I Embraced My Introversion and Quit Doing Things That Left Me Stressed

A highly sensitive introvert smiling at home

I’m done putting my needs on the back burner. If people want to call me “grandma” for going home early, then so be it.

It’s always been challenging for me to embrace myself as an introvert, especially a highly sensitive one. After all, extroversion is more accepted by our society than introversion. 

Initially, I thought there was something wrong with me, that I was broken. Over time, however, I realized that I needed to attend to my own needs and not let others influence how I “should” think or feel.

Growing up, I definitely didn’t accept myself as an introvert. I followed the lead of my older sister, who has always been a true extrovert. I tried to engage in activities they enjoyed, because I figured that was the right thing to do. They enjoyed team sports, for instance, especially volleyball, which involved lots of communicating and socializing (uh, no thanks!).

But I attempted to play volleyball anyway, never excelling in it or enjoying it. I tried out for the team a few times but never ended up making it. I wasn’t upset that I didn’t get to play volleyball; I was more upset because I thought I’d failed. 

On top of that, my sister was very popular in high school and made many friends. As a result, they were named the “most friendly” person in their class their senior year.

When the time came for my senior year, I was not awarded anything. I knew I didn’t have as many social connections, but in thinking about this reality, I overlooked my strengths as an introvert. As a result, I developed low self-esteem and labeled myself as “unlikeable.” 

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Challenging the Extroverted Norm

Upon heading to college, the challenges I faced as an introvert continued. I noticed the pressure around party culture and felt that engaging in these “enjoyable” activities was the way to make friends. It was what everyone was doing, so I felt I just had to “fake it until I made it.” 

Eventually, though, I got tired of putting my needs and wants on the back burner. Instead of accompanying my friends on a night out, staring at my watch and waiting for the time to pass so I could go home and finally do what I wanted to do, I realized that I had the power to make decisions that were in my best interest.

If people wanted to call me “grandma” for heading home early, then so be it. I realized that I’d rather be living as my authentic self than forcing myself to participate in activities that would only bring me stress. So what if I found it enjoyable to light a candle and read a good book while my cat sat next to me? 

Sounds simple, right? Well, I discovered simply doing what I wanted was much easier said than done, and I was unsure where this hesitation came from. Through reflection, I gained insight into the root of my discomfort: not fully embracing my introverted self.

Being a highly sensitive person, too, I had thoughts like, “What if my friends get upset with me for not going out?” or “I should do what they want and make them happy” or “What if they think I’m weird for not wanting to socialize?” 

If my story resonates with you, then take a look at how I counteracted those thoughts, which has led me to fearlessly live authentically, embracing my true introverted and highly sensitive self. 

So, without further ado, here are some common fears I had — and how I overcame them.

Fears I Used to Have as a Sensitive Introvert

“What if my friends get upset with me for not wanting to go out?” 

I learned that true friends will respect my needs and boundaries. If a friend is not respecting them, are they really a true friend? (Spoiler alert: My friends “get” me, and accept my needs and boundaries, and don’t want me to change who I am.)

So, look at your own friends and assess whether they support you in the way you need. Do they understand when you want to stay in or when you suggest doing something more introvert-friendly?

“What if they think I’m weird?”

Similar to the above, a true friend will be supportive of you and your true self. Again, if they are not, they are not a true friend. If you are surrounding yourself with unsupportive people, fear not, there are plenty of people who will provide you with acceptance and support. And remember, that is what you deserve. 

Yes, it can be hard to make friends as an introvert, but there are many ways to do this. You can look for like-minded people online, like through Meetup.com, or check out local events and classes happening in your community.

“What if I miss out on something and end up regretting my decision to stay in?”

If you are debating going out solely for this reason, try to envision your future self if you did decide to go out. Is going out and putting your needs on hold worth it, to avoid potentially missing out on something? Is this thing in question significant to your life or well-being? 

I know the Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) is real, so think about how you’ll feel going to the event — and after it. Then you can make the best decision for how you feel in the moment.

“Shouldn’t I just adapt to the world around me? Everyone else enjoys going out, so why shouldn’t I?”

Remember, just because we live in a seemingly extrovert-dominated world does not mean that it is how we all should be. Introverts and extroverts have different needs, that’s all there is to it. 

Most introverts charge their social battery by taking time to themselves, engaging in quiet activities, whereas extroverts charge their social battery by engaging in social activities. So, just because your needs are different than the needs of the perceived majority does not mean they are wrong.

There are many people who do not feel they fit in with the extroverted norms of our modern world. You are not alone in the way that you feel.

Do you ever struggle to know what to say?

As an introvert, you actually have the ability to be an amazing conversationalist — even if you’re quiet and hate small talk. To learn how, we recommend this online course from our partner Michaela Chung. Click here to check out the Introvert Conversation Genius course.

“I should just keep the peace and stick to the status quo. I don’t want to make things difficult for those around me.”

I often found myself thinking this way, but one day, I asked myself, “Why do I always diminish the importance of my own needs?” When I started giving myself the same respect I give to others, my world changed. 

While we highly sensitive introverts tend to be people-pleasers, we must make sure we’re tending to our own needs before we constantly say yes to others. I know, it’s hard to say no”= — but it’s essential to our well-being!

Practice Makes Perfect When It Comes to Embracing Your Sensitive, Introverted Self

Adjusting my internal dialogue has taken some time and effort, but it has opened my eyes to a life that feels right for me. As a result, I finally feel like I am caring for myself: I feel more comfortable identifying my needs — and living in a way that fulfills those needs. 

If you ever find yourself hesitant to embrace yourself as an introvert and/or a highly sensitive person, reflect on where your hesitation is coming from. Once you have identified the root of your concerns, provide those worries with a counterargument. 

I know, change doesn’t happen overnight, but it starts somewhere. We shouldn’t have to change ourselves for anyone. Plus, there are many more introverts out there than you might think. You just might not realize it, because we “quiet ones” aren’t particularly open about disclosing our introversion! 

Embrace your true self and you will discover so much about who you are, and how to (finally) live the life you want.

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