For a long time I struggled through a contradiction of confidence, sociability, shyness and anxiety. Sounds strange that one can inhabit all of these qualities at once. But I sure did manage such a feat. Or rather, I wasn’t really managing it all that well at all.
On the one hand I desperately wanted to spend time with friends, go on adventures, meet new people, have exciting experiences. And on the other hand, I was so often exhausted and barely able to leave the house.
There were moments when I struggled with FOMO, but I barely had the energy to leave the house.
My lifestyle flitted between constant work and hanging out with friends to then never going out and just about making it to work feeling like a zombie.
So often I would miss out on social gatherings.
So often I would sit in the corner of a party looking at my phone.
So often I would much prefer the silence of my own company to that of others.
WHAT WAS WRONG WITH ME?
I felt like a freak.
And I felt like this for the longest time.
Until I discovered the true meaning of the term introvert.
Before this discovery I thought an introvert was just someone who was unable to talk to others. Or maybe someone who was bit shy.
But actually the introvert/extrovert paradigm is about energy and how we gain it. In simple terms, introverts gain their energy through solitude, quiet and away from others. Whereas extroverts gain their energy from being around other people, places and external stimuli. Of course, there is a bit more to it than that. (Here’s a useful article dispelling persistent myths about introversion/extraversion).
I came to realise that I wasn’t anti-social, useless, boring or plain weird. I started to reflect on past instances when I just couldn’t make some things. It became apparent that the exhaustion and anxiety was mostly due to my introversion. At those moments in time I needed to recharge.
By reflecting and understanding how and when I used energy I began to think ahead and plan how I used my time more effectively, taking into account my energy levels. The result is that I am now able, for the most part, to attend social soirees, work events and spend time with other people. All because I plan where I use my energy. I space out my calendar, slot in work-from-home time, and when my body calls for it, I just rest.
It’s been an utter revelation.
If only I had understood this 10 or 20 years ago!
There is great value in being able to understand, reflect and adapt how you shape your life. Granted, there are external factors that influence this. But for the most part, you can adapt and put systems in place to look after yourself.
I’m not completely there. I do have my moments every now and then. But as I mentioned in my post ‘How I Got Over My Fear Of Networking‘ I am now able to attend blogging events on my own and actually talk to people. It’s been amazing.