Introverts thrive when they are honest about the space and time they need to recharge their batteries.
Do you ever feel like the qualities of extroverts are more valid and sought after? Do you find yourself struggling to keep up with the pace set by extroverted colleagues and friends around you?
If so, you’re not alone. Feeling out of sync is actually very common among introverts, but if left unchecked, it can lead to some potentially unhelpful habits.
When we introverts struggle to honor the unique strengths that our personality gives us, we may end up putting ourselves last (hello, people-pleasing!). We may find it difficult to set effective boundaries with ourselves (and others), and feel taken advantage of or run-down. All of this can lead to feelings of low self-worth — and worse.
This is something I have struggled with for a long time, and it’s something I’ve seen in my introverted friends, as well. If you are feeling this way, too, perhaps you’re unconsciously following some unhelpful habits. Take a look at these seven examples, along with some suggestions to help you become happier with your introverted self.
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7 Introvert Habits That Could Be Hampering Your Happiness
1. Misdirecting your alone time
Introverts need more alone time than most to replenish their energy after a bout of socializing. But the quality of that alone time really makes a difference.
It’s so easy to flop down on the sofa and spend an hour or two scrolling social media or binge-watching TV episode after TV episode until, guess what, you don’t feel like you have the energy to cook a healthy dinner or you’re eating into your precious sleep time.
Alone time is actually life-giving juice to an introvert, but mindlessly sinking our attention into the sights and sounds of other media can be more draining than we realize (even if we’re by ourselves when we’re doing it!).
Of course, some distractions are useful and can help us feel more balanced and connected to others. But when this tends toward excess, we might have less time for the things that truly matter to us, like a side project or self-care. It can also exaggerate any stress we might have, perpetuating a cycle of feeling run-down.
What to do instead: Set certain limits for your alone-time activities, like keeping devices in another room. Spending mindful time alone can allow our brains to sort through information and stimuli in a safe environment — while our bodies are kept busy, creating an active balance. This can include walking in nature, enjoying an aromatherapy bath, sitting outside a cafe and people-watching, bird-watching, doing an exercise class, journaling, painting, or learning a new skill.
2. Devaluing your experiences and preferences
Because introverts are, by their very nature, quieter than extroverts, it’s common for us to be the target of others’ judgments.
Whether they come from relatives, teachers, or strangers, comments made about us, such as, “You’re too shy,” “If only you spoke up more,” or “You don’t smile enough,” can have a real impact on how we view ourselves. This is particularly so if we didn’t have a supportive upbringing or background.
Introverts who have been taught to defer to authority figures may internalize these comments and begin to assume that everyone else knows us better than we know ourselves! If left unchecked, this can lead to introverts devaluing their own experiences and preferences, and could even escalate into anxiety, dissociation, and depression.
What to do instead: Self-awareness is an introvert’s superpower. Aim to become more aware of the things you enjoy and don’t enjoy, and the words you and others use about yourself. Question where those thoughts really come from. In time, you’ll begin to filter out others’ comments.
3. Dissociating from draining situations
Don’t get me wrong, daydreaming is blissful and something all introverts should allow time for in their schedule! But dissociation is a bit different.
Dissociation is a stress response that can affect anyone experiencing high stress or with a background of trauma. It may manifest as emotionally shutting down and/or zoning out when you need to focus. It is a survival instinct that is intended to protect ourselves and our energy levels.
Perhaps you’re simply dissociating because you just need a time-out. However, it’s important to recognize, because it can be problematic if it results in breakdowns in communication and relationships.
What to do instead: Recognize the situations in which you dissociate and analyze the reasons. This can help you to understand healthy ways to address it. Maybe you need to rest to replenish your energy, or perhaps you’re dealing with an unresolved trauma that needs to be discussed with a therapist in a safe environment.
4. Overruling your introvert tendencies
Because it feels like we live in a world designed for, and by, extroverts, many introverts feel at odds with societal norms and actively try to overrule or change their personalities to become more extroverted. In other words, they “fake it till they make it.”
I have done this myself, agreeing to back-to-back calendar invites, determined to power through. The result? At best, weekend-long introvert hangovers, meaning I can’t make the best use of my alone time; at worst, recurrent cycles of depressive episodes that leave me drained for weeks and months.
While a willingness to be open and flexible to challenges are positive traits, the risk comes when we internalize our natural inclinations as wrong. We may ignore the signs of fatigue, riding roughshod over our own bodies. In time, we might come to fear social events even more, or believe there is something wrong with us, which can put us further out of balance.
What to do instead: Introverts thrive when they are honest about the space and time they need to recharge their batteries so they can conquer their goals and handle their responsibilities. You could try blocking out a time of day which is exclusively yours. It also pays to be aware of the situations that can deplete your energy so you can anticipate them and prioritize only those that align with your goals. You might add a buffer zone before and after events, too. During those times, engage in restorative activities to protect your energy and bounce back faster.
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5. Avoiding challenging yourself
There’s a flip side to not taking our introversion seriously. I guess you could call it retreating inside and simply not challenging ourselves enough.
In reality, all of us possess elements of introversion and extroversion. Those with a dominant introverted personality, however, also possess a range of skills that some extroverts don’t, which can lend themselves well to positions of leadership and risk-taking. These include critical analysis, thoughtful listening, and heightened emotional intelligence.
Introverts simply need the right encouragement, and a healthy dose of self-compassion, to help challenge the narrative that they’re excluded from a particular activity or job because it doesn’t suit their “quiet” personality.
What to do instead: Jot down your goals in an ideal world (free of hang-ups!) and note the kinds of thoughts and feelings that come up. If any seem unattainable, challenge how realistic the reasons are. Are there any small steps that could help you overcome those fears and practice in a safe environment, such as taking a public speaking course?
6. Neglecting self-compassion
Many introverts have the wonderful gift of empathy and intuition, meaning they easily recognize discomfort in others and show compassion to help alleviate that pain. (After all, many introverts are also highly sensitive people.) However, not as many of us are taught the benefits of showing compassion to ourselves.
Anxious introverts may find themselves secretly glad when a social event is called off or feel bad about never wanting to go in the first place. They may agree to things they never wanted to do out of an unconscious belief that others matter more. Practicing self-compassion through kind words and deeds, and putting ourselves first, can prevent the see-sawing of behaviors and emotions that contribute to burnout.
Self-compassion can be cultivated over time, helping us relate to ourselves so we feel more content in our own skin and identities. Research suggests it’s even more beneficial to our sense of self-worth than self-esteem is.
What to do instead: Pay closer attention to the difficulties you experience each day, no matter how small or large. When you experience pain or thoughts of self-judgment, ask yourself what you need in the present moment. Try to offer yourself the kind words that you would to a close friend who was experiencing the same suffering. If you can pair this with a tender touch, such as stroking the back of your hand or arm, it sends soothing signals to your nervous system and helps you feel more accepted for who you are.
7. Avoiding setting boundaries
You might know from experience that introverts aren’t always the best at saying no. Introverts need longer to make decisions, which means we are at risk of being ambushed by others and their requests. We may agree to things we’d rather not do out of a desire to help others or avoid conflict, even when it disadvantages us.
Setting boundaries involves being clear with yourself and others about what you will and will not tolerate. It could govern who you let into your personal space, how you spend your time or money, and how you wish to be spoken to.
Boundaries are necessary for good mental health, but they’re only effective if they’re communicated well. Setting and enforcing them requires a certain amount of assertiveness, something which some introverts struggle with.
What to do instead: Work out what your boundaries are by thinking about what you are (and aren’t) happy with in your life — as well as any specific reasons. Consider writing up your own personal Bill of Rights that outlines exactly how you intend to behave and what you believe is decent behavior to expect from others. You will need to think about how to set these boundaries in certain situations, but you can practice communicating more assertively in low-risk environments, such as in a store or cafe.
Harness Your Self-Awareness for Greater Happiness
One of the greatest gifts we introverts possess is self-awareness. When deployed effectively, we’re actually in a very good position to be able to spot potentially unhelpful habits in our lives — and take steps to overcome them.
There’s nothing worse than feeling out of home in our own bodies, which can happen when we lose touch with who we are. Honoring our unique qualities, while reducing emotional drain, is the best way to make sure we look after ourselves. That way, we can create meaningful connections with the world around us.
What do you think? Share your own thoughts below in the comments!
You might like:
- 7 Nervous Habits That Introverts Know All Too Well
- A Therapist Shares the Secret to Better Alone Time
- 6 Things to Remember When You Feel Like a Bad Introvert
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