Schools who thrive on intentional community-building depend on the engaged participation of administration, teachers, students and parents but may occasionally forget that some of their introverted community members may need to express their involvement differently based on their temperament.
For someone who regularly recharges their energetic batteries with solitude and quiet, restful activities, a full day of scheduled, often mandatory physical and social interaction can prove to be quite exhausting. Introverted students will generally need more space, more down time, less stimulation (noise, lights and conversation) and a slower pace just to take a deep breath.
Since moments for these things are not easily found in schools, introverted students are expected to ‘come out of their shell’ and get overtly involved as if they were energized by the constant activity like their extroverted counterparts.
This is an injustice to introverted individuals!
And unfortunately, students who consciously choose to quietly read a book during their lunch break instead of engaging socially with their peers are seen as socially awkward or anti-social when they simply need a break in their day.
It’s not an easy task, but there are ways for the introverted student to walk calmly and confidently while successfully functioning in a system designed for extroverts.
Using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment tool to confirm that you have, in fact, been blessed with an introverted temperament.
Accept the fact that you are an introvert in an extroverted world. The feeling of ‘not fitting in’ may not change with this acceptance but can be more manageable.
Be proud of the introvert’s contribution to the world! You may not be school president, have a leading role in a school drama or head up student committees that promote social or environmental awareness but it doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference. Working behind the scenes on a committee to plan events, writing for the school newspaper, working at home alone on props or costumes for the next school dramatic production are all introvert-friendly ways to get involved.
Set your inner clock to Introvert Standard Time
As soon as you cross the threshold into the school, you may find yourself walking faster, engaged immediately in a conversation or feeling stressed in trying to avoid such interaction. Instead of trying to keep time with the activity around you, slow down, take a breath and walk more slowly on purpose. Set a pace for the day that won’t leave you exhausted by noon.
Invest in a comprehensive self-care plan
Strategically plan your down times. At lunch, during a spare period and especially after school, choose to create some distance from peers and give yourself a well-deserved break from having to navigate the social scene for a bit. Ask teachers for permission to work alone instead of always in a group explaining that you demonstrate your ability to work collaboratively in other classes and groups but need a break this time. If your introversion causes you a significant level of anxiety, invest in a professional who can help you develop strategies for your benefit.
Simplify your day by planning ahead
The night before a school day, have your backpack at the front door, your lunch made and set your alarm early enough so that there is no need to rush first thing in the morning. Pacing is for your benefit, will reduce your stress levels and will honour the introvert within.
Stabilize yourself with a deep breathing practice
Start each day with simple exercises of deep, belly breathing for even just a few minutes. Once this becomes a habit, it can be used throughout the day for a calming yet energizing break.
Find friends who have also inherited the introvert gene as well as extroverted friends who understand and will not take offense when you reduce your social schedule as a form of self-care.
Beyond all else, introversion is your gift. Treasure it. Unwrap it regularly for life of beauty and abundant learning. You are not alone, even when you want to be!