As long as I can remember, I’ve tussled to place myself on the rolling spectrum of introvert versus extrovert. I’m not particularly reserved but I can retreat slightly in a circle of very outgoing people, and I sometimes feel anxious in large groups. Equally, I get drained by too many events in a row, and start craving time to myself.
It’s likely, then, that I err slightly more towards the introvert end of the scale – in a reality that I used to battle against, until I realised that being an introvert is just as worthy as any other type of personality.
We live in a culture that lauds being loud
The problem is, we live in a culture that lauds being loud, and rewards extroverted behaviour. Schools and workplaces alike centre around open-plan structures, with meetings where the most vocal person invariably takes the crowd with them. Outgoing personalities are also more likely to get promoted and praised, reinforcing the belief that “extrovert = success”.
So, being an introvert in a group of loud people can easily proffer a double-whammy hit: firstly the dynamic won’t always stoke you up (in the same way it would for extroverts), and secondly, you may feel bad about that fact. Here’s how to handle the situation in a way that reinforces, rather than reduces, your self-belief.
Don’t feel pressure to perform
Our extrovert bias is so entrenched, it’s easy to make the assumption that anyone who isn’t an out-and-out showboat is somehow “less than” and lacking. That in order to shine in life, and especially in social situations, we need to echo the mannerisms of the funniest, most gregarious person in the room.
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But here’s the thing about most introverts: we’re very in touch with our inner life, including razor-sharp readings of our own comfort levels. Sometimes, we’ll be in the social zone – and sometimes not. And if we’re not, we’ll feel more awkward than most in forcing the feeling. Instead, know that what you bring to a group – including empathy, and the ability to listen – is just as valuable as the ability to be raucous or theatrical.
There’s an inner strength to the knowledge that introversion has nothing to do with your worth. As US life coach and best-selling author Mel Robbins says, “Don’t mistake being alone or keeping your circle small with insecurity. Knowing yourself and working in silence is a power move.”
Take time out when you need it
It’s a mistake to think introverts are shy, but our energy levels do work in different ways to extroverts. If you, like me, land more on the introverted end of the scale, it’s likely that you recharge by spending time alone – and equally, you may find yourself drained by big social gatherings, or too much socialising at once.
For this reason, it’s a good idea to stay in tune with your inner gut (which you will do anyway – you’re an introvert) and don’t be afraid to take time out. In her smash hit Ted talk, The Power of Introverts, American writer Susan Cain recalls how, as a child at summer camp, she was told to stop reading books because it was anti-social and didn’t foster camp spirit.
Yet, the beauty of being an adult is you can do what you want; including the power to reject this short-sighted belief. When your energy radar is heading into the red, and you just need time alone, you can take it. Lay down those barriers. If events threaten to overwhelm your zen, go outside for a breather; find a room to chill alone in; or learn to say no, unapologetically.
California-based psychotherapist Alyssa Mancao suggests “protecting your energetic boundaries” is a habit that everyone can benefit from. “Let’s normalise protecting our free time without having to over-explain ourselves,” she says. If you’re feeling overloaded, Mancao explains, a simple “thanks for the invite but I won’t be able to make it” response to invitations is more than enough.
Explore the fresh energy of strangers
However unruffled you are as a person, as an introvert in an extrovert’s world, it can be hard not to doubt yourself on occasion. And hanging out with a group of strangers is a surprisingly powerful antidote to that whispering sense of “am I enough?”
While you may cringe at the idea of small talk, if you’re involved in an activity with a new group of people – for example, canyoning through Jordan’s Wadi Mujib, or cave-dining in the mountains of Argentina – the pressure is off. You can get to know the people around you while immersing yourself in a fun, or challenging, experience; lightyears away from the spotlight of a formal event.
Connect with people in a way that feels authentic to you
You can also be yourself in a group of strangers in a way that’s truly liberating. No-one has any preconceptions of you; they’ll just meet you as you are, on your own terms. “Being with a new group of people gives the opportunity to practise new ways of being,” Psychotherapist Karin Peeters tells Flash Pack. “Behave as if the opposite of your belief is true. Test new behaviours. Be how you would be if you’d be confident and care-free.
“I don’t mean being fake,” she adds. “I mean being more yourself than you’d ever dare being with those who know you, and have already formed their opinion of you. Feel the new-ness of the situation, and the fresh energy it brings.”
The benefit of travelling with Flash Pack is that adventure forever forms the backdrop to our group dynamic. So you’ll have the chance to connect with a pack of like-minded strangers in a way that feels authentic to you; and without the stress of expectation. Equally, our itineraries are peppered with free time – meaning you can take an afternoon or evening to yourself whenever you need to recharge. It’s the ideal balance for all you glorious people out there – from introvert to extrovert, and everything in between.
Find out more about Flash Pack adventures right here.
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Images: Flash Pack