Although the world tells me I should feel empowered by my body, and that self-confidence is sexier than self-doubt, the truth is I’ve never really been all that comfortable in my own skin.
As an introvert and an INFP personality type (one of the MBTI types way up there on the self-consciousness scale), I’m particularly prone to experiencing a pretty pervasive sense of awkwardness at all times. There are only a very few people I can fully be myself around, and oh my, do I appreciate them, but during most interactions I feel a combination of hyperaware of my body language and woefully unable to express the thoughts that seem so well-formed in my mind. Instead, they come out in random bursts, quite lacking in the eloquence I wish they had.
I’m just not the person who’s going to strut into the party cool and confident, welcoming all eyes on me, drawing attention at every step. And that’s all right, that’s not what I really want anyway.
Most of the time I don’t mind being a bit of a wallflower in social settings, because it means I can usually find another wallflower to indulge my preference for one-to-one interaction. Or, an extrovert that finds my quirky awkwardness weirdly charming takes me under their wing, flipping my social switch and temporarily allowing me to disguise my moderate social anxiety and engage like a normal human being.
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However, after struggling for much of my life with what at times has felt like quite a debilitating disconnect between head and body, I can’t deny that less self-consciousness and a healthier self-perception would be nice.
As with most things, it’s a process.
Yoga Can Have an Extra Special Effect on Introverts
Like many introverts, over the years, I’ve found different ways to cope with my heady insecurities. Some have been healthy, others not so much. That’s why I’m so happy to report that now, from the self-reflective perch of my early thirties, I’ve found one self-improvement discovery that pretty much outshines them all for me: yoga.
Though my battle with self-acceptance still rages on, since commencing a yoga practice a few years ago, I’ve made definite strides in feeling more connected with and comfortable in my body. Yoga has many benefits, mental and physical, for both introverts and extroverts, and I honestly believe everyone should give it a try. But, I also think it can have an extra special effect on introverts, as we’re already predisposed to introspection and a search for inner harmony.
If you need more convincing, check out these four ways yoga helped me crack open my awkward introvert shell and peek out as a more confident version of myself:
1. Yoga quiets my overactive mind. Though I can come off as pretty quiet, the atmosphere in my brain is anything but. It’s filled with a constant buzz of impressions I keep to myself, nostalgia gone wild, and your standard-issue daydreams. Not to mention the grating voice of my overly verbose inner critic, the one who always seems to have something to say about how I look, the way I’m moving through life, or what others are thinking or not thinking about me.
When I’m on the yoga mat, however, all of this melts away with each inhale and exhale.
Sometimes it happens in the stillness of child’s pose as I focus only on the expansive feeling of breath filling my core, followed by the sweet release of air and weight as I let it go. Or, it’s in the calm radiance generated by the flow of movement I experience as my limbs guide me through a set of sun salutations.
Either way, when the chatter stops, I feel lighter, yet somehow more significantly present in the space occupied by my body.
2. Yoga grounds and expands me simultaneously. One of my favorite aspects of yoga is the symbiosis of lightness and stability. At the same time you root yourself within your body and the earth, you drop all heaviness and become unburdened.
It’s all about balance — the balance between rooting and lifting, effort and ease, inhaling in and exhaling out.
Opening into half-moon or bowing slowly forward into dancer pose, I feel connected to the subtle functioning of all my stretched muscles and limbs. My legs feel strong and steady, yet my torso light and free. Focused on maintaining the balance, I feel one in mind and body, and for me, that’s a pretty big deal.
By rooting into something real – my body – and simultaneously shedding some of the invisible stuff I’m always carrying around, I again tune into a greater sense of presence and acceptance.
3. It encourages self-compassion. Self-acceptance can be, and often is, a lifelong battle. We receive a lot of messages about what the ideal version of ourselves could be, or should be. It starts with our appearance at the most surface level, but it goes much deeper than that.
There’s such value placed on being bold, expressive, and empowered. Overcoming insecurity is often synonymous with overcoming perceived shyness or reticence. But, some of us always will be just a little unsure, not of ourselves, but of how to get our message across. We’ll be quiet until we have formulated something to say. We’ll come off as a little awkward around people we’re unfamiliar with or don’t feel connected to. And that’s okay. We’re the ones that light up when we feel understood or are in the process of understanding.
That understanding is what yoga is about — coming to the mat as you are, in that particular moment, in that particular space.
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All you need to do is show up. It’s not about comparing yourself to anyone else in the room, or battling when you can’t quite twist into or find your balance in a particular pose. Maybe you did it better last time, maybe you’ll nail it next time.
It doesn’t matter. Accept where, and who, you are now.
Inhale. Exhale. Flow.
4. Yoga just feels good. Yoga connects us with our sensuality, in a sacred, deep, and meaningful way, which I think is really important these days.
Taking an hour out of your day to create an authentic connection between your head and heart, mind and body can really feel magical. As you quietly stretch and flow through sequences which engage and loosen all parts of your physical self, you generate a welcome warmth which travels from head to toe.
To me, it’s the ultimate in self-care.
Suddenly the natural movements of your body don’t feel so awkward or unfamiliar anymore. Instead, they feel like a coming together of your strength, openness, and simple existence.
You feel powerful, yet gentle and sweet. Significant, yet connected to something bigger.
Trust me, the accompanying confidence boost is real.
So, that’s why at the end of each session, after I namaste and bow forward in gratitude for the release and creation of such blissful energy, I always feel just a little more comfortable being me.
And, my awkward introvert would call that a resounding win.
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