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!

 

 

the habit of love

Without exception, she consistently, unabashedly expressed her joy daily when seeing me. She listened to my rants and rages without judging. Remained impartial and didn’t give unsolicited advice.

With her, there was always a freedom to be my odd, obsessive self. Her stellar level of intuition meant that she most often knew I was sick well before I did.

For fifteen years, this fellow introvert and I connected daily. Affectionate greetings. Shared silences. We were each other’s love habit.

My friend was not human, much more of the feline persuasion, yet she has been a hard habit to break. She was a rescue cat who shared my home for this most recent third of my life. Even though it has been two months since she passed, as recent as yesterday, I instinctively spoke aloud to her in a moment of happy expression.  An excitement to share.

Porch 020
 

 

 

 

The weight of grief has lessened considerably but I now realize how much I learned from loving my furry companion.

She softened my once-sharp edges. Gave me space to risk a deep love. Taught me to listen more than speak. Revealed a surprisingly deep desire and ability for affection and connection. Showed me that isolation is not as nourishing for me as I had once thought and that two hearts have an abundance of energy.  I discovered as much about myself in loving her as I did in losing her.

And I learned that the habit of love, in whatever form, is one well worth developing and only hope that I can follow her example of what a good friend could be.

 

 

words. create. reality?

 

I am a twin.

Well, I guess it is more accurate to say that I was born with a twin. My womb-mate, although technically fraternal, seems identical to me in so many ways yet indescribably different at the same time. Some days it feels as if she’s from a different egg altogether!  Weird.

Twins

Being twins, there’s a slight chance that we were treated more similarly, more alike than just siblings, especially since we were only sold as a set. Two of everything for years on end. Side by side for the pureed peas, high-chair feedings and dressed in matching outfits in every class photo until middle school.

Birthday parties were double the fun, for our guests. But my twin sister and I began to share knowing, resigned glances as the party-ready guests arrived each bearing their single-package gifts knowing that we were about to receive a lot of board games and other items to be shared between us. My twin and I were close, but did not relish spending hours together playing Battleship and Connect Four.

And although, our mother was thoughtfully aware enough to not compare us to each other, the labels we created in our individual self-talk perception journals were very clear. My personal black and white journal from way back then read something like this.

Me: I am the smart, introverted, persevering and sarcastic one.
She: She is the pretty, creative, social and sarcastic one.

I told you there were some similarities. The twin and I have a long-standing joke between us where we will end up sitting side-by-each in a nursing home where the experienced nurses will whisper warnings to the newbies to “stay away from those two, they bite!”

The fifth-grade “I am” statements I had scripted all had some foundation in whatever form truth takes when you’re that young. My twin indeed knew how to successfully socialize and seemed to always have plans with friends. Me, not so much. I preferred to be alone rather than hanging out with friends, chose the library stacks to the sports field and often reading a book over talking with a group of girls who were talking about a group of boys. And her creativity was expressed fluently through art, playing piano by ear or even the way she dressed with a genuine style and flair. Again, me not so much. My untapped creativity was trapped beneath a impenetrable mix of perfectionism and procrastination.

I guess I could say it’s natural to design our own labels but what is the long-term impact? What invisible doors of opportunity in our lives appeared only as walls because the risk involved would only be taken by someone with a different “I am” descriptor than the one we had for ourselves?

Recently, I started listening to my current, daily list of “I am”s and the resounding bass line of repeated phrases is interesting.  And kind of sad.

I am tired.
I am too busy to do any more.
I am too busy to get all of this work done.
I am definitely much too busy for a social life.
I am overwhelmed.
I am done.

Now there’s a snapshot of an exhausted life by design. Morbid much?  Designed to run on the steam of the consistently uttered, out-of-breath “I am”s.

But, in a given moment, am I actually tired? Or am I Danette who may at the moment be feeling the weight of a long day expressing itself as lethargy, the need for a relaxing and nourishing meal and simply a brief break from social interaction and multiple deadlines?

As soon as I say “I am tired”, my body is all too quick to agree. My posture imperceptibly crumples, with shoulders rounding forward and breath getting more shallow by the moment. Just enough though for the mind to get on board. “Yes, I am definitely tired. Exhausted even. I need a break. I work too hard.” Clearly, it must be true because I thought it.

Yet, even contemplating inverting those “I am” statements and converting them into less weighty ones might lead me perilously close to the edge of the forest where the secret life of the ‘be positive’ fairies live and dance with the woodland imps and magic fire-flies. Yikes.

Wouldn’t that just be switching one concrete for another? What about not labeling ourselves at all? But then what would we say when we are compulsively chronicling our lives in every conversation. Yes, yes, yes, I am (truly) acutely aware of the irony of that statement coming from an avid Compulsive Chronicler in blog form. Doesn’t mean I can’t question.

True confession time. I invert. And I am a converter. I recently grabbed my most common doomsday “I am”s and turned them on their heads to come up with something less lethargic, with more ease and a little less damned-if-I-do-damned-if-I-don’t.

The experiment is to use intentional word tools to see if I can rewire some of the negative, patterned, unconscious reactions. I may be just blowing sunshine up my own kilt but I’ve felt the weight of bearing these old “I am’s” and would like to see if more light-infused statements will be enough to begin some initial re-programming. I’ll keep you posted. If I start posting as a positive-thinking-will-solve-all-your-problems guru, you have permission to tell me to get my head out of my arse!  I won’t be offended. It would’ve been something my dad would’ve said so I’d respond well to it.

I do know though that things can change because when I look back on my twin-based, matching outfit litany of “I am’s”, I’ve noticed that they have oddly morphed into truthful descriptors for both me and my twin sister even if the expressions of them may appear different in varying situations. We are separately, uniquely all of them.

Not to leave all cynicism in the dust of this power of positive thinking party, I’ve still got money on the fact that the twinster and I will be an acerbic pair of old grannies, sitting in wheelchairs with knitted blankets folded on our laps,complaining about getting another board game for our 90th birthdays.

Twins

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.