Being an introvert is a blessing, but also a burden. Research shows that 35% to 50% of the human population falls into this inside-oriented category. There are of all shades introverts – from the super-geeks and the cave dwellers to flashy artists and outspoken politicians.
Jefferson, Dante, and Khomeini were among them. They’re usually hard to detect from the outside but if you are one, you’ll know it for sure. If read this, you’re probably affected by the malady – but don’t worry – together we can find the cure. In this article, you’ll learn all about the introverted personality, and the best ways to lead a happily introverted life.
The Making of an Introvert
On one blog, I’ve found that if you’re an introvert, you’re very much like Batman. While amusing, this fantasy quite often belies a desperate attempt to fulfill the real desire of being an extrovert. Every Bat-Vert, probably at least once dreamed of being a Bond, a Don Draper or even a Hannibal Lecter.
It’s interesting how you can find many books about introverts, but none about extroverts. That should tell you something about the insecurity of the former.
Over the years I’ve found that many introverts feel vulnerable in the big world. They feel awkward and misplaced in social situations, and they often keep themselves to themselves for the fear of getting hurt. I was feeling the same way, but I managed to turn my life around.
I knew I was an introvert even before I was acquainted with the term. I enjoyed lying down and falling into reveries. I marveled at the experience of Hypnagogia, and at night, there were ghostly figures lurking in the hallway of my apartment. There was also the need for silence and a chronic dislike of small talk.
Then I discovered Carl Jung, who wrote extensively on the subject of personality types. His work led to the development of methodologies which later helped me to uncover the dominant traits of my personality.
The world of personality types
Myers Briggs (MBTI) test is the most popular tool in the personality type department. The whole model consists of sixteen interconnected personality types. The other popular model is called the Enneagram with nine personality types in total.
Of course, you cannot pigeonhole people into one of the categories – we’re talking about rough sketches here. People who complete these personality tests, however, quite often find the answers extremely accurate and relatable. After completing the test you’ll find out what is the dominant force of your personality.
Here’s the breakdown of the frequency of different Myers Briggs types:
After completing the test, I got INFJ, the rarest of them all. The four letters in each type signify main forces that drive any given personality. In my case it was introversion, intuition (expressed inwardly), feeling (expressed outwardly) and judging.
Almost instantly, I’ve found myself in the company of other people with presumably similar personality types – Al Pacino, Gandhi, and Hitler for that matter. Later, I’ve found many articles about INFJ and to my amazement, they mostly reflected my intuitions. That was the beginning of my journey into the world of the whole personality business.
In this article, I’ll concentrate on general traits that apply to all introverted types. Below, you’ll find some of the most curious facts about “innies”, and hopefully, you’ll be able to point your finger, grunt pleasantly, and say – “that’s me!” You’ll also learn some of the ideas for leading a successful introverted existence.
The Peculiar Traits of Introverts
In love with the quiet
Introverts adore nature and tranquility. I remember the time when listening to the On Being podcast, I’ve learned about the Science of Healing Places. I instantly felt that this was something for me.
Many of us need a space where we can feel safe, secure, and are able to regenerate our minds. It might be your apartment, a park, a forest or a mountain range. Just imagine Robin Williams in Awakenings, sitting alone in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden to get the idea.
At parties, introverts will naturally seek quiet spots suitable for a proper conversation. They would also take breaks in the balcony or in the bathroom to regain their composure. This unconscious search for a quiet zone is the quintessential quality of most introverts. There’s nothing like the room of one’s own.
The lost sense of touch
Among Intuition, Feeling, and Thinking, there’s also the Sensing function of the personality (which can be roughly defined as the ability to stay in touch with your own body and the surrounding world).
Introverts are quite often deficient in that ability because their perception is directed inwardly. Instead of dealing with concrete reality, they inhibit worlds of abstract concepts and great ideals.
The value of close relationships
At times, you may feel a bit disconnected from strangers who seem more like curious anthropoidal creatures, rather than your fellow Sapiens Sapiens. And the daily chitchat may be perceived as a collection of small mouth noises, clearly devised for the purpose of keeping the society together. That’s where your true friends come into the picture.
A proper introvert will always choose close friendships over a company of random people. In each introvert, there’s an innate need for a long, open conversation that gives room to most outlandish ideas. That’s why close relationships and the ability to share their inner world play a crucial role here.
Along with upbringing, culture, and environment, a large part of the personality comes from our unique genetic makeup. Did you know that introversion and extroversion can be recognized even in toddlers?
If you have a spare moment, you can test your baby by exposing it to different levels of stimuli – mostly sounds, and people.
If the baby is easily frightened and starts to cry profusely, you probably have a little introvert there. If, on the other hand, the baby doesn’t give a shit about music or loud noises (worse yet, enjoys it), prepare for the rise of the extrovert.
This difference in behavior has to do with RAS (The Reticular Activating System) in the brain. It’s responsible mainly for regulating sleep-wake transitions and the ability to pay attention. It turns out that RAS is much more active in introverts.
That’s why too much stimuli in the form of noise and people cause the introvert to withdraw. Active RAS also causes them to salivate more. They produce 50% more saliva than their extroverts – so beware.
The curious brain of the introvert
The level of monoamine oxidase (MAO) is higher in the brains of the introverts. This enzyme is responsible for breaking down the neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, which are used by brains-cells to communicate with each other.
High levels MAO tends to cause restraint and avoidance of unnecessary risks. Moreover, the amygdala (ancient part of the brain which generates feelings of fear) also tends to have a party more often than not in the brains of introverts.
It turns out there are more differences. There’s more blood flow and gray matter (especially in the pre-frontal cortex) in the brains of introverts.
Take a look at this excerpt which comes from The Introvert Advantage, which I highly recommend:
“Introverts’ and extroverts’ blood traveled along different pathways. Dr. Johnson found the introverts’ pathway is more complicated and focused internally. The introverts’ blood flowed to the parts of the brain involved with internal experiences like remembering, solving problems, and planning. This pathway is long and complex. The introverts were attending to their internal thoughts and feelings”.
Our brains are also different in terms of tolerance to different types of neurotransmitters. For example, extrovert’s brain naturally requires higher doses of dopamine. That’s why most extroverts aren’t fazed by high levels of physiological stimuli – in fact, they seek out stimulating environments (they also require more cocaine to get high).
Introverts’ brain relies on a different neurotransmitter altogether. Again from the book:
“Introverts, on the other hand, are highly sensitive to dopamine. Too much dopamine and they feel overstimulated. Introverts use an entirely different neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, on their more dominant pathway. Acetylcholine affects attention and learning (especially perceptual learning), influences the ability to sustain a calm, alert feeling and to utilize long-term memory, and activates voluntary movement. It stimulates a good feeling when thinking and feeling”.
That would explain why introverts require a calm environment and quite often are overstimulated by drugs such as coffee, amphetamine, cocaine, or cannabis.
This difference in the neural structure has an effect on motivation as well. Introverts usually prefer internal rewards such as peace of mind, leadership, learning, mastery, virtue, ecstasy, and awe. Most of them don’t want to be The Wolf of Wall-Street.
Yet the Western culture tends to praise material possessions and high social status above all else. Maybe that’s why many introverts feel insecure. They don’t actually desire the big house, and the high social status, but they feel like they’re supposed to.
Please remember you can always channel your motivation elsewhere. And next time you shirk the duty of attending a loud social gathering, you can blame it on your brain.
The evolutionary explanation for introverts
Why are there introverts anyway? Shouldn’t everyone be partying and having a good time?
The answer turns out to be no. While extroverts go out into the world to satisfy their thirst for dopamine, introverts keep it cool, and stay out of sight. You may think of it in ancient terms as a distinction between a hunter, and a shaman.
Generally speaking, being an introvert is a survival tactic.
The chances of survival of the species are increased by allowing for members with different temperaments. Extroverts might have more lovers and spread their seed widely, but introverts may be pickier and form stronger relationships with their mates. It’s also good to have team members with different skills and perspectives on problems.
Introverts are good at coming up with ideas, but extroverts are better at taking action. These are all speculations, but they tend to make sense (I’m open to any comments and suggestions). To learn more about this particular subject, please read Quirk: Brain Science Makes Sense of Your Peculiar Personality by Hannah Holmes.
The “extroverted introvert” or The Self-Monitoring Theory
The word “personality” comes from Latin “persona” which literally relates to a mask used during the theatrical performances. We all put on different masks when dealing with others, but our true identity can only be found within our inner world.
The self-monitoring theory is all about the human effort to put the right mask when dealing with others. For extroverts, it’s quite easy to feel at home within most social contexts. But for introverts, these situations might be quite challenging because of their natural predisposition for solitude.
That’s where self-monitoring comes in.
People described as low self-monitors don’t make an effort to play along with others. These are the wretched wallflowers of the world. They don’t seem to get what Shakespeare understood perfectly:
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts.
You may not want to go with the flow of social situations because it feels like a betrayal of your true nature. The research shows, however, that you’ll be better off if you do.
While low-self monitors see getting along as a sign of complaisance, the high self-monitors adjust their behavior to any given situation and reap the social rewards.
That’s the reason why some introverts are really hard to spot. In their private lives, they are as calm as an ancient pond, but when it’s time to make a great presentation, they brace themselves and do it to the best of their ability. If you’re an introvert, you can be very effective in social situations. The only thing is that you’ll require a period of rest afterward.
Telephone – the vicious enemy of any respectable introvert
Maybe it’s the month I’ve once spent at the call center or maybe it’s some kind of childhood trauma, but the day they invented texting was the day that turned my life around.
And it’s not just me. Take a look at a couple of articles on the subject and you’ll quickly realize that the dread of the telephone is a common thing among introverts.
To make a travesty of the famous quote from Don Draper, the protagonist of Mad Men:
“Introversion is based on one thing: tranquility. And do you know what tranquility is? Tranquility is not giving a shit about that missed phone call. It’s freedom from picking up that buzzing piece of plastic. It’s a billboard on the side of the road that screams with reassurance that whatever you’re doing is OK. You are OK”.
But what’s the reason behind this reluctance to pick up the telephone? Personally, I feel that the phone call infringes on my privacy. I’m lost in my work and then I’m supposed to stop, and totally lose my concentration just because someone wants to ask what’s up?
Moreover, when on the phone, you can’t see any of the social cues which are so beneficial to effective communication. Many people find it strange, but you can just explain that you prefer Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Skype or the old good face to face. They’ll understand.
Intuition, the sixth sense of the introvert?
Let’s get metaphysical for a moment.
Researchers like Dean Radin or Ray Hyman claim that we should revamp our notion of five senses because according to new studies, our traditional view of sensual perception is obsolete.
We generally talk about five senses and we assume that they’re all the same for people around the world. That’s simply not true – the perception of the world varies among different cultures.
For example, according to Asifa Majid and Stephen C. Levinson, who conducted extensive research on the subject, Americans as twice as bad at recognizing smells as the inhabitants of the Malay Peninsula. If there are cultural differences in the way we sense the world, maybe there are also differences in perception among introverts and extroverts?
The elusive notion of intuition
The sixth sense which traditionally has been described as intuition might actually exist. For example, there’s a slightly higher electrodermal activity among people who are being stared at through a camera. In one study, the spectator was staring at the subject only at random times, and only during these periods, researchers were able to detect the physiological response.
This happens also when someone directs their thoughts at another person who might be situated even thousands of miles away (the study was conducted in the same manner).
Another interesting study consisted of showing forty different pictures to volunteers. Half of the pictures were mild (lakes, mountains, forests) and half of them evoked a strong emotional response (spiders, burning buildings, war). It turned out that there was a spike in physiological reaction just a split-second before they were shown the nasty pictures, but there was no such effect in the case of the neutral images.
The scientists were amazed but they conducted the same study many times and got the same results. The research in that area is in its infancy, but it seems to hint that the phenomena of intuition might actually be real.
During the long career of James Randi, no one on his show was able to successfully demonstrate any psychic abilities and claim the million-dollar prize. But these abilities might not manifest themselves in obvious ways (like guessing things about another person). They may be hidden, elusive and perceived only through direct experience, hence, impossible to prove during a rigorous scientific experiment.
Intuition and the personality types
So what’s the connection between all this, and the personality types? While some people tend to rely more on sensing the outer world, others trust their intuition. According to the MBTI methodology mentioned earlier, there are sixteen different personality types, and some of them rely on intuition more heavily than the others.
This intuitive force of personality is present across the whole spectrum of personalities and it can be directed either inwardly or outwardly. What’s the difference?
“An example of Outward Intuition (Ne) is glancing around to scan a bunch of ideas in the mind’s eye. People who are very Ne tend to be good at brainstorming and quickly notice the connections between ideas”.
“An example of Inward Intuition (Ni) is storing connected things as a united conceptual form. People who are very Ni tend to develop sophisticated mental models, and may “just know” things by interpreting differently from others”.
Intuition can be defined as knowing without knowing (or instinctive knowing). Instead of using a rational process to figure out what’s going on, intuition allows a person to understand the situation instantly in a way that cannot be rationally explained.
In this sense, the famous Wittgenstein quote “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world” turns out to be wrong. In fact, you’re able to surpass the barrier of language and use the intuition to perceive reality. Instead of explaining concepts in words, a highly intuitive person is able to “feel it” as a whole – as a strange ineffable bundle of understanding.
The experience of synchronicity
Almost everyone is able to share a story when they were able to sense some kind of event though a dream or gut feeling. This is the foundation of the concept of synchronicity which revolves around experiencing meaningful coincidences.
For example, recently after waking up I thought that I should read Nabokov’s Lolita just one more time (not a bad idea after all). I haven’t even thought about Lolita for months, but then I thought that maybe I could find it in Madrid’s vintage bookstore I followed on Facebook.
A few minutes later I opened my Facebook account and there it was – Lolita, first edition – at the top of my news feed. I had spookier experiences of such kind, which I’m not going to mention here (there’s also a vast literature on the subject). In his book, Unweaving the Rainbow, Richard Dawkins claims that this is all due to chance, and probability theory. This, of course, is the most rational explanation, but we should be open to all possibilities.
I’m also sure you can share some of your own stories about creepy coincidences. Urban legend has it that women are more intuitive than men. I don’t know if it’s true, but I have an intuition that introverts might actually be more intuitive than the extroverts.
A handy guide for happy introverted living
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“I’m an introvert” I muttered, “And I’m not opening this goddamn door”—
Only this and nothing more.”
Now let’s take a look at some of the valuable introvert insights that you can use to improve the quality of your life. I’ve gathered them from my own experience and some interesting books and articles which you can find in the suggested reading section at the end of this article. Not all of these ideas may apply to your situation, but I’m sure that you’ll find some of them very useful.
1. Take a personality test and see which type of introvert are you
The whole idea of taking a personality test might seem ridiculous and self-serving, but many people find it useful. As I said before, I once did the test and got the INFJ personality type. After reading a few articles about this profile, I was astonished to learn that they reflected many of my own feelings and attitudes.
I performed the test on some of my friends and found it accurate around 70% of the time. While it’s impossible to describe a person through a standardized test, you may be able to get some interesting insights about your psyche. You can also learn about famous people who share your personality type and check how they were able to cope with difficulties and achieve success in life.
There are articles written about all of the sixteen MBTI personalities, where among other things you can get career or relationship advice. Just try to approach it with open mind and try it out.
2. Seek quietude
Many introverts are unhappy because they try to lead the life of an extrovert. Introverts are able to play the extrovert game for some time, but then, they have to find a quiet zone where they can recharge and get ready for the next round.
Too much stimuli over a prolonged period of time can cause exhaustion and burn-out to an inattentive introvert. Once I was working as a store-clerk on the Liberty Island. With thousands of people shopping around every day I found it really hard to cope.
After twelve hours of talking with people, I just wanted to collapse and remain silent until the end of time.
“I spill water from my water jar as I walk on my way, Very little remains for my home” says Rabindranath Tagore.
If you’re an introvert, you really need to save some water for your home. It can mean avoiding work where you have to deal with people and excessive noise for the whole day, and replacing it with a more independent job (freelancing is a great idea for introverts).
It can also mean taking refuge in a park, quiet cafe, or your own room. Just get the time necessary to recharge. Take a moment to read Tagore’s beautiful mystical poem from Gitanjali to feel the essence of this need for regeneration and self-reflection:
THE morning sea of silence broke into ripples of bird songs; and the flowers were all merry by the roadside; and the wealth of gold was scattered through the rift of the clouds while we busily went on our way and paid no heed.
We sang no glad songs nor played; we went not to the village for barter; we spoke not a word nor smiled; we lingered not on the way. We quickened our pace more and more as the time sped by.
The sun rose to the mid sky and doves cooed in the shade. Withered leaves danced and whirled in the hot air of noon. The shepherd boy drowsed and dreamed in the shadow of the banyan tree, and I laid myself down by the water and stretched my tired limbs on the grass.
My companions laughed at me in scorn; they held their heads high and hurried on; they never looked back nor rested; they vanished in the distant blue haze. They crossed many meadows and hills, and passed through strange, far-away countries. All honour to you, heroic host of the interminable path! Mockery and reproach pricked me to rise, but found no response in me. I gave myself up for lost in the depth of a glad humiliation in the shadow of a dim delight.
The repose of the sun-embroidered green gloom slowly spread over my heart. I forgot for what I had travelled, and I surrendered my mind without struggle to the maze of shadows and songs.
At last, when I woke from my slumber and opened my eyes, I saw thee standing by me, flooding my sleep with thy smile. How I had feared that the path was long and wearisome, and the struggle to reach thee was hard!
3. Learn from Dr. Oliver Sacks
I’ve recently read On the Move – an autobiography of the famed neurologist, and quintessential introvert, the late Dr. Oliver Sacks. The book was a game-changer for me, as it contains great life lessons you can draw from.
Here are some of the edited notes I took while reading the book:
- Write in your journal – it will serve you well.
- Life is a collaborative process – even if you lead the life of solitude.
- Your greatest discoveries and insights will come from connections with other people.
- It’s incredibly important to keep in touch with others during the journey of life and watch as the great drama unfolds.
- Meeting the most eminent people of your generation is possible – if you become a person of value.
- Keep your interest alive, follow your intuition and never stop exploring.
- Fall in love at least once.
- Consciousness is a great scheme of interrelated patterns created by the brain, which builds a model of reality by recognizing and modelling these patterns (I’m still not 100% sure about this one).
- Caring is one of the most important characteristic of people who live a meaningful life.
- Writing a good piece of work requires time, and many revisions. If you want it to last, you have to be obsessed by it. (Dr. Sacks took seven years to complete Awakenings)
- Having a good editor, early feedback, and a literary agent is very crucial for a productive career in writing.
- Follow your intuition and the dots will finally connect.
- It takes many years to create something of value. Have patience.
- Death and illness are ok. They will come.
- Experimenting with hallucinogenic compounds (especially LSD) may be important for personality development.
- Life is beautiful. Live it, live it, live it.
- Be open to change – especially, be open to new relationships.
- Live isn’t trivial, there is certain poignancy and significance to it. Treat it as a great adventure. Smile and it will smile back at you.
- Exploring the nature and taking holidays is essential for the creative process.
4. You can follow your heart, do what you love, and avoid the extroverted model of success
Reaching a high status in society, falling in love or making a lot of money are not the sources of long-lasting happiness for introverts. Our culture is obsessed with these three things and wants you to strive for them. Unfortunately, they mostly belong to the realm of the extrovert.
The most looked up to the person in our society seems to be the James Bond type – AKA the intelligent psychopath. The idea is that if you just mingle with aristocracy, get the most beautiful girl, and drive a new Aston Martin, you will finally feel successful. Please realize that these are just status symbols used by marketers and storytellers to exploit the hidden desires of the human psyche.
If you’re an introvert, you may feel insecure because you think you should be more extroverted. The truth is that you shouldn’t be anything but yourself. By accepting your true nature, you can become a stronger, happier person. Drop the idea of success offered by the extroverted culture, and follow your own path.
For example, nowadays many people think they should become tech entrepreneurs because it’s so inspiring. But what if you always wanted to become an artist instead? By all means, become an artist and feel the peace of mind that comes with it. It’s your life, and you can set your own rules.
What would you like to do if the money were no object? Heed the words of the philosopher, Allan Watts:
5. If you’re an introvert, you can succeed in the business world
If want to learn how to be more successful in the business world, you should definitely read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. Among other things, you’ll learn that some of the most successful entrepreneurs and artists of our time are introverts. People like Bill Gates and Elon Musk are introverts. You can become successful in business too, if you know how to use your personality to your advantage.
I don’t know if you follow Gary Vaynerchuk, but he’s the most popular entrepreneurial leader of the young generation, and officially, the most extroverted person in the world. He frequently talks about the “entrepreneurial DNA” (that you either have or don’t have) and that you should hustle all the time to be successful.
There’s definitely something to it, but by saying this, he also discourages many introverts who now think they just don’t have what it takes to be successful. But making cold calls, doing hour-long sales presentations and hanging out with people for sixteen hours a day is not necessary to make it in business.
In the classic Good To Great, Jim Collins talks about the level five leaders (quite frequently, the leaders of the most successful companies in the world) who “build enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will”.
These leaders are rather low-keyed, very persistent and give credit where credit is due. The introverted entrepreneur doesn’t have to persuade people all day long. She will hire people to do that, and instead, focus on her strengths like developing a vision, systems, strategy, marketing, and innovation.
And when it comes to presenting, this kind of businessperson will use self-monitoring (mentioned earlier) to play the extroverted role for a while. So go for it, introverted entrepreneur.
6. Use the strengths of the introverted personality
The first step is to accept your nature. The second one is to appreciate your strengths and use them to your advantage. Here are some of the main introvert strengths:
Intuition – trust your instincts and follow your heart even if you’re not sure. More often than not, you’ll find that your intuition leads you in the right direction.
Focus and concentration – you can use that inborn ability to achieve the state of flow and complete humongous tasks. Break it down, get caffeinated and just start with your work.
I once read an amazing book called How Artists Work by Mason Currey. From it, I’ve learned that some of the greatest artists of all time have special rituals around their work. Most of them basically isolate themselves from the world for hours at the time, and get lost in their work. It requires huge amounts of discipline but as an introvert, you can actually train yourself to do that.
Persistence – I’ve found that many introverts have the quality of sticking to their goals. You should “do it until”. Setting a goal and leaving it after a while is not good for your spirit. Prove to yourself that you can do it, and in time, you will set bigger and bigger challenges.
Listening skills – introverts prefer listening, so they’re able to build trust naturally. The essential message of the famous How to Make Friends and Influence People is to be interested in other people. As an introvert, you can do it without much effort. You can just ask questions, and carefully listen to the answers.
Learning and personal development – introverts are natural learners, eager to get to the core of things. Rather than sitting around in bars, blabbering about trivia, you probably prefer to ensconce yourself in your favorite chair with a fascinating read in hand. That’s actually a good thing. As an introvert, I’ve learned to deal with the fear of missing out. Just do what you feel like doing and be proud about it.
7. The introverted imagination is limitless
As an introvert, you are preoccupied with the non-obvious. You can use this power to your advantage by bringing your unique ideas to the outer world.
In the Developed World, the problems are of a psychological nature. Once we secured our basic needs for comfort and safety, the desire for creative expression starts to emerge. Many of us struggle with the search for meaning in our lives. We are but specs in the grand cosmic scheme and our actions may seem as devoid of meaning, as the words of prominent politicians.
However, the wild desire for self-expression persists. Christopher Hitchens once pointed out that: “Everybody does have a book in them, but in most cases that’s where it should stay.” There’s a lot of truth in it, but we shouldn’t dismiss our creative abilities from the get-go.
The worst live to live is the one of no excitement, no zest, no curiosity, waiting something special that will change everything for you. The fact is that there’s no one coming to the rescue.
You don’t need a savior and permission from anyone. You can start doing your thing today. Paint if you want to paint, write if you want to write. Build organizations, make things happen – or perish.
8. Spend quality time with the people you love
Not long ago, there was a stranger in my kitchen – a glib fellow who immediately struck me as a creature best to be avoided. Even though I could use a snack, I stayed in my room and stayed clear of small talk at the risk of starvation.
This kind of experience is shared by many introverts.
Introverts naturally enjoy building deeper, long-lasting relationships with just a few people. It’s not that we want to be isolated. We love people, and we want to be close to them, but chatter among strangers can be quite uncomfortable. (That’s why alcohol is the tool of choice in my party-survival-kit).
Untangling your grand cosmic schemes before strangers will only lead to disappointment. The words of Rilke – ‘I want to be with those who know secret things or else alone’ – ring true for many introverts who often choose a good book over idle banter.
Every solitude-seeker should have at least one confidant with whom it’s possible to trade secrets. Self-disclosure is essential for happy living, and there’s nothing more precious in introvert’s life than a person who can truly understand them. Seek that friend or a lover your level of well-being will soar .
9. Provide service in your introverted way
In the past, I tended to be selfishly hedonistic; looking inwards, wondering how any given situation may serve me. It took me some time to understand that life of value is all about reaching out, and that good service is one of the greatest gifts you can give to another person. A couple of things made me realize that simple, yet elusive truth:
First, I listened to The Power of Ambition by Jim Rohn. The whole audio-program is built around the concept of enlightened self-interest. It means that it’s ok for you to become rich, and powerful, sophisticated and influential if you just keep other people’s interest in mind along the way. “How do you deserve a fortune? Render fortunes of service” says Jim.
The other idea comes from Jay Abraham, one of the best business consultants in the world: “Anytime you interact with anybody for any amount of time, your opportunity, responsibility and obligation is to make their life better off because you are in it”.
Jay’s ideas are always great and his book Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got is a must-read for any person working in business. His belief system is based on the “strategy of preeminence” which is all about becoming the most trusted advisor and a trusted source of information for your clients.
Another thing is that providing good service is a lot of fun. In the words of Tagore:
“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy”.
There’s nothing like satisfaction from a job well done. The key is to avoid doing your job solely for the money. Helping others should come first, and the money is a by-product of that. If you adopt this philosophy, not only you will end up with more money, but the whole process of work will become a source of joy.
As an introvert, you should find a unique and valuable way of providing service to others. It doesn’t have to be hands-on, in-the-trenches kind of work. You can mostly sit at home, and with the help of modern technology, you still can shape the world around you.
You won’t believe how even the smallest acts of service can go a long way. For example, Jacqueline Novogratz the author of The Blue Sweater decided to donate her outworn sweater to Goodwill. Eleven years later, on her trip to Africa, she saw a small boy wearing that same goddamn sweater – name tag still intact.
If you’re intentional about it, you can change people’s lives for the better – no matter what you do. Among other things, I currently teach English, and while it’s challenging, I take great pleasure in it, knowing that I’m a positive influence on my students.
Creative expression is important and it can be as simple as sharing nice things through social media, doing charity work, or cooking something special for your friends and family. Try it sometimes, you’ll feel better.
10. Get in touch with the world
In general, introverts tend to inhabit their inner worlds. The outside world isn’t just that interesting. Or is it?
In my opinion, missing out on your surroundings means neglecting one of the most important parts of life. Rushing through the day without a chance to enjoy the moment? That’s a shame. What can you do about it?
Start practicing meditation. Even ten to twenty minutes a day is enough to get you in the right frame of mind. I’ve been practicing meditation for about seven years and it improved my life in all kinds of ways. The main benefit is that instead of being lost in thought all the time, you can actually stop for a moment and relish the present moment.
You can actually witness your thoughts arising in consciousness and look at them objectively (which also helps a lot with emotional life). You can look at the world without judgement; free from the past and the future. It’s a beautiful feeling. If you’re interested in starting out your meditative practice I recommend reading Mindfulness in Plain English by Henepola Gunaratana.
11. Stop rushing
Recently I’ve listened to Tim Ferriss interviewing Derek Silvers (the creator of CD Baby) on The Tim Ferriss Show which I highly recommend. Derek used to cycle along the beach like a mad-man and it always took him around forty-three minutes to complete his route.
One day, however, he decided to take it easy, and notice the flora and fauna along the way. To his amazement, at the end of the route his watch showed only forty-five minutes. The lesson is that you may do without usual huffing and puffing, till enjoy your life and get a lot of things done.
If you look at the people moving through the subway, you’ll notice that they’re in trance: lost in thought all the time, listening to music, constantly looking at their phones.
Recently, while in the rush-mode in Puerta del Sol, the main subway station of Madrid I decided to stop for a moment and just look at what was going on. It was like being switched off from Matrix. I’ve found that by slowing down, and taking my earphones off, I was able to notice the world in a whole different way.
12. Just look!
The other thing that made me slow down a bit was a great book called On Looking: Eleven Walks With Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz. After taking eleven walks along NYC, accompanied by experts in different fields, the author starts to reveal the little known facts about urban life.
What kinds of animals dwell in the city? What are the smells, and the noises? What about the signs, and fonts used in advertising? After reading this book you’ll never see your city in the same way. It’s really possible to find something fascinating around the corner – if you look for it.
13. Write things down and create lists
Once, they sent a young, introverted lady to a desert island. Just before they did, they allowed her to create a short must-have-desert-island-item-list. She started enumerating her favorite books, classical music albums, some green tea, a little banjo, and her beloved cat – Mr. Rogers. But after a few days on the island she realized that actually, the only thing required for survival (except for food) was simply her notebook and a pen.
Without the tools for written communication, she would expire within hours. I think there’s even a Bible phrase about that: “Where there’s no pen and paper, introverts perish”.
Now seriously, writing things down is the essential endeavor of the introverted mind. It helps you to take things out of your head and look at them objectively. Sometimes there’s something bothering you, but you can’t quite put your finger on it.
Write it down and almost immediately, your problems and worries will lose their influence on you. Sometimes just seeing your problem in the written form gives you the right solution.
There are a couple of techniques which you can use to make the most of your writing time:
The to-do list. The thing that works for me is taking a piece of paper, looking at my goals, and writing down a simple plan for the day. It’s best to do it the evening before so you can relax and go to sleep knowing that you’re ready for what’s coming. If you ever searched for an effective anxiety annihilator, this is it. The list really makes you feel more organized and in control of your life.
The morning pages. (This idea comes from The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron) After waking up, you may want to sit down and take as little as five minutes to quickly write down anything that bothers you, anything that you want to get done the following day, or the things that you’re grateful for. Try it and see how it’ll set you up for the day.
The list. The list. We tend to get stuck with our thinking patterns. Sometimes it feels like it’s hard to change anything in life because „that’s just the way it is”. But there’s an excellent method which you can use to get unstuck and start to think creatively once more (besides smoking cannabis).
Just write down a simple question, and be determined to give it twenty answers. The question may be: “How can I improve my life right now?” or “What would I really like to do with my life?” or “How can I make this coming month the best of my life?” or “What can I accomplish this year?”
Just stay with it until you have the twenty answers, and you’ll be astonished by the results. It really makes you dream big dreams once more.
The meaningful message. Introverts are known for keeping things to themselves and not being very open in oral communication. I’ve found that sometimes the best way to solve that issue is to craft and send a message where you really say it well. If you’re in a relationship, you can use this to improve communication between you and your partner.
The journal. Journals are extremely useful for an introvert (or for any human being for that matter). There is something about writing in longhand that you won’t get from pounding your meat sticks on the keyboard.
I’ve never found a satisfactory scientific answer to why it’s the case, but it’s probably because you simply pay more attention to the things that you write about. Your mind is more engaged because you can’t erase the ink with a backspace button. Schopenhauer got it right when he wrote:
“A man who writes carelessly at once proves that he himself puts no great value on his own thoughts. For it is only by being convinced of the truth and importance of our thoughts that there arises in us the inspiration necessary for the inexhaustible patience to discover the clearest, finest, and most powerful expression for them; just as one puts holy relics or priceless works of art in silvern or golden receptacles. It was for this reason that the old writers — whose thoughts, expressed in their own words, have lasted for thousands of years and hence bear the honored title of classics — wrote with universal care”.
You needn’t write classics to get the full benefit from your journal. I’ve found that going to a café, listening to relaxing music, and just writing about important things in your life for about 30 minutes is quite enough to clear your mind.
14. Meet the right people in the right places
For an introvert, not meeting a single person in the course of the weekend is one of the best recipes for success. Sometimes, Saturday and Sunday are the only days left to finally chill out, switch off the phone, cozy up with that novel, binge-watch twenty episodes of the show, cuddle with our loved ones or head out for a long walk in the bosom of nature.
There are times, however, when even the most solitary of introverts have to leave their lairs in search of fresh blood. Unfortunately, the hunt rarely brings satisfactory results.
Going to traditional house parties, or worse, to club parties and meeting people there will put you in front of multitudes, but if, like George Carlin, you have an extremely low tolerance level for stupid bullshit, most social gatherings will sadly disappoint you.
Finding one person to talk to at a party is a blessing, and spending the rest of the time with them, a privilege.
For introverts, parties may seem like dark caverns full of bats; you’re surrounded by other creatures, but you feel an unmistakable need to evacuate ASAP. Besides, if you’re not drunk enough, you might feel the need to hide in the washroom, kitchen, balcony, or any place serving as a bulwark against the merry-go-round of the usual party.
There are better places to meet quality people and develop new relationships for introverts. The list includes:
- Sports clubs and activities: your usual gym, but also yoga, spinning, Pilates, dance classes, meditation classes etc.
- Workshops and courses: not only can you learn a new skill, but also meet people interested in the same thing. How about learning a new language, mastering the art of website design, or improving your communication skills?
- Cultural events: concerts, gatherings in cultural centers, exhibitions, theaters, movies, music festivals, film festivals etc.
- Using apps like Meetup.com, Couchsurfing, Peoplehunt, Foursquare, Nearify, Facebook Groups or Meet My Dog. These are all useful tools that you can check out to meet people (especially if you just moved to a new place).
- Conferences of all types.
- Travelling with a group of people you mostly don’t know (this one is excellent).
- Raves, parties in creepy deserted mansions or forests, satanic rituals, drinking Ayahuasca with the shamans of the Amazon, smoking hashish with travelers in Himalayas etc. (go there at your own risk, but you’ll surely meet some interesting people).
Now you have tools for a happy introverted living
I’m quite sure you want to share some of your own thoughts about living and flourishing as an introvert. Please leave a comment below, and subscribe to my blog to get more interesting articles in the future. Below, there’s a list of books you may find helpful on your introverted journey.
Great books specifically related to introverts:
- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
- Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength
- The Introvert Advantage: How Quiet People Can Thrive in an Extrovert World
- The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World
Related books worth reading:
- Mindfulness in Plain English
- Daily Rituals: How Artists Work
- Stray Birds, Gitanjali
- Memories, Dreams, Reflections
- On Looking: A Walker’s Guide To The Art of Observation
- Waking Up: A Guide To Spirituality Without Religion
- On The Move: A Life
- How Proust Can Change Your Life
- Inner Work: Using Dreams and Active Imagination for Personal Growth
- Healing Spaces: The Science of Place and Well-Being