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Archive for November, 2014

Expressions of an Introvert

introvert

I love people. I’ve always been fascinated with observing speech, body language and overall behavior as to better understand how each individual ticks. My natural response to another human being is that we are immediate friends. Without any awareness at the time, I’m usually trying to find common ground so we can be mano y mano (my Spanish roots always have a way of sneaking into my writing). I truly want to know everything about you so we can create a deep, meaningful connection.This is not a contrived way of “making friends”, this is my natural tendency and always has been. A natural extrovert?Hardly.

Every connection I make and every conversation I have needs to be internally processed. Sometimes I’m overwhelmed by energy of others. This is not a bad thing, but if that energy starts exceeding my capacity, I become displaced and frazzled. I have learned through the years that it is not until I am completely alone and in silence that all of this energetic processing occurs and my real, deep connections are realized.

And this is the expression of an introvert.

For so long, I thought that because I truly loved people, it also meant that I should always want to be around them. It just seemed that the two were supposed to go hand in hand. I never understood why I had such an internal struggle after being around groups of people (large or small) for an extended period of time. At first, conversations reel me in like a fish on a hook. Once I start learning about someone, I want more and more and more – until……..just like a candle burning to the wick, I lose all energy completely. It is almost like going on a long run, hitting the wall (translated to feeling like you’ve been hit by a train) and then needing some good, solid recovery time.

It is often difficult for an extrovert to understand why an introvert may be fully engaged at times, yet seem to “hold back” on other occasions. I had a friend in high school who described me as weird because I was able to give my full, undivided attention at times (which made her feel like the center of the universe), but at other times I was what seemed to be, stingy with it. It made her feel deserted and even confused, although this certainly was never my intent. She had an expectation of me (that I lended hand in creating) that I just couldn’t live up to.  I agreed with her observation and it hurt me to think that I was letting her down.  But no matter how hard I tried, I just didn’t understand why it was not within my capacity to give that full engagement 100% of the time.  I pondered this concept for years! I actually started buying into the idea that maybe I was, in fact, weird.

So….. I developed some mechanisms. I learned to just  muscle through this apparent “recovery time” that I felt I needed.  I desperately wanted to be fully present and fully engaged all the time for everyone I came into contact with. It was exhausting. So much so, that by the time the weekend hit, I would either drink, sleep, or do both. I had to find some way to recover from this energetic overload – so checking out in some way was just about the only solution I could find.  Not the healthiest coping skills I could have developed, but they certainly provided many lessons and opportunities for growth.

Needless to say, this approach just didn’t work.

During those “non-enlightened” years I soared through activities and careers that were well suited for the born extrovert. I was a cheerleader for 10 years and went on to teach cheer camps (to huge groups of screaming high school girls) throughout college. I was a Group Fitness instructor for a couple of decades and worked in the ever competitive field of pharmaceutical sales. I was pretty much surrounded by people 24/7.  Was I good at these things? Sure. Was I well suited for these things? I thought so. Were these things nurturing the best version of me? Not even close.

While working on my MBA, I was tasked with taking the Meyers Briggs personality profile. Low and behold, the strongest characteristic trait that came through was that I was an Introvert! Wait, what? But I love people! I’m extremely social! I work in SALES for goodness sakes!  Isn’t an introvert the shy, reserved person that doesn’t like to be around people?

NOPE!

The more I looked into the characteristics of an introvert, the more I realized how much I fit the bill. Plain and simple, I need to be alone to recharge my battery. I need quiet and stillness to recovery from the massive amounts of energy I intake with every personal engagement I make. Ha! So there is the answer…..Maybe I’m not so weird after all (although that is yet to be fully determined).

Running and practicing Yoga have helped me better nurture my introvert nature and maintain my overall sanity. I am now fully aware and accepting of the fact that this girl needs recharging on a daily basis. I no longer muscle my way through constant interactions. I do my best to make the interactions I have deep and meaningful.

I still work with and around people, teaching Yoga. By far, this is the most well suited career choice I have made to date. It allows me to deeply connect with people energetically but in an environment that is conducive to self-realization and stillness. I now get to tap into all of the beautiful energy expressed in each person’s practice while maintaining a comfortable boundary that allows me to “go introvert” when needed.

Although it took me several years to put the whole story together, I now get it. I understand and accept myself for exactly who I am. I also have a better understanding of my extroverted brothers and sisters who get their recharging from people.

So what does this have to do with you? Maybe you relate to some of what I’ve shared. Perhaps you had a light bulb moment that you too might be an introvert. Or maybe you know someone who seems “weird” because they can’t always quite give you their all. If either happens to be the case,  smile, accept this individual for who they are and try to release the expectation of them needing to be 100% all the time. Chances are good that  they may just need to escape into their inner world for a little processing. Give them the space they need to recharge their eternal flame.

Shine on Fellow Introverts!