Introverts may be more likely to suffer from depression — but these mindset shifts can help create more calm in your life.
Everyone feels sad now and again. Yet COVID-19 has certainly increased the likelihood of depression while people battle worry, anxiety, loneliness, and a loss of control. And research has found that introverts may be more likely to suffer from depression than the general public.
Many reports connect this link to introverts’ preference for solitude, our tendency to be very introspective, our knack for perfectionism, and our penchant for constantly reviewing (and often criticizing) our actions and decisions in our own head.
However, as Alex Moore of MentalHealthMatters.com recognizes, it’s not our introversion itself that is associated with depression. It is when we are constantly putting ourselves down, comparing ourselves negatively to louder, more sociable people, and letting our own self-doubt take over that depression might creep in.
The solution? To recognize that happiness is simply “different” for us. Aside from learning about our own introvert strengths and using them to tackle stressful situations — like meetings, networking events, or social outings — there are six mindset shifts that can place us on a more confident and serene path.
6 Mindset Shifts for Introverts That Bolster Inner Peace
1. Employ moderation — it will help you establish a sustainable lifestyle.
“The most serious human evil is lack of moderation.” –Helmuth Plessner
Despite appearances, many introverts are quite ambitious: We’re introspective, self-aware, and really think things through. Once we find strengths, hobbies, or approaches we like, we can become zealously committed to them.
Just as ignoring our strengths is unwise, implementing them to an extreme level can lead to compulsion and neglect of a more balanced lifestyle. Finding moderation in our life can be tricky, but doing so will help establish a sustainable lifestyle, one that is both productive and fulfilling.
For example, you can overprepare for a presentation to the point you become robotic and committed to your script. Instead, cultivate an attitude of flexibility. No one will know if you miss a couple of points, and you will have a much more enjoyable time.
2. Focus on what you can control — don’t get buried in scenarios that you can’t control.
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.” –Serenity Prayer
There can be a lot of heartache and challenges in life, yet often we waste our time and energy focusing on things we cannot control. We spend a lot of time fretting over the possible results instead of focusing our energy on what we can affect.
If you feel overwhelmed — not uncommon for us introverts — spend a few minutes listing out those items occupying your mind, your calendar, and your to-do list. Make two columns — “I Control” and “Others Control” — and file the items accordingly.
For example, in the above scenario, you can control your preparation and practice for meetings, and can also anticipate what others might say or do. But you cannot control unexpected curveballs, like who the meeting participants will be or who will dominate conversations and pay you little respect. These go in the “Others Control” column and don’t warrant your time.
This list should help you reallocate your time and energy, and will help you change your goals to be more inwardly focused on what you can control.
3. Practice self-compassion — even if you like to overwork, it’s important to give yourself a break (mentally and physically).
“Remember, you have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.” –Louise Hay
As Dr. Kristin Neff, author of Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, writes that self-esteem is based on comparing ourselves to others in the hope that we are better than most: have a bigger house, faster car, fancier job title … But this is a game we cannot win.
This constant drive to be the “best” breeds a culture of comparison. While competition can be motivating, it can also be self-defeating. We may all want to be the best, but as a result, we often overwork ourselves. We may also employ less kind or unethical tactics to get ahead or, worse yet, we may tear down others so we can leap over them.
Instead, we should aim for self-compassion. As Dr. Neff writes, “People who are compassionate toward their failings and imperfections experience greater well-being than those who repeatedly judge themselves.”
Rather than looking outward, look inward. For instance, in lieu of following common “extroverted” networking approaches, like cocktail hours and large gatherings, focus your goals on making a few quality connections through more intimate coffees or small group lunches.
Overall, don’t waste your time comparing yourself to others. Lean on your own style, set your own goals, and learn to be proud of your own accomplishments.
4. Seek impactfulness rather than perfectionism — otherwise, you may find yourself frozen by the fear of imperfection.
“Perfectionism is a dream killer, because it’s just fear disguised as trying to do your best.” –Mastin Kipp
At work and in life, it’s easy to aim for perfection — we look at people around us who seem to have a much easier time. As introverts, for example, we may admire those that seem to always know the perfect thing to say and wonder why we can’t, too.
But perfectionism focuses our efforts on an unattainable goal that sets us up for failure. Instead, aim to be impactful — to create a story for your kids, to set an example at work, to be vulnerable in social settings — so that others will take note and be inspired.
Set your own reasonable goals: Work hard to achieve them, celebrate your successes, and learn from your shortfalls. Don’t bottle up your strengths, personality, or voice; after all, there are several ways introverts can use their “voice” without saying a word.
5. Champion vulnerability — as hard as it may be, occasionally step out of your comfort zone.
“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they are never weakness.” –Brené Brown
Vulnerability can elevate our lives with a sense of pride. Yet vulnerability invites risk, like the risk of being exposed and the risk of failure. It’s a very hard mindset to follow with self-confidence because it requires that we step outside our comfort zone and try new things — which is far from an introvert’s favorite thing to do.
If we share personal information, such as the fact that we are introverts, others will gain insight into a part of our personality that has often wrested below the surface. They may sense insecurities or pain associated with sharing ourselves in such an open way. What if they don’t understand or, worse yet, what if they mock us?
Not everyone will get it. Not everyone will appreciate our courage in truth. However, to have the strength and sense of authenticity to share a bit of who we are is truly brave.
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6. Give yourself positive reinforcement and self-talk.
“Consistent positive self-talk is unquestionably one of the greatest gifts to one’s subconscious mind.” –Edmond Mbiaka
We often seek recognition from others: our managers, our peers, our family, and even strangers at parties. Frankly, recognition is nice from wherever it happens to come from. Although we introverts may be hesitant to flaunt our accomplishments and actively seek recognition, we enjoy it nonetheless.
Ironically, introverts can be our own worst critics. We denigrate ourselves at work (I should have done better; This is not my best work; I should have spoken up in that meeting) and at home (I could do more; Why didn’t I share more; Why can’t I relax). If we were to write down words or lines that we say or think to ourselves throughout the day, it would likely read as a long list of mostly negative phrases.
I believe this problem is further exacerbated by the incorrect definitions and synonyms for introverts, such as: loner, narcissist, egotist, and recluse. One action step you can take is to sign the petition by Introvert, Dear and my site, Beyond Introversion, to change these wrongs.
(Learn more about how these synonyms harm introverts, and why they need to change.)
This is a good time to be supportive of yourself through positive self-talk. Try saying words of encouragement and recognition rather than beating yourself up:
- “I am well-prepared and will do great on my presentation.”
- “I will lead an engaging, interactive, and productive meeting.”
- “I did an awesome job at sharing about myself over lunch with my friend today.”
Before events, spend a few minutes envisioning a successful meeting, project presentation, or social outing. Close your eyes and see yourself performing well. Then share words of encouragement out loud or by writing them down. It’s amazing how these simple actions can change our mindset — it’s like getting a pat on the back throughout the day.
Such a confident mindset helps quell the anxiety that can often become the source of depression. Statistics may say introverts are more likely to become depressed, but we have the power to strike balance in our lives and establish confidence and serenity in our daily mindset.
A Few More Things to Keep in Mind About Depression
As you strive to shift your mindset, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Don’t be afraid to seek assistance. It’s important to note the difference between clinical depression and the more common occasional sadness. According to the Mayo Clinic, clinical depression is considered a more severe form of depression, with symptoms including hopelessness, loss of interest in enjoyable activities, low energy, low self-esteem, or weight fluctuations. Clinical depression is best addressed through therapy and/or medication.
- Find a therapist: Therapy can be especially helpful for introverts. We are notoriously very “active” talkers (in our heads more so than out). We consider and reconsider issues. We evaluate scenarios and often ponder worst-case alternatives. Yet our circle of trust is small. Often, we let those thoughts just rattle around in our heads, sometimes heating up to an emotional boiling point. We all battle our own demons and issues, and deserve to find peace and tranquility. Consider therapy as “you time.” It is an opportunity to decompress, to talk about — well — yourself. Sometimes, it may be deep issues from decades ago; other times, it may be preparation for an upcoming life event. And, these days, many therapists are available for phone or video appointments, too.
- Vulnerability is not shameful; it’s necessary. For me, seeing a therapist was a difficult step at first; admitting I couldn’t do it alone was tough. When I was a kid, my mother was often depressed. She was eventually diagnosed with agoraphobia, the fear of crowds, or cramped, unfamiliar spaces. She rarely shared her pain (much less her search for answers). Her shame only served to reinforce the taboos of mental health and established huge obstacles that I could only knock down decades later after my own depression had taken hold. But I’ve learned that vulnerability is not shameful; rather, it’s necessary and a mark of strength and growth. Mental health issues continue to be a societal taboo, though that is fading into the mainstream in the 21st century.
My view is that we see our general practitioner for checkups and physical pains and many people go to religious services (even online these days) for spiritual healing and inspiration. You owe it to yourself to partner with a therapist for mental healing and strength, as well. Whether for specific issues or general support, treat yourself to mental clarity.
If you are feeling depressed or suicidal, take action. Help is available 24/7 through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Want to get one-on-one help from a therapist?
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