroom break and relax for an extra minute or two. Block time off your calendar for yourself so no one else can book time in your office.
6. Educate others. 99% of the time when I tell someone I’m an introvert, they’re surprised. Every time this happens, I see it as a perfect chance to advocate for understanding introversion. I explain how I am an introvert and that being an introvert does not mean a person is shy (among other things).
These tips will helpful if you’re like me and feel that so much of social and business success is set up for extroverts. I believe this balance is shifting little by little, but for the time being take these steps to own it.