As an introvert who works from home, I’m used to being socially distant from people for the better part of each week. For most of us, though, the coronavirus quarantine is way outside our normal way of life. Even many introverts are discovering they miss being around people more than they thought they would. Humans are social creatures, and we all need other people to a certain extent.
For me personally, I know from a week spent house-sitting that I don’t do well if I’m completely isolated for more than a couple days. Thankfully I live with family, so I’m not too terribly lonely even with the quarantine. But I know there are many people who live alone, or who are stuck in situations where the people they live with aren’t safe to be around, or who are so extroverted that just having a couple other people in the house isn’t enough to keep them from going stir-crazy.
Thankfully, your introverted friends have been preparing for just this sort of situation. We’re full of good ideas for how to spend your time when you can’t (or don’t want to) be around other people. Since we’re stuck at home anyway we might as well make the most of it, so here are an introvert’s best tips for how to put your time in social isolation to good use.
Keep In Touch
As I’ve said before, introverts need people too. We all (to varying degrees) need a certain amount of human interaction to keep mentally and even physically healthy. Thanks to modern technology, there are plenty of ways to do that without actually being in the same room as the other person.
Phone calls are a great way to keep in touch. I used to hate the phone, but now I’ve changed my mind just enough that I’m happy to spend hours talking with a few close friends. If you really want to communicate with someone calling is a faster way with more immediate feedback than text or email. But if phones aren’t your thing (or, like me, there are only a very few people you feel comfortable calling), then write a letter or send an email or shoot someone a text.
Read A Book
Reading has long been a favorite at-home activity for both introverts and extroverts. If you have not been hoarding books like the apocalypse is coming and you might be the last library left in the world (I have 1,100+ books on my shelves), then you can order some online, download ebooks, or turn to our local library. Read more →
Introversion is not the same thing as being shy. Every decent definition of “introvert” makes that distinction. Being an introvert means the outer world drains you and the inner world recharges you. Being shy means you get nervous and self-conscious when in social situations. They’re different things.
But what if you’re an introvert who’s also shy?
Even though shyness and introversion are different, there are quite a few introverts who are also shy (it’s worth noting there are also shy extroverts as well, though they’re not the focus of this post). And when you’re a shy introvert, there are certain struggles that other introverts don’t always resonate with. In today’s post, we’ll talk about 10 that I’ve dealt with.
1) You don’t always fit in with the introverts
I struggle with social anxiety. When I first started reading about introversion, I kept coming across people saying things like “introverts aren’t shy” or “introverts aren’t socially awkward.” This made me feel a little out-of-place. I’m an introvert and I’m also shy and socially awkward. So where do I fit in? I’m sure I’m not the only shy introvert who has asked themselves this question.
2) You wonder if you need to change
Introversion is an inborn personality trait and it’s not something that you need to “fix.” Social anxiety is a mental-health disorder that can negatively impact your life, and it’s a good idea to seek professional counseling if you’re struggling with that. But what about the in-between area where shyness lives? For those who are more shy than other introverts but not always socially anxious, it can be a struggle to figure out how much of your shyness is just part of your personality and how much is something you might want to work on overcoming.
3) People mistake your intentions
I’ve had so many people mistake me for being rude or stuck-up simply because my shyness made it hard for me to join-in to groups. I don’t think I’m better than others just because I’m off on the side watching instead of in the middle of the dance floor gyrating. I don’t mean to be rude when I have trouble coming up with small talk when I first meet someone. And I’ve talked with or read articles by many introverts who face this struggle, especially if they’re also shy.
4) Starting a conversation is hard
Actually, “hard” doesn’t do the feeling justice. It’s more like well-nigh impossible at times. Not only are you more comfortable inside your safe introvert shell, but you also have your shyness worrying about how terribly wrong this conversation could go. Maybe they’ll think it’s weird you started a conversation with them. Maybe you’ll run out of things to say and embarrass yourself. Maybe you’ll want to escape the conversation later and won’t know how. You know you’re probably over-thinking things, but it still makes starting a conversation challenging.
5) Sometimes you just need to leave
Being in groups of people can be a struggle for any introvert. But when you’re shy on top of being introverted there are going to be times when you’re in a group of people and suddenly feel like you just have to leave RIGHT NOW. Maybe this is more my anxiety speaking than my shyness, but sometimes I just hit a point where I’m overwhelmed and/or totally drained and I have to bail on a group, event, or other gathering. In many cases, my energy starts to return as soon as I’m alone.
6) You feel underestimated
Sure you’re not the most outgoing person around, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have valuable skills and talents. Unfortunately for shy introverts, people often assume that because we’re hesitant to speak up it means we don’t have anything valuable to contribute. That can lead to people vastly underestimating us. From people talking over you in meetings to people assuming you can’t handle a task on your own, it’s often quite a challenge to try and convince others to stop underestimating you.
7) Avoiding people you know
Introverts, even shy ones, don’t hate people. But we vastly prefer interacting with people when we can plan ahead for it. Bumping into people accidentally seems incredibly awkward. If we spot someone we know out in public and they haven’t seen us yet, there’s a good chance we’ll go out of our way to avoid running into them. We might also avoid planning activities with people because we know they’ll be draining and overwhelming, so it just seems easier to not go in the first place than to leave early.
8) Your body gives away your shyness
Shyness and anxiety have some very real physical effects and sometimes they’re impossible to hide. One minute you seem calm, put-together, and in control of the situation. You might be worried on the inside but outside you can make it seem like everything’s okay. Then suddenly your palms are sweating, your voice starts shaking, and your nerves take over so much that you’re not even sure what you’re saying anymore. It’s embarrassing, but it’s not something we’re really in control of so we just have to live with it (though there are grounding techniques that can help).
9) You agree to things you don’t want to
Fear of confrontation is something lots of people struggle with, and it can be a particular challenge for shy introverts. It’s hard enough talking to people at all but when you have to contradict them it’s, like, 100 times more difficult. So you might end up agreeing to things you don’t want to or losing arguments that you should have won. It can get pretty frustrating at times. And if you avoid conflict too much, you might also have to deal with the added uncomfortableness of later trying to get out of something you agreed to when you were too shy to speak up.
10) You listen better than you speak
Listening is an underappreciated skill that shy people are often really good at. Just because social situations make us anxious doesn’t mean we’re not attuned to other people and their needs. Many of us are really good listeners and we’re often much more happy sitting back and listening than with taking a more active role in the conversation. We get so comfortable listening that it can be really jarring when someone encourages us to speak up more. In fact, the more someone draws attention to the fact that we’re not speaking “enough,” the less likely we are to want to say anything.
What are your experiences with living as a shy introvert? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!
When was the last time you did something to care for yourself?
According to a definition used on PsychCentral, “Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.” Most of us practice at least a little bit of self-care every day with basic tasks like brushing our teeth and making sure we eat something. But self-care should go farther than just enough to keep us functioning.
While self-care is important for everyone, I want to focus today’s post on self-care tips for highly sensitive persons and introverts. Even though there are highly sensitive extroverts, it’s still true that HSPs and introverts have similar self-care needs. It’s easy for both to get overwhelmed by the demands of every-day life and we need time to slow down and take care of ourselves. I hope the 10 tips in today’s post will help you do just that.
1) Listen to yourself
It’s amazing how easy it is to ignore what your own body is trying to tell you. We often keep pushing ourselves, trying to get through things without caring how it’s affecting us. Something as simple as taking a few minutes to pause and assess yourself can do wonders for your mental and physical health. It’s always good to catch negative feelings or stress early and take the time and do some quick self-care right then. The sooner you deal with something, the less likely it is to come back and bug you later.
2) Drink tea
I used to hate tea, but a couple years ago I discovered I just didn’t like (most) teas from the tea plant. Herbal teas on the other hand are a wonderful thing. Whatever type of tea flavor you prefer, consider picking one without caffeine so it’s more more relaxing and won’t increase anxiety. Read more →
Introverts need people. This isn’t something you’ll hear about very often, though. Most of the time, you’ll either hear people who are critical of introverts complaining about how unsociable we are or you’ll hear introverts talking about how much we dislike being around other people.
Humans are social creatures, however. We have different preferences for how much and in what ways we socialize, but we all need other people. Being an introvert doesn’t mean you hate people. It just means that you’re born with a trait that makes you prefer the internal world. It means you re-charge better in quiet, low-stimulation environments, not that you do well in social isolation.
So what’s an introvert to do? If you don’t like typical social events or groups, how do you avoid the mental and physical health risks of loneliness while also honoring your introverted nature?
This list includes tips for introvert-friendly ways to socialize with other people. Some of these assume you’re trying to meet new people, while others are great for doing with people you already know.
1) Attend An Interesting Event
It’s not all that difficult to find out about events going on in your local area. Check city websites, Google “local events,” or browse through events on Facebook. There’s bound to be something in the area that interests you and there are often options for small gatherings (like a morning yoga meet-up) as well as larger ones. If you’re at an event that interests you, you have a good chance of meeting people with similar interests and perhaps even finding a local group to join. Read more →
For introverts like me, learning about your personality is often a huge relief. We read books like Susan Cain’s Quiet, Marti Olsen Laney’s The Introvert Advantage, or Laurie Helgoe’s Introvert Power and we marvel that there are other people like us. We’re not alone anymore. All our weirdness finally makes sense.
Except, introversion didn’t explain everything about my personality. Those writing about introversion were careful to point out that it isn’t the same thing as shyness. I was shy, though, so how did I fit in? Learning from Elaine Aron’s books that I’m a highly sensitive person helped explain why certain environments and situations feel overwhelming, but it didn’t explain the racing heart, sweaty palms, and anxious thoughts that followed me into interactions with people.
I had my first panic attack in a Blockbuster when I was about 14 or 15 years old. That was when I realized there was something going on other than just shyness. Another 15 years later and I now know that I struggle with generalized anxiety, social anxiety, and depression. I won’t get into all that here but if you’re curious you can click to read “My Anxiety Story.”
One of the good things that has come out of all this is that I can write about introversion, social anxiety, and what it means to have both. I can’t speak for everyone, though. Our personalities and anxieties are highly individual and if you’re socially anxious it’s going to be a different experience for you than it is for me. There are commonalities, however, and I think there’s a good chance you’ll identify with some of my confessions as a socially anxious introvert. Read more →
One of the things that really irritates me when I see certain introverts talking online is how much they seem to hate extroverts. They’ll even use that word — “I hate this thing that extroverts do” or “I hate it when extroverts are like this.” Some even have lists of all the things they hate about extroverts.
We introverts have been pushing for a while now to get recognized as “normal.” Introversion is how about 50% of the population’s brains are hardwired. It’s an inborn preference for the inner world of thoughts and ideas, which is also shaped by our unique individual experiences. So stop judging us for it, okay?
What far too many of us forget is that the exact same things are true of extroversion. For about 50% of the population, being an extrovert is perfectly normal. It’s an inborn preference for the outer world of things and people. Extroverted and introverted mental “wiring” are both perfectly normal. Both are needed, and both personality types deserve respect.
So with that clarification out of the way, let’s talk about whether or not extroverts are incapable of understanding introverts. Read more →