an introverted student’s guide to living and learning

 

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.

 

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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.

 

Introvert in Disco Hoodie

 

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.

 

Know yourself

Using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment tool to confirm that you have, in fact, been blessed with an introverted temperament.

 

Accept yourself

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.

 

Express yourself

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.

 

School tour

 

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.

 

Introverts unite

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!

 

 

how to cure a people hangover

 

You know the feeling.  Head aches, ears buzz with that post-concert-like hum, mouth is cotton-dry from repressing outbursts of irritation and nervous system is set on “If one more person even speaks to me, I’m gonna lose it”.  And when in this state, we promise ourselves that we’re never going to indulge again.  We’ll move to a shack on an island devoid of all other humans to avoid ever having to feel this terrible again.

Shack with a View

Forget the shack. I’ve discovered a much more accessible cure for the People Hangover that doesn’t involve perpetual isolation. With practice, you can indulge occasionally, enjoy the benefits of interaction with others without over-doing and suffering the spirit-splitting consequences.

 

Self-Compassion

You know who you are, or do you?   if you resonated at all with the concept of having a People Hangover, chances are you’re an introvert.  By introvert, I do not mean shy, quiet or socially awkward.  Introverts are simply those who need to have sufficient alone time to re-charge their batteries, to refill their energy reserves and to process life in peaceful surroundings.  Introverts are often mistaken for the socially-challenged, under-developed or anemic cousin of the proud and potent extrovert but not so, my contemplative cohorts!

Introverts are often gifted with introspective intelligence. Cultivators of the inner landscape, they notice details others often miss, make connections, and have the ability to ponder, wander and wonder elegantly.  Yes, yes, introverts are prone to occasional bouts of melancholia and can sometimes be sullen and sorrowful.  It’s precisely that balance of dark and light that compels introverts to become poets, artists, dreamers, thinkers, tinkerers and gleaners of the subtle magic of even the most ordinary of moments.

If introversion was tattooed on your soul at birth, accept, embrace and nurture it.  It was not a mistake, you are not inadequate and your acceptance of this is the first step to preventing the dreaded and avoidable People Hangover.

 

Solitude

If you are like me, and your job involves working with people all day, then the opportunities to over-indulge are fierce and frequent. The key is to accept your need for solitude and to inject moments of it in your day at every opportunity. Think of these moments as small power-up sessions to tide you over until the end of the day when you can enjoy some longer, uninterrupted solitary serenity.  Be unapologetic if, right in the middle of your work day,  you choose to:

  • Close your door.
  • Let your phone go to voice mail.
  • Go for a walk.
  • Go for a drive.
  • Schedule spaces between meetings.
  • Re-schedule a meeting.
  • Ask for a deadline extension.
  • Eat lunch alone.
  • Say ‘no’ to social invitations that happen immediately at the end of a work day.

Levi reading

Shift to Celebration

The world at large is primarily geared towards extroverts but that is no reason to try to fit a mold that asks us to reject who we are at our core.  You are the architect and can design a life fit for an authentic introvert that does not require isolation.

  • Celebrate who you are. Sing the song of the Intrepid Introvert by living a life designed with deep respect for your particular need for solitude and peace.
  • Re-write the old script that suggests there is something wrong with being introverted. Make the re-write a bold affirmation of how your being in the world so fully and completely is based on a foundation of courageous solitude.
  • Challenge that thought that says there is something wrong with you when you are alone.  Choose to see being alone as simply one way of being.
  • Develop relationships with other introverts.  Enjoy socializing (infrequently, of course) with others who don’t require constant stimulation to be entertained and who can actually have an unexpressed thought!
  • Know your boundaries, push them, create new opportunities for engagement within communities then reward yourself with a quiet space, a good book or even better, a nap!

With prevention and cure now firmly in hand, go forward and boldly, creatively and without apology, live an introvert’s dream life without fear of occasionally over-indulging to the point of having to nurse a People Hangover.