By Jess Williams, founder of Create Live Grow
I am an introvert. Yep I said it. Why should that be so hard?
I remember in high school that as a class we took personality tests to learn more about ourselves. I am an INFP (Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling & Perceiving – I will post the description at the end of this article), which I now LOVE because the description really represents ME and all of my skills and originality. At the time though, when my friends asked me what my result was I lied…
I told them I was an extrovert – because that’s what was ‘cool’ and ‘popular’, and it was the general consensus around the class that if you got introvert it wasn’t a great thing.
Well I’m here to say that 11 years later, I can proudly and publicly say that yes I am an introvert – and many would say ‘well obviously Jess’ – but I want to address the truth of what introvert actually means.
Being an introvert doesn’t actually mean you are shy or fear social situations. It doesn’t mean that you dislike meeting like minded people, or you can’t hold a conversation. It simply means that social situations drain your energy and you need time alone to fill your cup back up, you also tend to look inward and prefer one on one relationships.
For years I didn’t truly understand this. I knew that I LOVED having time to myself and doing solo activities. But I also felt like I was a little strange for this, and felt guilty for not wanting to spend more time with people. I would push myself to be social and play into the extroverted characteristics that really weren’t me. I now believe this is one of the key reasons I began experiencing social anxiety.
I didn’t truly understand what I NEEDED and I felt shame and guilt if I gave myself the space I needed. Caring friends would be concerned at times and think I was withdrawing from them, but the truth was I was just exhausted, off balance and needed to come back to my centre.
As my social anxiety got worse I started to notice a pattern. I would have panic attacks when I had pushed myself too hard. I was saying yes to events because I ‘should’ and ‘what would people think if I said no?’ I’d get to a point that I was frazzled and anxious before even going anywhere because I had already done too much. Then would feel completely overwhelmed by the group scenario and have an embarrassing breakdown.
When I empowered myself to learn about my personality type and really paid attention to what did and didn’t feel good I started to notice a change.
I now like to think of my energy levels as a bank balance. Just like we get paid each week, I also receive a certain amount of energy. If I spend it on things that aren’t really aligned to me, I am going to end up with no energy left for the things I truly WANT to do. I can also top my energy levels back up by having some time to myself to recharge, doing nurturing activities and practicing self love.
If I have a really big couple of days coming up where I know I will be surrounded by a lot of people and lots of travel etc, I can pretty much guarantee I am going to need a good week to get back to a good energy level. And that is fine. I make sure I don’t book in too much for the following week to allow myself that time to regenerate.
If I have an engagement party or a wedding or something really special that I just CAN’T miss, then I will make sure I have some space leading up to it. This also allows me to be more PRESENT in the moments I do have with people, because they are intentional and I really appreciate and cherish them. I’ve found I am much more engaging, and don’t have any anxiety.
This once again, brings us back to the key message…
Extra Tidbit: I listened to a great episode on Marie Forleo TV on ‘Networking for Introverts’ with Susan Cain, the author of QUIET. Susan discussed that ‘networking’ can be quite terrifying for introverts as we feel we are expected to be something we aren’t. We tend to like to connect with people one on one rather than small chat with many. She suggested taking the pressure off by looking for one ‘kindred spirit’ at an event, and making a really great connection with that one person. I love that and it is something I am going to take into future networking events.
If you would like to learn more about your own personality, take a test here, below is a small excerpt of mine
INFP Personality (“The Mediator”)
INFP personalities are true idealists, always looking for the hint of good in even the worst of people and events, searching for ways to make things better. While they may be perceived as calm, reserved, or even shy, INFPs have an inner flame and passion that can truly shine. Comprising just 4% of the population, the risk of feeling misunderstood is unfortunately high for the INFP personality type – but when they find like-minded people to spend their time with, the harmony they feel will be a fountain of joy and inspiration.
At their best, these qualities enable INFPs to communicate deeply with others, easily speaking in metaphors and parables, and understanding and creating symbols to share their ideas. The strength of this intuitive communication style lends itself well to creative works, and it comes as no surprise that many famous INFPs are poets, writers and actors. Understanding themselves and their place in the world is important to INFPs, and they explore these ideas by projecting themselves into their work.