Being an introvert is an evolving journey — and these five phases tend to be common among introverts.
Introversion is not a state of being. It is neither something we acquired from some traumatic event or something we will overcome and “get rid of.” It’s in our DNA and is an evolving journey that we all began long ago.
To this point, each of us has the opportunity to grow and learn so we can travel down this path to find the peace we all seek. How you navigate your own path is up to you. Some may get stuck in a phase for years — or even decades. The important thing to remember is that we have the capability to keep moving, and to thrive as introverts. Here are the five phases of introversion I’ve come up with so you can see which one you’re in.
The 5 Phases of Introversion
1. Unaware: You don’t yet know you’re an introvert, yet you know you’re “different.”
Being unaware is the first phase. Many of us know we are different from others from our earliest childhood memories. I was nudged outside to play by my mother when all I really wanted was to do my own hobbies inside by myself. I always had a small group of two or three friends, but wondered why I was tongue-tied in groups and was never confident as a kid. I didn’t even hear the term “introversion” until my late teens and didn’t connect with it until my early 20s.
The unawareness phase is often the longest, especially for those of us who grew up in the ’70s and ’80s when loudness and sociability were in vogue. Others may have received open support from friends and family to accelerate through this stage. The longer we stay in this phase, the more damage we may suffer to our self-confidence and the harder it can be to move on.
2. Uninformed: How are you supposed to act now?
As adults, most introverts eventually connect with their introspective label, yet many don’t really understand what it means: We’re uninformed. With negative stigmas and false definitions of what it means to be an introvert — like being a recluse, narcissist, and icicle — all around us, it is easy to consider this new label as a curse. As a result, we may retract further from society since we are tempted to believe these stereotypes that flood us from TV, school, workplace, and even family. However, what’s worse than the stigmas swirling around us are the deep scars we nurture that serve to degrade our self-confidence and limit our growth.
I wandered in this uninformed phase from my early 20s until my mid-40s. In my BeyondIntroversion.com informal Facebook poll, most respondents didn’t move out of this phase until their 40s or 50s. No one mandates a long stay in this stage. Often, we just don’t know any better. We have no one to guide us and not enough confidence to reach out and ask others. Instead, we need to take the lead. Find some good resources (books, websites, mentors, or therapists) to help you learn and grow.
3. Enlightenment: You finally “get” introversion and realize nothing is “wrong” with you.
In the enlightenment phase, most adults eventually move into it prompted, perhaps, by a book — such as Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain or The Secret Lives of Introverts by Introvert, Dear’s founder, Jenn Granneman, a caring friend, a mentor, or a therapist. Other introverts are spurred on by their own sense of curiosity, sometimes prompted by a mid-life crisis or other life-changing events.
Regardless, during this stage, introverts finally recognize there is nothing “wrong” with them. Everyone in the world is unique. We have plenty of strengths that are just different from those of our extroverted friends. Rather than thriving in social gatherings, debates, or brainstorming sessions, we often excel with listening, planning, curiosity, creativity, measured consideration, and thoughtfulness. Once we realize the importance of these traits, it’s often as if a veil is lifted. Not only can we begin to approach our biggest obstacles — like social events and work meetings — using our own style, but we can also see the opportunities that lie ahead. I traveled through this glorious phase in my late 40s. This phase can often be the shortest, as we are fueled by optimism, excitement, and determination.
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4. Contentment: You now embrace your introversion and feel like your true self.
Though our learning and growth in the enlightenment phase should never end, we can reach a point of contentment. We may finally embrace our introversion, indeed our true self, for the first time. We are at peace alone. We understand how to manage our energy levels to continue to perform during long days. We are placing our well-being first by carving out some energy-boosting alone time (through things such as writing, music, meditation, and/or walks). We are confident in who we are and understand that others will benefit from hearing our perspective and feeling our warmth, both at work and at home. As we gain comfort in this vulnerability, we build our confidence to lead and live “our way.” This is a good place to be, a tranquil and satisfying spot.
5. Flourishing: Suddenly, dreams that seemed unattainable become feasible — and you not only champion your own introversion, but also that of others.
Many introverts, fueled by the power of our own strengths and often pent up ambitions, seek to put our personality to work for us. In the flourishing phase, suddenly, dreams that seemed unattainable become feasible. We not only champion and embrace our own introversion, but we also share in the hope of short-circuiting this long journey for our kids, teammates, and community members.
We may also apply our bolstered confidence and style to lead at work, create independently, or opt to change professions altogether. Many of us will find a home using our introspective traits to teach, create artistically, write, or lead teams with our wonderful talents that were bottled up for so long. Not everyone seeks to enter this phase. For those introverts who do, though, a dose of patience and self-compassion goes a long way as you stretch outside your comfort zone.
Remember, Introversion Is a Journey and Everyone Moves at Their Own Pace
The most important point of all is to recognize that introversion is a journey. Regardless of where you are, find support among trusted family members, friends, and mentors. Seek to learn from those who have come before you. Know you are not alone. Recognize that you are wonderful: Being an introvert is not a curse, but a blessing. Understand that you can chase your dreams. Celebrate your differences and travel your own journey.
The world needs you and your personality, and you need to find the peace you seek and deserve.
My fellow introverts, what phase of your journey are you in? Feel free to share below in the comments!
You might like:
- U.S. Presidents Who Were Introverts (and What Makes Them Great)
- 5 Things People Don’t ‘Get’ About Introverts
- 10 Mistakes to Avoid When Raising an Introverted Child
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