Health and Wellness, Self-improvement

Owning and Embracing Your Introverted Self

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My name is Amber, and I am an introvert. 

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not asocial or a recluse. I need human connection just like anyone else; I just don’t need as much of it as some people do.

I love and cherish my partner, friends, and family — and they’re easy to spend time around because I know them so well. But nine times out of ten, I would rather stay at home and do my own thing than go to a social gathering with a bunch of people I don’t know as well.

I have to admit I’m not really much for parties, concerts, or other noisy events with big crowds. I’ll go to one every now and then and enjoy myself for a bit, but as soon as I leave, I pretty much need to go home and retreat into my cave for a while before I can face the world again.

I’m not into a lot of the things that other people my age are into. I’d rather read, play music, or do art than have a rowdy night out on the town. I am so not a night owl, it’s not even funny. I am neither trendy nor hip, and the vast majority of pop culture references go right over my head.

And I’m completely okay with it.

I didn’t always love this part of myself, though. I grew up in a culture that rewards, encourages, and praises extroversion. Being loud and outgoing is valued over being quiet and reserved. Extroverts tend to dominate the social scene and the cultural conversation because, well, they talk more than we do. Our voices aren’t always heard over the commotion, even though we have plenty to say.

But in our silence lies our strength. There’s so much more to us introverts than meets the eye. I feel strongly that it’s time for us to stop seeing our introverted nature as a weakness and start owning and celebrating all of who we are. Being an introvert isn’t anything to hide or be ashamed of; it’s a gift.

Living in an Extroverted World

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The truth of the matter is that we live in a world that strongly caters to extroverted personality types. As a result, we’re often misunderstood by people who don’t share our tendencies. Author Susan Cain talks about the “extrovert ideal” that Western culture idolizes. In an interview with The Guardian, she says: 

“Western society is based on Greco-Roman ideals of the person that can speak well, a rhetorical ideal. We have always been to some extent a society that favors action over contemplation.”

How many of us can relate to this? We’re taught growing up that we need to be gregarious, confident, and “alpha” in order to succeed in life — all stereotypically extroverted traits.

But what if we’re not all of those things? Are we destined for a life of stunted growth and missed potential? Are we doomed to be overlooked and underestimated time and time again simply because we don’t always attract as much attention as the extroverts in our midst?

Hell no, we aren’t. 

We’re not broken, even if we learn to believe that we are from growing up in a society that holds up extroversion as the “ideal” personality. What is broken and deeply wrong is the societal messaging that tells us we’re not okay the way we are.

There’s nothing at all wrong with being outgoing and energetic — if that’s your natural orientation. But feeling constantly pressured and forced to act this way when it’s not who we truly are can make us feel ashamed of ourselves. It sends the message that there’s something wrong with us — even though nothing could be further from the truth.

If you identify as an introvert, I highly suggest you read Susan’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. It’s full of research and deeply comforting wisdom about the unique gifts that introverts bring to the world. 

How Do You Know If You’re an Introvert?

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There are a lot of misconceptions out there about what it means to be an introvert. Many people confuse introversion with shyness, but they’re not exactly the same thing. Although introverts can be shy, not all of us are. Moreover, not all shy people are introverts.

What’s the difference, then? Shyness is a mild form of social anxiety where you feel timid around others and worry about what they might think of you. Shy people don’t necessarily enjoy being alone; they just have a lot of fears around social interactions.

Being introverted does not mean you’re afraid of social situations; it means you draw more energy from being alone than you do from being around people. We introverts can enjoy socializing on our terms — I definitely do — but too much interaction drains our energy, and we have to spend time alone to “recharge”. We usually need and want a lower level of stimulation than our extroverted peers.

Also, introversion and extroversion exist on a spectrum. Most of us don’t neatly fall into one or the other category; instead, we have a mix of introverted and extroverted qualities, but usually lean one way or the other (except for ambiverts, who fall right in the middle).

If you’re not sure whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, you could take a personality test like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (there’s a free version online). Or, take a look at the following list of statements and ask yourself how many you identify with:

  • I truly enjoy my own company.
  • I can think more clearly when I’m by myself.
  • I am very aware of myself, my feelings, and my motivations.
  • Social situations usually leave me feeling drained.
  • I am easily overstimulated by big crowds, lots of noise, and commotion. 
  • Some people have said I am quiet.
  • I have a small but close-knit circle of friends.
  • I tend to think and consider my options before acting.
  • I value my independence and solitude.
  • I’m good at listening and offering advice to others.
  • I have little patience for small talk and casual conversation.
  • I am very observant of the world around me and notice things other people don’t.

Sound familiar? The more of these statements you can relate to, the more likely you are to be an introvert. And if that’s the case — welcome to the club, my friend. You’re in good company here.

The Gifts of Introversion

As introverts, we may be quieter and less “out there” than our extroverted peers. We may never be the life of the party, but our personality type brings a lot of unique gifts to this world. Here are just a few of them.

Creativity

Many introverts are unconventional thinkers with vivid imaginations. A lot of us enjoy thinking outside the box and finding new ways of looking at things. We are deeply connected with our inner selves and often long to express ourselves through creative outlets.

We may very well be artists, although not all of us are. Those of us who are artistically inclined might enjoy activities like drawing, painting, writing, or playing music.

Introspection

If you break down the word “introvert” into its Latin root words intro and vertere, the meaning is “to turn inwards”. Instead of turning outwards towards the world of people and things, introverts turn within. We spend a lot of time in a rich inner world that enables us to explore who we are, what we care about, and where we find meaning in life.

When we take it too far, we can become a bit detached from reality, living too much inside our own heads. But we have a strong capacity to self-reflect, and we make decisions with an awareness of ourselves and our values.

Compassion

Introverts’ self-awareness and sensitivity can provide us with keen insights into how people work. Often, we are empaths who soak up the emotional energy of people around us — which can be part of why it’s exhausting to spend too much time around others. We need to spend time alone to get back in touch with ourselves.

And yet, these same qualities give us the ability to understand and relate to others on a deep level. So when we do extend ourselves and invest in relationships with others, we have a strong ability to love and care for those people.

Thoughtfulness

Although some of us can be impulsive at times (like me!), introverts are usually known for thinking before they act. We tend to be contemplative and think about issues from multiple different angles. We often have a strong sense of right and wrong and well-thought-out philosophies on life that we love to discuss with others. 

Perceptiveness

We may not always share everything we observe, but we introverts take in a lot of information from our surroundings. We notice beauty in our surroundings and small details that other people might overlook. We’re usually observing rather than joining the fray, so we see patterns and dynamics between people that may be subtle. 

Finding Happiness as an Introvert

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In my opinion, the most essential part of living happily as an introvert is to accept that we are introverted. Being introverted (or extroverted) is an orientation towards the world, and it usually doesn’t change much over the course of a person’s life. We need extroverts in the world, for sure, but introverts bring balance to society and provide a different outlook on life. We are the yin to their yang.

So we have to find ways to trust ourselves. We must learn to believe that we are valuable, that we are okay, that we matter and that there’s a place for us in this world. Sometimes, we have to un-learn the societal messaging that we learned growing up. It can take time. But can we do it? Absolutely.

With greater knowledge of what it means to be an introvert, and awareness of the blessings that come with our personality type, we can feel more confident in ourselves. We can identify any negative or limiting beliefs we might have about introversion and start to question them. And most importantly, we can learn to embrace our many strengths and celebrate all of who we are.


How about you? Are you a proud introvert? I’d love to hear about your journey, wherever you’re at, in the comments below.

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Have you ever felt self-conscious about being an introvert? Learn about the many upsides of your personality and why they're worth celebrating. #self-improvement #self-care #health #wellness #personality #introversion #quiet
Health and Wellness, Self-Care

8 Self-Care Tips for the Fall Season

Feeling a little off-balance? Learn some of my favorite self-care tips for keeping yourself healthy and well in the fall. #fall #health tips #meditation #mindfulness #selfcare
Photo by Amber Carlson

Fall is the season of deepening shadows; of longer nights and ever-shorter days. The trees turn brilliant shades of yellow, orange, red and purple as they shed their leaves and sink their roots deeper into the earth; animals gather food and seek shelter for a long winter sleep. There’s a slowing down of the summer festivities as we unpack our cool-weather clothes and shift into a quieter, more introspective season.

This time of year makes me want to cozy up with a mug of hot tea and spend whole mornings writing, sketching, or dreaming. I can just as easily spend afternoons cooking green chile or spiced apple cider while my house fills with delightful aromas. Fall seems to bring out my creativity, and yet the mood is bittersweet as the daylight begins to fade and the nights grow colder, reminding me that winter is on its way.

As a gardener, I feel a little melancholy around this time of year because fall brings the end of the growing season. My beautiful plants that thrived and bore fruit during the spring and summer months are starting to die back. In a few weeks it’ll be time to clear out the garden beds and get them ready for winter. The summer went by too fast, as it always does. And yet, I understand: the earth needs its time of rest. Things have to die and go back to the soil so that new life can come back next year.

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And just as the earth needs time to regenerate, so, too, do we need periods of quiet and stillness for rest and contemplation. Fall provides us the perfect opportunity to slow down, to take stock of our lives, and to give thanks for all that we have. Because it’s a season of change and transition, fall can also leave us feeling a little anxious and unsettled, and our bodies can become more vulnerable to illness as the weather turns cold.

I’m always an advocate of self-care no matter what time of year it is, but as the fall arrives it seems especially helpful and important for us to nourish ourselves in various ways — at least, it does for me. So in case your body, mind or soul is also feeling in need of a little TLC, here are eight of my favorite self-care tips for the fall season.

1. Cultivate gratitude for your life.

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If you don’t already have a gratitude practice of some sort, now is a great time to begin one. As the summer activities wind down, it might be easier to find a little more space in our days for quietly reflecting on everything we have to be thankful for. According to Psychology Today, practicing gratitude on a regular basis improves our physical and mental health, makes us more empathic, and increases our self-esteem. 

And the more often you take the time to be thankful, the more you’ll find you have to be thankful for. You may start noticing smaller, more subtle things that you’ve previously taken for granted as you shift towards a more positive mentality. Cultivating a sense of gratitude will open your eyes to the beauty that is already around you.

Having a gratitude practice doesn’t have to take a lot of time or energy. It can be as simple as spending five minutes before you get out of bed in the morning. If you like, you can keep a specific journal for writing lists each day of what and whom you feel grateful for. I like to give thanks before each meal because I feel lucky to have food on my table (not to mention a wonderful partner to share it with).

Another idea? Every time something positive happens in your day, write it on a slip of paper and drop it into a jar. Keep filling this jar with beautiful moments, uplifting experiences, and even inspiring words people have said. On days when you aren’t feeling so great and need a boost, you can open the jar and read these stories of sunny moments to lift your spirits and remind you of how wonderful life can be.

2. Ground yourself through meditation.

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I wrote a previous post about how beneficial meditation can be, and how little time it truly takes to have a regular meditation practice. The changing weather of fall can leave us feeling a little extra stirred-up, so I like to focus on re-grounding at this time of year. I find it helps me stay focused and centered.

There are tons of ways to do a grounding meditation, but one of the best ways involves (literally) sitting on the ground. Go outside on a nice day and sit underneath a favorite tree, perhaps with your back against the trunk. Once you’re comfortable, close your eyes and drop your attention inward. 

Take time first to notice your breath and the way your body feels, and then sense the earth beneath you. Visualize sending roots from your sit bones down into the soil, going deeper and deeper with each breath. Each time you inhale, imagine drawing nourishment from the earth into your body. Stay here for several more minutes, mindfully breathing and deepening your roots as far into the earth as you can imagine.

3. Keep a journal.

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Because fall can provide more space for stillness and reflection, it’s also an excellent time for personal journaling. I’ve been keeping a journal in some form since I was 10 years old, and I can’t imagine giving it up. For so many years now, it’s been my private space for thinking, feeling, reflecting, processing, dreaming, and making meaning of all that has happened in my life. It’s allowed me to explore my mind, heart and soul at a level of depth that I wouldn’t have been able to reach otherwise. It’s helped me develop my awareness of who I am and what’s important to me.

There’s no “right” way to keep a journal. Some people use theirs for documenting what happens in their day-to-day lives, and others write more sporadically. I don’t write in my journal anywhere near every day. Usually I only feel moved to journal when something important is happening in my life and I need to sort through my thoughts and feelings about it. But every person is different, and your journal can be whatever it needs to be to support you in your journey. No matter what your personal practice looks like, journaling can be profoundly healing, impactful, and illuminating.

And one of the best parts? If you keep journaling over the years, you’ll start to accumulate collections of old journals that you can read through for years to come. You’ll be able to trace the changes that happen in your life over time and the ways you evolve as a person because of it. If you’re feeling nostalgic, you can take long walks down memory lane and spend hours reminiscing about bygone days. Sometimes, reading through old journals can even provide fresh insights about life or remind you of long-forgotten dreams. These letters from your previous self are a gift unlike any other.

4. Go for a walk in nature.

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Another way to re-center yourself is to take walks outside. Being outdoors boosts your energy, reduces stress, and improves sleep, and if you live in a temperate area, you won’t want to miss the magical fall colors! They usually only last for a few weeks, so make sure to get outside and enjoy them while you can.

Leave your phone at home (or put it in airplane mode) and treat yourself to a mindful stroll through a park, open space, or along a hiking trail, savoring the sights and sounds you encounter along the way. You may want to bring a camera so you can take pictures of anything and everything that inspires you. Go as slowly as you want — you can even turn it into a walking meditation, only taking a single footstep each time you breathe. You’ll be amazed at how much more you notice and take in when you slow down the pace.

5. Take a hot bath.

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Nothing is more luxurious and soothing than a hot bath. The heat calms your mind and relaxes your muscles, and you can add other elements such as bubbles, a book, or a cup of tea for a truly indulgent experience.

Set aside 30 minutes when you won’t be interrupted, then draw a bath with water as hot as you can comfortably handle. Add scented oils, a bundle of herbs, a bath bomb, or whatever accoutrements you’d like to the water. Pour yourself something to drink, light a candle, put on some music, and let yourself soak for up to 15-20 minutes. (Just make sure to drink some water afterwards since the heat can be dehydrating.)

6. Give yourself a massage.

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Doing a little self-massage can be a lovely practice, especially just before bed or immediately after a shower or bath. Massage is famous for its stress-reducing, pain-relieving benefits, but it also increases feelings of connection and well-being. And in the fall, giving yourself (or your partner) a little love can leave you feeling comforted and nourished.

For extra grounding effects, focus on the feet and lower legs. You can use a scented massage lotion or oil, if you have one, or you can just grab an oil you already have at home (such as sunflower, olive, or coconut oil). Apply a small amount of oil or lotion to your hands, then use your thumbs and fingers to massage the soles of the feet, toes, ankles, calves, and muscles of the shins. Cover feet with warm socks when you’re done to help them soak in the moisture.

7. Sip on hot tea.

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Although I’ve become a coffee convert recently, I’ve always been a tea lover at heart. “Real” teas, made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, come in varieties such as white, green, black, oolong, and pu-erh (all coming from different ways of oxidizing and preparing the tea leaves), but if you prefer a caffeine-free variety, there are all kinds of herbal teas that are lovely for sipping on chilly days.

Teas with chamomile or lavender have relaxing effects, while peppermint or ginger brews can help with digestion. Herbal teas such as nettle, raspberry or blackberry leaf are full of nutrients and have a pleasant, earthy taste. Hibiscus or fruit blends have a delicious sweet-tart flavor that will leave you craving more. For a quiet afternoon indoors, try brewing a whole pot of tea and slowly enjoying it cup by cup.

8. Cook with warming spices.

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When fall arrives and the weather starts to cool down, I like to start eating more warming, spicy foods. Southwestern pork green chile is always a favorite of mine, but soups, stews, and spiced meats with roasted vegetables are other fall-time options.The foods don’t have to be spicy, necessarily (although I like a little heat), but spices like chile peppers, garlic, ginger, cardamom and cinnamon will heat you up and may even have some immune-boosting benefits.


What are your thoughts on these ideas? Do you have any favorite ways to take care of yourself in the fall? Please share in the comments below.