A Great Lesson
While I was just a child, still living in my father’s home, I learned a great lesson. My father was very sociable and immensely enjoyed entertaining guests, and although he never said this to me in these exact words, his message was quite clear. I was “severely lacking” by simply being myself.
At that time, I was and still am highly introverted. Apparently, there was something wrong with anyone who was introverted. So the lesson went. However, living over sixty years as an introvert has clearly demonstrated – at least to me – that a few of the most apparent positive qualities that we introverts share are traits like creativity, patience, perseverance, gentleness, and depth of thought. Whether our tendency is for introversion or extraversion, we all have our valuable strengths and our not so useful vulnerabilities.
“Depth of thought” and “introversion” is a great place to begin a micro-journey. By looking just a little below the surface – which should come relatively easy for us introverts – I believe that we’ll find a great deal to admire and appreciate about ourselves. But before we do, let’s take a brief look at what some of the more popular research tells us about introversion.
Research on Introversion
First, Eysenck’s 1956 work proved that heredity played an essential part in determining intelligence, extraversion, and autonomic reactivity. In other words, the same function of “genetic inheritance” makes all our traits natural, not better, not worse, but not necessarily more valuable either.
Next, it suggests that the hypothesis in Eysenck’s introversion-extraversion theory be updated to the view that the introvert is relatively more sensitive to punishment and to frustrative non-rewards (Jeffrey A. Gray, 1970). This is to say that introverts may have a stronger preference for a life experience that is more gentle and loving and less punishing. Sounds great. We should become an elected official.
Finally, in terms of preference for solitude, relations with friends, and taking part in potentially introspective activities, the behaviors of happy introverts and happy extraverts were virtually identical (Peter Hills, Michael Argyle, 2001). It seems as though anyone can be happy/unhappy despite personal preferences for introversion and extroversion. Personally, I think that although extroverts may have greater numbers of associates, introverts have greater depth to their relationships.
One Preference is not Better than the Other.
So although my dad was clearly more extroverted than I, he didn’t seem any happier than me, but these types of comparisons are seldom helpful. Setting my dad’s views aside for the moment, he had effectively instilled in me a value and desire to develop extroverted skills. So it’s no surprise that eventually, I hooked up with Toastmasters. The “great lesson” I ultimately came to learn from being my father’s son was that neither preference is better than the other. All preferences come with both valuable and less than useful aspects.
I am an admitted introvert. The more I talk about it, the more other people acknowledge that they, too, are introverted. There are millions of us, and although we’re all quite unique and different from one another, we also share a common ground. We have a propensity to live and breathe within the lofty centers of our minds. We can exhibit extraverted behaviors, but we usually derive a greater degree of energy and pleasure through introverted rather than extroverted behaviors.
I’ve been practicing extroverted skills – as a Toastmaster – for several years now and feel a real difference.
I haven’t changed my personality or identity. I am who I am. I have, however, developed an additional “skill-set.” It’s something anyone can do, just like extroverts can cultivate skills related to contemplation, meditation, and expressing themselves on paper. It has taken effort and energy to develop, and others often remark that “you don’t sound like an introvert.” I continue to invest the bulk of my life into introverted activities because they most closely reflect who I am, but truthfully, I have learned to “extrovert.” I have certainly developed a new comfort level and skill for expressing myself.
Keeping Spirits Up
It’s entirely possible, for example, that you bring something powerfully pleasing with you whenever you express yourself well. Did you realize this? So set your mind to carving out a small amount of time and energy, for example, to practice and build your reputation. Get noticed as someone who has a successful touch.
Athletes and coaches, entertainers and professionals, know the value of positive “self-talk” – those silent pep talks in the head that keep spirits up and encourage peak performance. Top performers get good at screening out messages that could interfere with their internal pep talk. They concentrate on the task at hand and shut their ears, literally and mentally, to anything else. Rosabeth Moss Kanter
The best way to “shut your ears” to extraneous stimuli and to successfully focus has a great deal to do with self-care. What does self-care imply to you? Personally, a vital component of self-care is my ability to calm my body and my mind. I find that practicing mindfulness and daily meditations are critical for sharpening “calm” and for ensuring I remain “innovative” and in the flow.
“Depth” and “Introversion”
To my point about “depth.” Personally, I regularly cultivate depth through activities related to developing my “inner self” and my “inner reality.” Reading, writing, and meditation are all examples of inner improvement. To maintain a healthy equilibrium, consider also doing the same for your “external self” and your “external reality.” Talking with a coach or psychologist, getting a membership with Toastmasters or a similar group, or being involved with other people in some way that also expands and capitalizes on your interests.
Self-care may be more meaningful to you and be a way to relieve some of the mental chatter you have if you set up that dialogue I mentioned. Combine an introverted interest with an extroverted activity. Visit in person, or better yet, make an appointment, sit back and wait to be called. Chatting over the phone or by Zoom is secure and confidential. Consider it. Calm your mind by calming your conversation.
“I wish, as well as everybody else, to be perfectly happy, but like everybody else, it must be in my own way.” ~ Jane Austen.
“Turning inward” can be an incredible advantage, to be sure. But balancing any naturally occurring inner strength with an outer expression of one of your interests just makes sense. It’s a smart, healthy, and therapeutic approach. Remember that turning inward may help you come up with fresh new ingenious ideas, but innovation requires that you find a way to put them into action in your life.
Just think about it before you take action, but definitely take action!