Over the last five years, I’ve worked with clients all over the world. Issues ranging from bad relationship patterns and lack of fulfilment to chronic pain and anxiety. Just when I’d thought I’d seen it all, a gentleman (let’s call him Frank) approached me asking for assistance with something I had never considered a problem.
Frank wanted to overcome being an introvert.
I quickly flashed back to my childhood and teen years: Opting for video games over parties. Spending time alone at home reading or tinkering with hard drives and motherboards over hanging out with friends. Quiet. Shy. Fearful of starting conversations or approaching strangers. All the common traits most people associate with being an introvert.
Something immediately dawned on me.
I’ve come a long way since then. The once awkward, antisocial me is no longer awkward or antisocial. In fact, I now teach workshops and run a successful coaching practice with clients all over the world. I have no problem reaching out to others and even speak as a keynote speaker in front of large audiences. The characteristics I had once associated and labeled as being an introvert no longer hold me back.
Does this mean I had overcome being an introvert?
Introverts Don’t Need to Be Fixed
No, I’m still very much an introvert. I love my alone time. I spend most of my quiet evenings huddled by the fire reading books and working on puzzles, or listening to podcasts and contemplating the intricacies of life with my soulmate.
So what does it mean? It means that my perception of introversion, as well as Frank’s perception, was flawed.
Being an introvert does not make you antisocial or socially awkward.
Being an introvert doesn’t hold you back from approaching others, starting discussions, or asking someone out on a date.
Being an introvert doesn’t mean you need to avoid society at all costs and that you’re automatically a target or victim to the behavior of others.
Being an introvert doesn’t make it unsafe to speak up and doesn’t mean you can’t be outgoing.
Most important, being an introvert doesn’t mean you’re broken or need to be fixed.
The Solution Is Not to Become an Extrovert
So how did I break out of my shell, and what did I share with Frank about wanting to overcome being an introvert?
I explained that what held him back from what he really wanted (which in his case was to be able to approach women and overcome social fears) wasn’t his introversion. And the solution wasn’t to become an extrovert. It was to overcome the fears he held which he wrongly identified as characteristics of introversion.
Fears of not being good enough.
Fears of hurt, rejection, and abandonment.
Fears of judgement and criticism.
Fears of failing.
Fears of all the things that could possibly go wrong.
I get it, I was there once too. We all carry fears that we’ve picked up along our life’s journey. Fears that for some can be more debilitating than for others. Fears that impact our career, our relationships, our social interactions. Fears that make us want to climb into our shell and never peek out.
Lucky for me, I had a high level of interest in the areas of self-help and personal development. It took me over a decade to get to a better place, and to this day, I’m still a work in progress. But I overcame most of the fears that held me back. Fears around relationships and dating. Fears holding me back from social interactions. Fears of speaking up or standing in front of a crowd.
One day at a time, one fear at a time, I slowly worked through my fears, vowing to never let my inner critic — and its judgments and fears — hold me back.
Fear Doesn’t Have to Hold You Back
Like Frank, if you believe that being an introvert is keeping you from getting the things you want in life, I want you to know this:
Being an introvert is not holding you back.
It’s not keeping you from being a successful entrepreneur, one of the world’s best speakers, or even a TV personality. It’s not preventing you from dating or finding the relationship of your dreams. It’s not preventing you from attending social events you would actually like to attend, and it doesn’t mean that your bubble is the only place you can find safety or comfort.
The fears you carry, whether you’ve associated them with introversion or not, don’t need to hold you back. They don’t take years to overcome, and you don’t need to spend a decade in therapy to break free. There are plenty of skilled and well-trained psychologists, therapists, coaches, and practitioners who can help you bust through the fears you may be carrying — big or small.
Frank has successfully overcome many of his fears. He’s vanquished most of his anxieties, and for the first time in his life, he’s actively dating and hasn’t looked back.
My advice for you: Take a moment and dig into your thought patterns and perspectives of your inner critic. What’s keeping you from the things you want? Do you spend all your time alone because you enjoy it, or because of the discomfort and fears that surface in public spaces? Do you avoid relationships or dating because you just aren’t interested, or are fears about negatively anticipated outcomes getting in your way?
Become fearless. Rejoice in being an introvert. Indulge in your alone time, in your books, in binge-watching your favorite shows. But don’t let anything hold you back, fears or otherwise, from the things that make you happy.
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