For introverts, the key to being in control is to figure out what makes you feel the most comfortable in different situations.
Whether it’s a holiday gathering, a job interview, or a social event, as introverts, we often feel overwhelmed in a world that’s directed toward extroverts. Sometimes this can make us feel like we’re stuck with this “quiet” personality that’s often misunderstood and incorrectly defined.
Since, of course, hiding forever and fully avoiding uncomfortable interactions isn’t an option, these thoughts and feelings may build up and cause introverts to feel like they’ve lost their sense of control. And, generally, introverts like to be in control — we like our routines and to think (and overthink) deeply about situations.
Feeling like you have no control in life isn’t a healthy mindset, because you start living as a passive victim of these “uncontrollable” situations. You may start considering certain things as unavoidable so you think, “I might as well stop trying to go against it and give in.” In this mindset, you see things as happening to you, as if you have no say in what you choose to do. I am definitely guilty of this. However, there’s a way to change that mindset.
Being in Control Is All About Your Mindset
Growing up as an introvert, I remember being picked on at school for being “too quiet.” Even though I was listening during conversations and enjoyed being part of a group, there would always be somebody that would say the usual, “Why are you being so quiet?” or “Talk!” If the roles were reversed, no one would tell someone to “stop talking so much!” But, often, this is the case for introverts. They are told that something is “wrong” with being quiet and they need to change their personality.
Over the years, I started feeling like being introverted was a bad thing, and that since it was my personality, things would never change. When I had to go to social gatherings, I’d often think that I wouldn’t have much to talk about or it would be awkward. I’d think to myself, “There’s no way I’m going to feel comfortable there or have fun, so I just won’t go.”
I would also avoid joining certain groups or school clubs because I felt I wouldn’t fit in or that everyone else was more outgoing. With these thoughts building up, I felt stuck. I wanted things to change, but I felt like it was out of my control and I couldn’t do anything about it. I’m sure many introverts have had a similar experience.
The good news, though? Over the years, I came to realize that there’s nothing “wrong” with the way I am: Being an introvert isn’t something that’s negative or needs to be changed. The only thing to consider is if there are certain habits or reactions that bother you or that you’d like to change. If there is something you’d like to improve, but your fears are stopping you, then that may be something worth putting time and effort toward to create the changes you want to see in your life.
3 Ways to Feel Confident and in Control
So what are the steps to take as introverts when we feel like we’re overwhelmed and have lost a sense of control? It all has to do with perspective, preparation, and practice.
1. Change your perspective; start seeing introversion as a positive thing.
As with many other situations, perspective makes all the difference. The way you see yourself — and introversion in general — can affect your confidence in yourself and your sense of control. Reading about introversion and seeing different peoples’ experiences with it can also help. The book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain has impacted a lot of introverts in a positive way, myself included, and has shown people that there’s nothing wrong with being an introvert. Moshe Forman writes about this in his Introvert, Dear article, “I Thought Something Was Wrong With Me Until I Learned I’m an Introvert”.
It helps to have positive reminders like these, whether it’s through long memos in your phone about your experiences and mini social victories, or Post-it notes around the house that say, “Express Yourself” and “You’ve Got This.” People always say to “fake it until you make it,” and the same can be applied here: You can think it until you feel it. If you think about how being introverted is not a bad thing — and remember that it’s a positive thing — then you will begin to feel it within yourself more.
It also helps to keep notes of things you’ve learned through your experiences, like the time you stepped out of your comfort zone and saw that a certain event was not nearly as scary or bad as you thought it would be. That way, you can remind yourself of these whenever you need motivation or a shift in perspective. The truth is, being introverted has many positives, such as being observant, creative, having high-quality friendships, and so on. Keeping this in mind is key to having a more positive perspective as an introvert. It may also help to take note of quotes you can relate to or learn from; one of my favorites is Yoko Ono’s, “You may think I’m small, but I have a universe inside my mind.”
2. Get prepared, like have talking points ready in your phone for your upcoming meeting or date.
It helps to be prepared, whether it’s for a job interview or simply going out for coffee at a new place! Often, having information or plans of action helps because you have more of an idea of what to expect. For introverts, this is highly preferred (rather than having things be completely on the spot or unexpected).
The science behind this concept shows that being prepared can make you feel more confident. In research published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, scientists found that preparing for something “…can also lead to psychological changes by increasing the confidence people have in their accessible thoughts, even if those thoughts are unrelated to the [area] of preparation.” In other words, when you prepare for something, it can have a positive impact on your outlook, whether it’s directly related to what you prepared for or it’s just a shift in your overall thought process and confidence level. For that reason, preparing before going into a situation can make you feel more confident, and we all know confidence helps us feel more in control — especially as introverts!
Some ways to be better prepared include: looking up reviews of the place or event you’re going to; listening to people’s experiences with it; or having a list of talking points in your phone to turn to when you draw a blank about what to say. When looking up information online, try searching the words “ambience” or “crowds” within the reviews to get a better idea of the overall environment so you know what to expect.
The key is to find what makes you feel better and more comfortable in different situations, and to prepare accordingly.
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3. Build your confidence through practice.
This step goes hand-in-hand with perspective and preparation because changing your inner dialogue takes continuous work. Also, after preparing for a certain situation and following through with it, you need to keep practicing and putting yourself in those situations more. For example, if you decide you want to try out a new class or group activity, the next step is to keep showing up and to continuously put effort and time into it. Doing so builds your confidence and comfort level in those types of situations, and makes you feel better about going next time.
It helps to go into these experiences with an open mind rather than going in with the intention of a specific goal that you want to reach. Rather than thinking you want to meet specific types of people at an event, for example, go in with an open mindset and be open to any interaction, or just think about being in the moment and enjoying the event. This helps with being motivated to try again and to keep practicing.
The practicing step is more about doing rather than thinking (which, as introverts, we tend to do a lot of — overthinking and then delaying doing it). It’s important to plan things out, though, as well. Since both are needed, it’s about finding a balance. The right mindset can get you far and is key to feeling in control and embracing being an introvert, but the next step is following through and putting into action the changes you want to see and feel.
Remember, It’s All About Perspective, Preparation, and Practice
So there you have it, three ways to feel more confident and in control as an introvert. Even though, as introverts, we may feel misunderstood and overwhelmed at times, at the end of the day, the control is in our hands. All we need to do is grab it!
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