Finally Embracing My Introversion Changed My Life introversion embracing changed

I turned thirty about three years ago. Call it a quarter-life crisis or just being a typical INFJ personality type, but over these last three years, I’ve been forced to take a very close look at my life. What I found wasn’t always pretty or satisfying. In all honesty, when taking inventory of my adult life, I found myself disappointed and left wanting.

(What’s your personality type? Take a free personality assessment.)

Through this retrospective look at my life, I realize now that I was an extremely unhealthy INFJ. I was too passive, I let people walk all over me, I was always trying to make others happy, I could never say no to others, I was holding on to grudges I’d had since preschool, I shut people out, I was afraid to speak up for myself — the list is endless.

I wore perfectionism around my ankle like a heavy anchor keeping me rooted to the same spot. I got to the point of never starting any projects because I knew they’d never come out the way I wanted. The fear of failing to be perfect, of failing to please everyone, had caused me to stifle who I was to the point that I had become no more than a moldable empty shell.

I’d stopped being my own person and had become everyone else’s.

Self-reflection can be painful but it is necessary. INFJs are perhaps more prone to introspection than most other personality types. So whether it was a long time coming or not, in 2013, the death of a loved one finally triggered me to question what I wanted out of life. I thought: Someday when I arrive at the end of my life, will I be able to look back and feel satisfied?

At that moment the answer was a loud and deafening “no.” That one tiny question spiraled into a hundred questions, which branched out into hundreds more. My anxiety kicked into red alert. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t think. I was caught in a loop of existential questions to which I couldn’t find any answers.

That was when I accepted that I needed help and decided to see a psychologist.

 There’s Nothing Wrong With Being an Introvert

I realized, after several therapy sessions, that my whole life I had been trying to force myself into a mold into which I didn’t fit. That I didn’t understand the concept of being an introvert. After having been berated my entire childhood for being “too quiet,” my single New Year’s resolution every January had always been “to become more extroverted.”

I almost feel embarrassed that someone had to explain to me that there is nothing wrong with being an introvert. There was nothing wrong with enjoying Friday nights in, having a passion for reading rather than bar hopping and having only a handful of people whom I could really call friends. Being an introvert was an inherent part of me, like the color of my eyes or the tone of my voice, and there was no need to change it.

Accepting myself as an introvert was the first step in correcting my imbalance. Of all the steps, it was probably the smallest but it has been the most important. Once I could embrace myself as I was and stop trying to be something I wasn’t, everything else began to fall into place. I began finding answers to the loop of questions that had kept me awake for so many nights.

I was also suddenly more comfortable in my own skin. I stopped trying to laugh louder and harder. I stopped trying to act like I had it all together — a habit that had always left me unhappy and exponentially drained after social situations. I stopped caring what people thought of me. If they thought me awkward or odd, it didn’t matter anymore. Whether they liked it or not, I was who I was.

More important, I liked who I was.

I’m No Longer Scared of Being Judged

That tiny bit of confidence gave me the strength to speak up for myself, especially at work — the number one place where I was constantly letting people walk all over me. I started saying no when I didn’t want to do something that was adding to my pile of work. I stopped feeling guilty for taking a sick day. I stopped trying to make everyone else happy.

Most of all, I stopped trying to make everyone like me. For years, I had been a slave to the idea of wanting people to think I was “nice,” to make up for being so quiet, terrified that others would think I was a snob. I would do this to the point that I would wear myself thin and go home feeling empty and invisible because, once again, everyone was getting what they wanted except for me.

Accepting myself as an introvert and realizing that this was who I was taught me that it was no longer important whether someone liked me or not. As a personality type with Extroverted Feeling, I can get too easily caught up wanting to please others. But the awareness I gained after going to therapy taught me that I need to look out for myself as well. Even if it leaves other people mumbling behind my back. Sometimes it’s more important to be fair than it is to seem nice, and that fairness needs to extend to ourselves.

One tiny step was all it took and my life is so much different today than it was three years ago. Accepting my introversion opened many doors for me but it also taught me how to open doors for myself. Take this article for example. I’m actually writing it instead of giving up before I even start because of the chance that it might not be perfect. A few years ago, submitting it anywhere would’ve been out of the question.

I also talk to people more — not because I’m trying to be an extrovert, but because I allow myself to be who I am no matter what consequences it brings. I’m still quiet and reserved, but I use my voice now with more confidence.

All my problems are certainly not gone and I am by no means perfect now. As an INFJ, I will always be driven to strive for improvement, but now I know that improvement doesn’t mean perfection. From now on, I can simply try to be the most genuine me that I can be. 

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Read this: 12 Things Introverts Absolutely Need to Be Happy

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  • njguy54 says:

    There’s enormous power in naming things and defining things about yourself — it’s the first crucial step toward deeper understanding and acceptance of your personality.

    For introverts, pushing back and saying no is highly intimidating and uncomfortable. But the truth is that people usually appreciate it when you do this, and respect you for it. And if you do suffer negative repercussions at work, it’s not you; it’s a sign that you’re in a dysfunctional workplace and should either try to effect change there or leave.

    All the best in your journey. It won’t always be be easy, but overall it’s rewarding and will improve your outlook and well being.

  • Günther Beerten says:

    I can relate to your article.

    As an INFP i’ve experienced some problems of my own. Also i tried to be as extroverted as possible but the difference is that i didn’t even realise it. Every time i came home i felt drained. Years went by without knowing why. Until i suddenly came across a MBTI test. When i read my result i felt like it had been written by someone who had been stalking me for the past 10 years. I learned that introversion is a thing and started researching it on my own. I encountered a massive amount of blogs like Introvert, Dear and read a few books like The Secret Lives of Introverts by Jenn Granneman and Quiet by Susan Cain.

    Today i know i’m an introvert and know what it means. It helped me manage my live in such a way i have more interesting social interactions without risking an introvert hangover.

    It is because of writers like you that i learned so much about introversion. There are so many others out there that still need that wake-up call. Keep doing the good work!

  • Ann Green says:

    Thank you, Maria! I’ve become much more content now that I’ve accepted I’m an introvert and that there’s nothing wrong with me if I prefer a quieter life.

  • Rava says:

    I too as an INFJ, struggled with perfectionism when I was very young and still sometimes get those same kind of feelings: “What could be done better?” But I noticed I was the one making my own unrealistic expectations. No one was expecting me to be the perfect A student. I lowered my expectations to something I could definitely reach, and improve from there in time.

    I realised that I only needed to do my best and that was good enough. Besides, as we INFJs like to consume information, it isn’t as comfortable under pressure.

  • Karen Baker says:

    I thank you so much for writing this article! I have only very recently discovered this website, and all of these great articles, and am so thrilled! I am a senior lady of 64 yrs, and have lead most of my entire life in much of the ways you have described your own. Your article truly brings me hope, and a lightness to the heavy burden I’ve carried for so long. Bravo! 🙂

  • BrooklynIntrovert says:

    I was at the same point ten years ago when I turned 30. I had the same insight and revelations. I began a slow journey of accepting who I was and not caring about what others thought about me. The only difference is I had two children and pushed back on all the expectations people (extended family) had and also my own expectations of what I thought being a good parent was. Perfectionist? I had a picture in my head of these quiet, polite, perfect little children sitting at a dinner table. That never happens in real life and if it’s your reality, then your lucky. I found out later that my son had ADHD. I dind’t know that then, but his constant need to be on the move would always make me a jumble of nerves.

    When the image didn’t fit reality, I almost lost it. I had to take a good long hard look at myself and do some self reflection. I had to accept that first, I was a good mom. I had to stop the voices that told me otherwise- from myself and those coming from well-intentioned family members. Second, I recognized that my own children, although loud and rambunctious, were creative, sensitive, artistic souls who just needed space to just be themselves.

    Fast forward ten years and I have found out that I, too am an INFJ that had grown up in a very extroverted European family- think the movie, ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding”. I was always the “odd” one because I just wanted to be alone in a room with a good book. Now, I recognize that my daughter is an introvert also. She is young, but a personality test she took said INFP. I kind of think it’s right. Now when people in my family say it’s weird that she doesn’t come out of her room, I push back and protect her. I tell them she is perfectly fine and I make sure she knows that there is nothing wrong with her. She comes on walks with me and we talk about anything she wants or we just walk silently taking in the nice weather. Also, she is always drawing in her sketch book.

    Bottom line- life is a journey. You learn. You grow. And you keep finding yourself and finding what makes you happy. I don’t care what anyone says about me anymore. I’m happy being me with all my imperfections. I have my strengths and weaknesses like everyone. I try to improve when I can and let go of things that are out of my control.

    I don’t know when this got so long and preachy. Anyway, this was my long winded way of saying thanks for the article. I can relate and I hope you keep on the path you’re going. 🙂

  • Kyle Ericson says:

    I’m with you. Thank you for your writing. Currently 53 and just made the discovery a few weeks ago of how I’m built. Five different M-B tests resulted in a conclusion of INFJ. I had never heard of this stuff before, so investigated deeply. I had to learn that the mental health system is not the only solution to everything. I realize now, after 30 years of treatment and counseling, that I’m not broken, I’m different. This is nothing short of enlightenment after a life of hopelessness. Too bad that this transition required sacrifices that were more painful than I’ve ever experienced before. I will take the positive from this experience and learn from the pain.

  • kstoscano says:

    I think this article 100% captures my own journey, and I feel like I could have written it myself! That desire for perfection is so strong & so difficult to manage. At 32, I finally realized how being an introvert, & more specifically an INFJ has affected my life and sense of self. I love reading articles like this that I can relate to.