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There’s Wisdom in Patience & Working SLOW

There's Wisdom in Patience & Working SlowI guess I stirred up some concern when I wrote in my last blog post,

“…quitting isn’t about giving up on ourselves. It’s about trusting ourselves enough to invest in something more – by changing paths to choose authenticity.”

To clarify, it’s not Wise Introvert that I will be quitting.

But I have started a process of quitting some of the WHAT and HOW of my days (increasingly guided by the question, WHY?, and placing priority on my energy). 

Most noticeably, I have quit posting to my blog and social media when I find myself doing it simply because I put it on my schedule, thereby creating a sense of obligation when it’s not necessary.

Instead, I’m posting when I feel that I have something to actually say (or when I’m struck by inspiration or wonder).

It feels more authentic to me and is therefore my way of consciously avoiding more NOISE.

And guess what? When I do post, more people are listening. And, they’re still liking my Facebook page, following me on Twitter, and signing up to invite me into their inbox. Not in droves, mind you, which is perfectly fine with me.

What I’ve learned is that being in constant output mode doesn’t work for me.

That’s because, throughout my creative process, I need to respect my introvert energy needs. It turns out that includes seasonal fluctuations.

Especially as the days are shorter and darker, I find myself more inclined to hibernate and contemplate. Gather ideas. Ponder. Question. Reflect. Let my mind wander.

It’s a time to snuggle in by the fire with a view out to nature, surrounded by books, and with my favourite pen and notebook by my side.

It’s a time when I am more naturally inclined to temporarily quit the external part of my work in order to create space for the internal part. Put more simply, it’s a time when I feel an urge to disconnect from my online life.

As I write this, my current internal work is to decide, “What’s my next project?” (so that I can start mapping out the specific details). I need time and space to listen to my inner voice with patience so that its wisdom can surface and I can hear my authentic answer.

That waiting is a challenge in itself.

There’s a pressure to be ahead, know quickly, decide, and to take action. There’s a sense of already feeling behind in the planning when you look at “others”. Gasp, you don’t have your business strategy and planner filled in yet???

So what’s an introvert to do?

Commit to space for quiet listening. Take the pressure off. Trust your intuition.

Turn down the noise so that you can hear your own voice.

Trust your natural rhythm.

Find your own wisdom in patience.

Appreciate the value of SLOW!

P.S. On my reading list: In Praise of Slow & The Slow Fix, both by Carl Honoré

Shame: A Key to Introvert Energy Drain?

I’ve felt it creeping up on me for a few weeks now. It’s the pressure I feel as the official start of the holiday season begins.

Shoulds start taking their toll on me, sapping my energy each day I consider being something I’m not in order to play along with tradition.

What I’ve recently realized is that my shoulds are intertwined with introversion and shame. Ouch.

This weekend will be Thanksgiving in Canada. While I am beyond grateful for my life in all its abundance, my desired expression of that gratitude has nothing to do with the holiday obligations that have been a part of my life (perhaps of our culture).

It’s partially the introvert in me. Attending large group gatherings overwhelms and drains me (even when it’s family). And on the other hand, hosting (even small groups) in my own home feels like a breach of my ‘personal safety zone’ (an invasion of sorts).

I’m sure it has nothing to do with introversion, but I dread meal planning, preparing the house, cooking, getting “dressed”, entertaining, overnights – it feels like I’m getting ready for a performance that holds no meaning for me. So Thanksgiving, which starts the long holiday season that unfolds over the next couple months, feels like the time I need to start putting on my armour. That requires a lot of energy.

Where does the shame come in?

In not feeling good enough, capable enough, sociable enough. I find myself questioning, “What the hell is wrong with me?” and “Why can’t I just be normal?” and “Get over it, it’s no big deal”.

In her book Daring Greatly, Brené Brown describes:

“Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”

Brown goes on to describe the common responses to shame: fight, flight and/or please. Regardless of which response we choose at a given moment, the end result is disconnection. As an introvert, this was a big ‘aha’ moment.

Well, as I’ve been trying to decide what to do for Thanksgiving, all three responses have run through my imagination:

  • Rebellion (fight);
  • Escape to a private beach-front bed and breakfast for the weekend (flight); or
  • Put on the mask of the “hostess with the mostest” (to please).

Of course, in my mind, I know that none of those choices is ideal (although that B&B does sound wonderful!).

I think back to my mom (also an introvert). She always felt that holidays were important times for families to celebrate together. She would go above and beyond with the baking, cooking, cleaning, decorating – to the point of exhausting herself – to try to make each gathering special. To make us feel special.

It was about connection and memory making. But I think it was about something deeper for her too.

She never got the appreciation (or help) she deserved. I remember how great it was to ‘take in’ all that she created. But since I don’t ever remember contributing, I didn’t realize how hard it was to actually accomplish it. Until it was my turn.

I don’t know how she did it. I do know that I can’t keep up. And I find that, as each year passes, I feel less willing to try to keep the traditions alive. Then I feel guilty (i.e. I am considering doing something bad by saying ‘no more’), and the shame response kicks into full motion (i.e. I am bad).

In truth, I’m happy to take a walk with my little family (a trio), enjoy nature and a few authentic moments with each other, and call it day. Add a good cup of coffee and some pumpkin pie and I’m a very happy gal. Fire on the beach – I’m over the moon. That’s my version of celebrating Thanksgiving.

Indecision and grappling with feelings of “not enough-ness” drains my energy.

So how will I find peace amongst holidays, introversion and shame?

As I keep reading Daring Greatly (which I highly recommend by the way), it becomes clear that empathy and vulnerability are better responses than I’ve been considering. So I suppose that’s why I’m writing…

Can you relate? Know that you’re not alone. We’re all doing our best to work through the confusion and to be more true. Be as kind to yourself as you are to others.

Happy Thanksgiving! I AM GRATEFUL…

Does Introversion Feel Like a Burden To You?

Does Introversion Feel Like a Burden To You?I’ve recently added a question to the sign-up process for the Wise Introvert newsletter. Upon confirmation I ask, “What are you struggling with the most right now? Has this been an ongoing challenge that you just can’t seem to figure out?

I really want to know, because it helps me to provide content that offers value.

It’s not unusual to hear crickets. But yesterday, a courageous introvert replied (in part):

For my whole life I have struggled to find my own voice, to have the confidence to express myself…Maybe I should accept myself as is, but being an introvert sometimes feels like a burden.

Sound familiar? I know that this reader is absolutely not alone in feeling this way, so I’m grateful to her for speaking up. Little did she know when she wrote to me that she would be helping many others too. So to extend the power of her voice, I’m sharing some of my response to her with you (and hope that you pass it along):

I understand your frustration and what you mean by the burden of introversion. You’re not alone in feeling that way – for so many of us it’s felt like a long and difficult road.

I’m not sure how long you’ve known you are an introvert and how much reading you’ve done on the topic (there are a lot of misconceptions and negative stereotypes) – Susan Cain’s book, Quiet, is a must read (among others) because it helps us to see that there’s nothing wrong with us or the way we tend to interact in the world.

I think what you’re expressing is the attempt to try to find balance in being yourself and also being able to fit in to “the real world” (and therefore feel happy and successful). In my experience, this requires self-love and acceptance, as well as learning how far we can nudge ourselves beyond the comfort zone.

But it’s not about conforming so much that you disappear. In other words, it’s not about changing yourself to fit in. It’s about knowing yourself enough to figure out where it is that you naturally fit.

Bit by bit and over time, you find where you belong. That’s where you can settle into yourself, your confidence is nurtured, and success comes more naturally.

It’s a never ending process really. For this reason, I think it’s easy to look at extroverts and believe that their path is easier than ours. I’ve been there (in fact my husband is an extrovert who, from my perspective, has had a clear and easy path with opportunities that came, in part, because he is such a sociable and easy going guy who is energized by being around people – aka not like me – easy to go into victim mode).

And then I have to bring myself back into a place of peacefulness. It’s not in our best interest to compare. We need to find our own way…which is good because what I realized along the way is that I don’t want the life of an extrovert anyways.

That’s not what success looks like to me. And trying to “play the game” and be something that I’m not ended up draining my energy until I became a shell of myself and really of little value to anyone. Just going through the motions.

So yes, part of the path of finding your voice is self-acceptance – and learning to love your introvert strengths.

It’s part self-awareness – who are you, what do you want, what does success look and feel like to you, what matters to you.

It’s part finding where you belong – what’s the environment that allows you to be your best (you already know it’s not in a large group setting).

And it’s part courage – to let your real self be seen and to believe that you’re enough just as you are.

Be Brave. Be Seen. Be True.

Your intuition is guiding you – pay attention. There is value and clarity in contrast – and you get to choose what you do next. One step at a time.

I hope you find value and comfort in Wise Introvert content…

Please share this post with a woman who is in the process of making peace with her introversion…

She needs to know that she is enough, and that she is not alone.

She needs to know that it’s time to unload the weight of that burden and free herself.

Maintaining Energy Levels Is NO Vacation When it Comes to Family Time

Maintaining Energy Levels Is NO Vacation When it Comes to Family TimeMaintaining energy levels can be challenging for an introvert, even when you’re around people you love. Taking holiday time doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re helping to recharge your energy levels. In fact, even spent amongst your most beloved family members, time off can still drain you.

If you’re an introvert mom with kids home from school this summer, you’ll probably understand what I mean. In fact, Brenda from space2live writes with such honesty and vulnerability about this topic in Confessions of an Introverted Parent (and more – I love her writing and encourage you to check it out).

In my recent post, Can We Leave Habits Behind?, I might have made our family trip to Kauai sound blissful. Well, it was.

And it wasn’t. We certainly had our fair share of ‘gray zone’ activity, which happened to include a hurricane/tropical storm watch that put us on evacuation alert for a couple days.

You’d think, after three weeks on a dreamy getaway to a tropical island oasis, I would return home with so much energy that I would be bouncing up and down all day with total enthusiasm, raring to take on the world.

Not so.

That’s partly because:

  • even in my most healthy and vivacious moments, I don’t behave like that. It’s simply not me. Instead, my energy is expressed in a calmer way that is warm, confident, positive, deeply grounded – and would never be described as anything close to effervescent.

AND

  • I underestimated (perhaps ignored) the reality of spending so much time together as a family with none of the usual outside buffers (friends, school, sports, jobs) to create the routine pockets of space that I sometimes take for granted.

I admit that I dreamed of a family vacation where we would melt into each other and strengthen our bonds. In truth, that dream was not based in our full reality. I chose hope and possibility instead of strategic planning.

Of course it was a fabulous trip and we enjoyed our time together. Still, the extended time away became challenging for all of us.

My husband, the most extraverted in the family, went a bit stir crazy without his job, colleagues, community interactions, and guys from his soccer team to chat with.

My daughter, a teenager and more of an ambivert I think, made it clear on about day two that she would rather be back home with her friends. That emotional roller coaster continued throughout the three weeks together. Did I mention how brilliant she is at pushing my buttons?

And me, the strong introvert? I ended up having to kick them both out on a couple of occasions because I couldn’t stand all the noise and drama and activity that they created (they couldn’t stand how rigid I was becoming). I needed my alone time to do nothing but daydream in quiet, even in paradise!

I am a firm proponent of plenty of solitude and time to retreat. But this vacation served to remind me that, in itself, going on holiday (or being alone for that matter) doesn’t necessarily equate to restoring your energy levels.

The key is what you’re doing (or not doing) for your energy tanks when away and/or alone.

So it’s really important to pay attention:

  • to the situations (in all their detail – who, what, where, how, when, how long etc.) that drain your energy;
  • and equally, to notice what specific situations boost your energy.

That clarity will help you factor in some important lifestyle modifications.

Here’s the thing. I know this. You know this. Yet we still struggle our way through sometimes, not wanting to accept the truth. We’re not perfect.

It’s normal, but not very helpful, to wish things were different. But there’s no use feeling guilty or upset about your need to replenish alone in a way that may only make sense to you. Be honest and have the courage to create the space that you need for your well-being. Factor this knowing into all of your planning; including family relationships.

As an introvert, managing energy levels is one of your most important – and possibly most challenging – regular tasks. Learn how to do it better (custom fit for you) each day so that you can enjoy your best life – and have something left to share with the people who matter most to you.

Want some resources? Check out this Energy Budget handout from Exploring Your Depths, and if you’re OK with exchanging your email for a freebie, Conscious Introvert Success offers How to Keep an Eye on Your Energy Levels and the Top 3 Energy Sinks for Introverts.

Can you relate? Tell me, as an introvert, what are some of your most challenging energy drains and how are you taking steps to plug (or avoid) them?

Why Alone Time is a Non-Negotiable for Introverts

Why Alone Time is a Non-Negotiable for IntrovertsAlone time is a non-negotiable for introverts because we need it for our very survival. Too dramatic? No.

Whether a full-on retreat or time scheduled for ourselves throughout our regular weekly routine, introverts need to be alone if we want to fill up our energy tanks so we can share our goodness with the world.

Alone time, solitude, offers the gift of “disengagement from the immediate demands of other people“. The amount of alone time you create is up to you. Only you know how much you need.

I can already hear your “ya but’s”.

Ya but: I’m too busy. My family needs me. My business needs me. I can’t afford to take time off work. If I took as much alone time as I wanted, people would think I’m a hermit. I should be spending my time with others. What will people think?

I’m going to ask you to stop making judgments about yourself (and stop listening to judgments others might make of you) and just create space for alone time. Just do it.

I understand the guilt. I understand the criticism. I also know from personal experience that the best thing you can do is trust your intuition and give yourself the time and space you need for self-care. Forget about what anyone else thinks. In the end, it doesn’t matter.

For me, this has been lifelong learning, but it finally sunk in over five years ago when I was feeling exhausted from my stressful job and also torn because I really wanted to be living a different lifestyle. My choice to go go go without self-care led me to burnout (again – although I didn’t know it at the time). I thought what I was doing was “proper”.

It was clear that my idea of what “responsible” and “committed” looked like had to change. I had to become central to the equation.

It shouldn’t take courage to commit to alone time. But it does.

How will you build more alone time into your life?

Travel?

An hour to yourself at the end of the day?

A daily walk?

You don’t have to feel like an empty shell just going through the motions of life trying to live up to norms or expectations. Do yourself, and everyone else, a favour and find the courage to schedule the alone time you need to be your best self.

My hope for you is that you will put systems into place so that adequate amounts of alone time become the norm rather than the exception (an afterthought, if it’s convenient).

And when those ya but’s start showing up, just imagine a mini-me sitting on your shoulder, nudging you to trust your intuition.

I’ll be whispering – Make your need for alone time a priority. Connect with your wisdom. Show up for yourself. It’s necessary.

P.S. Just so you know that I really walk the talk, in a few days my husband and daughter (an extravert and an ambivert) will be flying to Ontario to visit both our large families for what has become an annual face-to-face. I love them all and enjoy our time together, but this time, I’m staying home. Alone (well, my cat is here). And I can’t tell you how happy I am to commit to myself this way, even though I’ll miss them.

Go ahead and criticize. I know what I need most right now. Space and time to move to my own rhythm. My introvert rhythm. To tap into clarity, creativity, strength, and re-connecting with my self. Permission to say no (to others/yes to myself) has become a non-negotiable. My radical act of love.

How about you?