Life is already a challenging thing to navigate, but as an introvert, it can be overwhelming, and sometimes downright unpleasant to interact with extroverts and other people in general. You’re hyper-aware of the micro-expressions on a face or the subtle change in someone’s tone. A sudden drop in a conversation makes you wonder if you’ve done something wrong, and you keep thinking about it for hours, even days later.
As introverts, we can’t spend our whole lives as the Shrinking Violet who lacks confidence and fears offending others with every little step or action that we take. How do we get past that paralyzing social anxiety that prevents us from building relationships, advancing in the workplace, and leading an otherwise happy, fulfilling life?
Find Your Tribe
When you’re already quite fond of spending time alone, it’s easy to want to stay inside your cave. It’s cozy, it has all of the things you love, and your goldfish has never judged you…not even once. Why on Earth would you want to go out mingle?
The fact is, human beings need some interaction with other human beings. We all want to feel like someone can relate to us, see the good in us, and bring value to our lives. If you’re an introvert, where do you find that kind of companionship? Well, it starts with getting out of the house!
Think about things that bring you joy, running a monthly 5K or volunteering with an animal shelter, for example, are actually perfect settings for someone who needs to ease into social settings. They’re not necessarily “group” activities, but you have an opportunity to meet and greet at your own pace, no pun intended.
Find a way to connect with just one person in your workplace and watch how simple networking becomes in person, rather than trying to do it behind a screen. Sure, you don’t need to have hundreds of friends and family to feel safe and secure, but close companionships are important.
We need people in our lives who can build us up and remind us of our inner strengths. Knowing that there is someone in the world who believes in you and sees the best in you will come in handy during times when you need support, guidance, and reassurance.
Know Your Limits
So, we’ve already established that introverts are not naturally inclined to gravitate toward situations involving heavy conversation, physical contact, or being put on the spot in general. If you’re already working on getting out and meeting more people, I commend you! That’s not an easy feat to overcome and it takes a lot of courage.
However, you don’t have to push yourself to the ragged edge in an attempt to be more sociable. There will be occasions when outsiders think they’re being helpful by trying to “pull you out of your shell” by testing boundaries.
First of all, there’s nothing wrong with being an introvert. Some of us just aren’t fond of spending as much time in social settings as others. You’ll often hear other introverts talk about a “social battery.” It varies for everyone, but by the 3 to 4-hour mark of intense social interaction, you’re over it.
Once you reach that limit, take a break! Building relationships doesn’t mean that you have to change your entire personality. Take the time you need to recharge your battery with alone time, just don’t take too long.
Not Everyone Cares
Look, there are going to be occasions when you run into folks who just don’t like you, for whatever reason. Maybe you looked at them the wrong way, maybe they heard a rumor, it really doesn’t matter. That’s just life, but it doesn’t mean that everyone in the room is staring at you in disgust. Actually, they’re probably not looking at you at all.
One of the biggest fears that introverts have is making a spectacle, in no way do we want to be the center of attention. This is a major reason for avoiding social settings, but the truth is that no one really cares. If you say or do the wrong thing, try to remind yourself that everyone does at some point in their life. Brush it off, take a breath, and make a laugh out of it if possible.
Being an introvert isn’t some disease that needs to be cured, it’s just who you are. Embrace it, but don’t forget to engage with extroverts from time to time; it may do you some good!