Hello my friends! I have a feeling many of you can relate to the topic I'm going to discuss in this post as I know for a fact there are quite a few other introverts on here! Long before I became a personal trainer and nutrition coach, I studied psychology in college. To this day I still very much enjoy reading articles about the topic, especially in the realm of personality psychology. Though I didn't specifically go into the mental health field, I am so grateful that I picked a major field of study that brings me benefits to this day. For one I actually use many techniques when working with encouraging positive change in my clients, but also learning about myself as an introvert truly changed my life for the better.
Growing up I was painfully shy. My older sister actually spoke for me long after I could speak for myself (she's on the left above, with yours truly to the right), and I really only had one close friend as opposed to the army that that same sister seemed to have. I never had trouble in school, in fact I tended to thrive in many areas, especially taking tests. The only big challenge I had was recess, especially after we moved for the first time when I was 8 years old. We only moved to a city perhaps 45 minutes away, but it was far enough that I had to start from scratch with making friends. My mother remembers my teachers that first year calling her so concerned for me as I would sit out on the playground by myself every day. Bless my mother for understanding, she assured them that I would make friends in time, and I did indeed do just that. Again, I found one really close friend to spend my free time with and was pleasant enough with the other kids in class that I had gotten to know over time. All was well until we moved again when I was 11. This time to another state!
My parents packed up all three of us girls and moved us down from New Jersey to Georgia to try to give us better opportunities in a number of areas. Probably needless to say, going into middle school was quite a tough time for me. It didn't help that I was tall and tomboyish, with a very unfortunate haircut that made me look even more like a boy (pretty much the same one from above, but as a pre-teen--yikes!). Thank goodness there wasn't social media at the time otherwise it would have been infinitely more scarring! After a while I made my best friend who was my partner in crime from the age of 12 all the way up to college. She was the only one who came to my 12th birthday party, but it all worked out in the end as I wouldn't have given up that friendship for anything.
College was actually a bit easier to make friends as I went to a relatively small school (less than 2,000 total students) and lived in the dorms the first year--a situation much more conducive to meeting friends in my experience. That was also when I started studying psychology with a number of truly fantastic professors. The day we took the Myers Briggs personality test was a game changer for me. I can still vividly remember the professor talking particularly about the traits of introversion and extroversion. I am without a shadow of a doubt a pure introvert (ISFJ), so learning about it as not just a social trait, but more from an energy perspective made so much sense. I was both shy and an introvert as a child, but I always thought they were one and the same. Shyness is more linked to the anxiety portion of social interaction, whereas introversion is more of where you get your energy. I am drained after being around people and highly stimulating situations, so to recharge my batteries I need to be alone in a quiet setting.
This really was so great to learn more about because it explained why I would get so tired or frustrated after dealing with certain situations. I always felt like there was perhaps something wrong with me, and I would avoid certain events to not feel uncomfortable. I also think it caused communication issues with quite a few people in my life, mostly extroverts as I couldn't understand why they needed so much time and energy, and they thought I was aloof in my need to get some space. Even after college I continued to explore this topic. I am lucky enough to have one of my favorite clients who is a well-respected psychiatrist give me some excellent reading material over the years. He is also an introvert working in a setting in which he has to be "on" all day as he works with clients, so he is very understanding of my very similar situation with my own work.
Which gets me finally to my main point in this blog post, to share one of the books that has been pivotal in continuing my personal journey to find balance between my own quiet time to recharge and the bulk of the rest of my day. I think @riverflows might be pleasantly surprised to see my choice for the latest @naturalmedicine challenge to share a favorite book choice. I could have very easily stuck with one of the amazing nutrition and health books that I have, but I'm happy to branch out a bit and share more of a mental health one. My choice: "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" by Susan Cain.
I actually own this book, but I think I have lent it out (perhaps indefinitely) to someone right now, otherwise I would have used a photo of my own well-loved copy! I think if I can't recall who might have my copy I might just have to purchase another one because just writing about it makes me want to read it again. This is a fantastic read for introverts or extroverts as we can all gain some knowledge on how to deal with different personality types from Susan Cain. She not only talks about the basic differences in this one small component of personality, but also of the broader implications of the focus of the society we live in. Here in the US we tend to applaud those who speak up the most and have the loudest voice, our schools are set up with almost constant stimulation, and even a lot of work settings have done away with private offices in favor of open work spaces to save money and foster teamwork. She is definitely an advocate that to have a functioning society all personality types play an important role, but in her experience (and I would say mine, as well) and research some of the typical traits and behaviors that many introverts exhibit tend to be viewed as weaknesses.
I know I struggle a lot in my field where the social media influencers that share constantly and always put themselves out there are more likely to gain lots of followers and notoriety. Sometimes I have to remind myself that it would damn near kill me to be any more social online than I already am, haha. One of the reasons why I still gravitate here versus other social media outlets is that I never feel pressured to interact. I won't lose followers if I need to take a few days away from posting or commenting. Again, I'm so glad I am only having to navigate this sphere as an adult, because as a quiet child I think I would have had a really hard time in this digital world we now live in.
Within the book there are some really great examples of highly successful introverts, and I love some of the tips that they give. I remember one gentleman who does a lot of public speaking says he will take a few moments and go into the bathroom to lock himself in a stall before he has to speak. It is only for a few minutes, but taking that small amount of time to himself helps recharge to deal with the time spent in front of people. Many talk about giving themselves permission to take time alone from work, friends and even family. The author also goes into dealing with introverted children (I think she has since written a separate book solely about this which I'll have to pick up as well), and how there is nothing wrong with them (us), you just have to deal with them differently than the extroverts in order for them to thrive and learn. I'm only just scratching the surface on the great topics covered in the book, but I highly recommend it for anyone with even a tiny interest in this aspect of personality!
I have learned I absolutely NEED time to myself. It's not selfish, and it's not optional. Sometimes it means just going for a run by myself to get my energy back and work through the emotions of the day or week. Other times I just want to stick my face in a book for hours on end and not deal with anyone in person. Getting in the kitchen can be fantastic, although I've found I need to cool my jets on having to take photos of everything to be able to share what I cooked later. I also am really trying to work on my meditation practice as that is a wonderful way to recharge my batteries. I know plenty of extroverts who enjoy alone time, too, so we introverts don't have the patent on spending time alone. ;)
I know this week is going to be a taxing one with quite a few events that are going to run me down. This does not mean I won't enjoy them, either! I love my work and helping people take charge of their health and wellness, and even introverts hold their friendships dear and need time with loved ones! I get to help out tomorrow with signing people up for a corporate 5k program that will be fun to do, and I get to spend time with a work buddy during it who I hardly see anymore. Then tomorrow night I am representing my company at the local group run again for my monthly visit. Wednesday I have to go cubicle to cubicle to hand out fliers for a different company's 5k training program. That's the worst, haha! I feel sooo drained after doing that, even though the employees love when we walk around outside of the gym to come visit. I'll see my niece on Friday, dinner with friends Friday night, farmers market saying hi to my farmer buddies on Saturday, and maybe even more time with friends on Saturday, as well. It might not sound like a lot, but mixed in with my usual work schedule it doesn't leave a lot of recharge time.
However, I know myself and I know I will find some time in there to take a power nap or maybe take the long way home one day. Even just little moments can help carry me through to not get totally crabby and exhausted mentally. Though it's ok if that happens sometimes, too. Luckily my boyfriend doesn't take it personally when I'm in a mood, he just goes downstairs to get away from me. ;)
This is just one aspect of my life that I tend to be very mindful of, though I continue to learn all the time new ways to interact better and support my own needs from a mental and physical health perspective! I know I can be a better partner, friend, trainer and coach when I take care of myself in all the ways that are important. Speaking of, time to hop off and perhaps get a little moment of solitude before it's time to go back in for a client! A very happy, and perhaps quiet, week to you all!