If you’re an introvert like me, you’ve probably been told to “get out there!” or “just go talk to them” by your loved ones. These people mean well, and may truly believe this is the best way to help you live a happy and fulfilled life. But when this just isn’t your style, these heavy societal expectations can weigh on your mental health and self-image. Constantly being surrounded by extroverts who can’t imagine what being an introvert is like can be extremely isolating.
Recently, I’ve been exploring what self-love means to me. I’ve realized that it can be very difficult to accept yourself when society is telling you to be someone different. As introverts, we often think differently, act differently, or choose to live different lives than what others may expect or agree with.
Personally, I’ve found that self-love is the foundation of life. It determines how your day will go, your relationships with others, your success, and so much more. That being said, here are seven tips to help you as an introvert cultivate more self-love in your day-to-day life.
How Introverts Can Cultivate Self-Love
1. Learn to recognize any negative voices in your head.
We’re introverts, so we’re all up in our own heads, right? While this can be beneficial in the workspace or when making plans, if left unchecked, overthinking can be a form of self-sabotage. Our thoughts can be misleading, judgemental of every little thing we do. Especially when stepping out of our comfort zone, it’s hard not to question our every move. But once we learn to turn those negative thoughts off, there’s a whole new world waiting for us. (Please tell me you just started singing “A Whole New World” from Aladdin.)
The good news is that counteracting the voices in your head gets easier with practice. Start by simply taking notice of any negative thoughts you have about yourself throughout the day. Then, purposely insert a positive one in its place. Say to yourself, “Hey! I am fully capable of doing that!” Or, “I don’t need that kind of negativity around here!” Watch your mental state change.
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2. Know that you are worthy!
You. Are. Worthy. Okay, you’ve probably heard this many times before via the mental health movement on social media or even in chalk along a sidewalk. But it helps to take this one to heart. Being your introverted self is perfectly okay! In fact, it’s all you or anyone else could ever ask for. You are worthy in any social situation, in any job, in any life you choose to pursue.
Comparison can often lead to feelings of unworthiness. Especially now, in this age of social media, we can’t help but compare our looks or lives to those of the people we follow. It’s important to catch yourself when comparison sneaks in. Start by being on the lookout for these thoughts. When you notice them happening, don’t beat yourself up — simply give yourself pause. It can help to take a moment to count your own blessings — what you already have — and focus on your strengths. Those perfect-looking people on Instagram? Even they have their own insecurities and hardships; you are just as worthy of anything you want as anyone else.
Here are some more tips from Zen Habits to help you stop comparing yourself to others.
3. Accept that people may never fully understand you — and that’s okay.
Other people will try to sway you into becoming someone else — and a little (positive) nudge can be helpful here and there. But it’s important not to internalize their comments or think there’s something inherently wrong with your introverted self. Nothing is wrong with you. The way you choose to interact with others and approach life is what makes you special. This is something I’ve been learning to accept lately, and it has made a world of difference.
I’m not saying you should never challenge yourself to grow — self-development is important for all of us. But there’s a lot of power in embracing yourself as-is. If you ever feel like you’re letting someone down or not meeting others’ expectations, take a step back and realize what’s best for you. Fully accept to stay in for the night or whatever it is that you feel you need. You don’t need to change for anyone. Your family and friends may never fully understand your introverted ways, but that’s okay. When you become truly comfortable with the person you are, no apologies, you won’t waste time trying to please others. Remember who you are!
4. Self-care or self-love?
Don’t get me wrong — I love to draw myself a warm bath and indulge in some yummy Ben & Jerry’s. As an introvert, treating myself and alone time are key to my self-care routine.
But sometimes, self-love means pushing yourself in order to make yourself grow. This might mean trying something new or going out with a friend. You never know when you’ll have the best time and make some incredible memories. When you have a decision to make, ask yourself what you would do in this moment if you weren’t afraid. You’ll learn a lot about yourself when you start to take on challenges, no matter how big or small.
5. Take a few deep breaths.
Although introversion and anxiety are not the same thing, many of us “quiet ones” are no strangers to it. When I start to doubt myself or feel stressed in social situations, focusing on my breathing goes a long way.
Meditation may not be for you, and that’s okay. Some situations may not allow you to go into hiding and meditate for an hour, anyway. However, taking three deep breaths if you’re feeling unsettled can be life-changing. When we become anxious, we breathe quickly and shallowly from our upper lungs, which can lead to feelings of dizziness, confusion, or even nausea. If we can return our breathing to our lower lungs, we can stimulate the body’s powerful parasympathetic response and regain calm. Once the “switch” has been flipped, it will take some time for the body to respond to our calming skills, but it will happen.
Literally say to yourself: Breathe in and breathe out, in and out… three times. Feel your breath rising in your chest or stomach on the inhale and imagine soaking up all of your strength. Then imagine letting go of your negative feelings as your chest or stomach falls on the exhale. Find the peace and confidence you have inside yourself between those breaths. You got this!
6. Explore on your own.
Maybe you want to get out of your daily routine but nothing is presenting itself. I’m not going to tell you to “be open to new experiences,” because you’ve probably heard this saying enough. But you can research different things to do.
Is there a Renaissance Festival in town that you’ve always wanted to go to? An art show? Yoga at the beach? Go, go, go! Watching Netflix or scrolling through Instagram aren’t going to boost your self-confidence.
The best part is, as introverts, we don’t need other people to entertain us. We can have a great time exploring on our own. In fact, one recent study found that people consistently underestimate how much fun they’ll have doing something alone, like seeing a show or exploring a museum.
Don’t think too much about the other people around, and certainly don’t put any expectations on yourself or the experience. Roll with the punches, and you could end up meeting someone new or finding out more about yourself. You’re there for the experience.
7. Indulge in your unique self.
Think about all the things that make you, you; what you love to do, creative activities you enjoy, musicians you love, or things you’re passionate about. What do you do when you’re bored or have some time to yourself? For me, getting active is a great way to express myself; I love to go hiking or dance around my apartment. Feeling comfortable in my body is a major way that I can expand the love I have for myself. But for you, it could be drawing, photography, supporting local musicians, or going to a poetry reading. Trial and error is always a good way to find out what you enjoy, too.
We’re all so different, and realizing just how unique we are can allow us to better embrace our true selves. When you feel most comfortable with yourself, and when you feel true joy and bliss — this is where you can be free from societal expectations and just be you. This is where you’ll cultivate self-love.