Ink Scribbles

Ink Scribbles

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Experiences, advice, and general ramblings on publishing a novel, working as a Copywriter, and life as an introvert.

Your needs are just as important as everyone else's

IntroversionPosted by Lauren 31 Jan, 2017 12:12:19

It’s not uncommon for sensitive introverts to put other people’s needs before their own. Ordinarily this isn’t an issue–we love being there for our loved ones, and we take great pride in never letting them down, especially when we can help them work through their problems. We feel an incredible sense of satisfaction when we know they feel better after venting to us.

But this can have an unhelpful consequence: we care so much for others that we often forget to look after ourselves. How many times have you felt burned out and emotionally drained after helping friend after friend after friend with their issues? Needing to withdraw into solitude when the demands on our time are too great is the only way we can preserve our sanity and mental health. It shouldn’t have to come to this extreme point. We’re acutely in tune with our inner world, and we are more than aware when the drain on our energy is becoming too great. Yet we persevere, because a loved one needs us. This is especially true for INFJ, INFP, ISFJ, or ISFP personality types, who often find themselves used repeatedly as a sounding board for friends and family.

Being an emotional sponge, especially if your own needs aren’t being met, can be difficult to deal with. You may find yourself becoming used to pushing your own needs aside to look after someone else, or being the one who always compromises in a relationship to keep the other person happy. Or you may be the friend who always referees drama to keep the peace. When this happens, you might start to think that your needs are less important than the needs of others. This is not true. Your needs are just as important as those around you, even if you typically give less priority to addressing them. It can feel like a negative, downward spiral, one you cannot escape from, leaving you with no alternative but to withdraw, exhausted, to a dark corner until you’re ready to resurface again.

To overcome this cycle, you must develop self-compassion, which turns self-judging into something more positive. It can be hard for you to ask for help. I certainly feel like I’m wasting someone’s time when I bring up my own woes, yet I’d never think that of anyone who turned to me for advice or help! I’d never put someone down for messing up a dinner reservation or a project at work, yet I’m unbelievably harsh on myself for the same slip-ups. We’re kind and compassionate to our friends, yet we can be overly critical of ourselves and our perceived failures.

A mistake is what you make of it, and failure is not the end of the world. Seeing “mistakes” for what they are (opportunities), is a good step towards self-compassion. It’s why they say forgiving is more for your benefit than the person who wronged you. Without self-compassion, you cannot forgive, and you’ll hold onto that resentment in your heart until you let it go.

So how do you recharge your emotional resources when you feel burned out and regain vital energy? Here are some tips:

1. Make your mantra “my needs are just as important as other people’s needs.” It’s not wrong or bad to do things for yourself—things that make you happy—and you should never feel guilty for it. I used to beat myself up for “wasting” a day and having a weekend where the most productive thing I did was take a shower. Now, though, I actively encourage others to do things like that.

2. Dedicate “me” time every week. Or even better, every day, but we all know life gets in the way. Even an hour to yourself can do wonders. Do things that refresh you and recharge your precious energy. Take a bubble bath. Really, take one. Treat yourself to the fancy bubbles that smell divine; the ones that were a gift, still in the packaging at the bottom of the bathroom cabinet.

3. Treat yourself. Make hot chocolate. Eat delicious food. Snuggle up with a pet or loved one. Listen to music. Watch an old movie, one that makes you laugh until you cry, preferably one you’ve already seen a hundred times over. Take a nap.

4. Get creative. Write in your journal or take a stab at that novel you’ve always wanted to start. Draw, paint, doodle, knit, or crochet. Take a stroll to a craft fair and buy something for your home—something that lifts your spirits.

Our patience is not infinite, and neither is our energy. You cannot starve yourself and expect your body to function at its peak, and the same is true of your emotional energy. Feed your soul with things that help you. Rest is a big part of it, but things that uplift you and bring you joy should definitely be at the top of the list.

Remember, we’re our own worst critic. We don’t need to make things worse for ourselves, because the world is harsh enough. Take time out when you feel you’re beginning to get stressed. Take a step back and focus on you. Your needs and desires are important. How you feel is important. We should remind ourselves of that from time to time. Whenever you’re feeling low, dedicate an afternoon or an evening to yourself. It’s amazing how strong we sensitive introverts can be, and catering to our needs every once in a while certainly isn’t selfish—it’s absolutely necessary.

Fellow introverts, when was the last time you spent restorative time alone? When was the last time you did something just for yourself? If it was so far back that you can’t remember it, or all you remember is wanting to do something for yourself but pushing it to the side in favor of what someone else wanted to do, then the time to focus on you is now. Put yourself at the top of your priority list, say yes to what you want to do, and recharge your emotional resources. You’ll be amazed at how empowering it can be when you truly look after yourself.

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I thought I was broken until I discovered I'm an introvert

IntroversionPosted by Lauren 11 Nov, 2016 11:22:52

I’ve always struggled to fit in. I daresay most introverts have experienced the feeling of being an “outsider” more than once—particularly during childhood and adolescence.

Most of the people I knew from primary school went to the same high school as me. So when it came time to start high school, I wasn’t particularly apprehensive. I figured I knew people already, plus I’d make some new friends, and things would continue pretty much as they always had. I wouldn’t say I was popular, but I had always felt safe and confident and had a small circle of friends with whom I felt comfortable.

However, that wasn’t the case. Things changed radically in high school. Trying to fit in suddenly revolved around things I couldn’t do, or didn’t know how. Outgoing behaviour was favoured. The small group of friends I had (small is relative–I had two friends) were developing their own strong personalities. They were quite happy to socialize with the loud, rambunctious kids who sat just outside the school building to eat lunch. Some of their new friends taunted me for being quiet and shy, and when I suggested staying inside for lunch, it was met with dismissal.

I couldn’t understand it. It was the first time in my life I really realized how different I was.

When I was made to go outside, I felt more alone than ever in the big, noisy crowd. It was like everyone had taken some class to learn how to “be.” I felt I’d somehow missed that class and was forever trying to catch up. I tried to pretend I knew what I was doing, but I still felt out of place.

The Library Became My Safe Haven

The small seed of doubt that something was wrong with me grew every year that followed. I did not enjoy large classes where everyone messed around–I preferred a quiet learning environment. I did not enjoy lunch breaks–loud canteens full of shouting and screaming, and the outdoor areas weren’t any better either. I would stow away in the library, find a hidden desk between rows of books, and sneak mouthfuls of food in between working or thumbing through the pages of the novel I was currently reading. The sweet relief I felt in my own company, away from loud noises, bright lights, and too much going on, was heavenly. It was 45 minutes where I could rest and recharge, and brace myself for the rest of the afternoon, and my woeful attempts to belong.

It also served a secondary purpose: I was bullied mercilessly throughout high school. But those who would taunt me would never be found in the library, so it became my safe haven for many reasons.

Becoming quieter and keeping myself out of sight was my best tactic. If I was quiet, no one would notice me. If no one noticed me, I wouldn’t be picked on. But it did nothing to enhance my already low self-esteem. It became day after day of “just getting through” in a chaotic world which seemed to favour extroverts and attention-seekers.

The feeling of not fitting in (and not knowing how to fit in) grew as I went to college and then on to university. Students seemed to want nothing more than to drink all day and do no school work. It was a culture I tried, and failed, again, to fit into. Becoming intoxicated in an unfamiliar, cramped, dimly-lit club surrounded by people gyrating all around me was not my idea of fun. It was a living hell.

I stopped drinking. I was labelled as boring, dull, weird. I certainly felt it. After all, everybody else was doing these things and actually enjoying it. For a long time, I thought I was the only person on the planet who didn’t. There had to be something wrong with me.

Other girls would dress in short skirts and low cut tops, and giggle at the attention they received from boys and men. I purposely wore baggy clothes and oversized jumpers. Having someone’s attention on me was the worst thing I could think of–I’d freeze up, the typical deer in headlights. I couldn’t understand why they were going to such lengths to get the attention I feared. They would dance in the spotlight and crave every pair of eyes on them. I’d hide in the shadows and pray I wouldn’t be noticed.

I always knew I was shy and quiet. Every school report stated it. Friends and family told me. It was always seen as something “wrong” and “bad” and “not right.” If only I could “get out of my shell more,” I’d be okay. Yet every time I tried, I felt sick. I was being inauthentic; something I now understand goes against part of my core beliefs. I couldn’t stand falseness. Why was it so important for me to be loud and outgoing if, whenever I tried, I knew I wasn’t being me?

Discovering My Introversion Changed My Life

Post-university, where I’d studied psychology, I began to turn inwards and reflect. I researched more of the things I’d learned while earning my degree, and investigated the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. When I found out I was an introvert, and specifically, an INFJ personality type, it felt like everything clicked into place. I suddenly understood why I felt the way I felt and responded the way I did. But mostly, I realized I was not broken. I was normal. I did fit in, though not in the way I thought I had to.

It was okay to feel what I felt. I did not need to pretend to be something I was not.

I felt liberated. I began to offer myself the same compassion I so freely and willingly gave to those around me. I told myself, repeatedly, it was okay to skip a party or decline an invitation. It was okay to say no to things and not feel I had to behave in a certain way to fit in. It was okay to only do what I wanted to do. That by being true to myself, and being authentic, was by far the best way for me to live. True friends would remain, and I’d make long-lasting connections with people who valued me for me–not what I portrayed or pretended to be.

My advice to you, fellow introverts, is to love yourself and be patient with yourself. It’s so important. We’re all so keen to make sure everyone thinks of us in the best way that we forget to take care of ourselves. Life is not a competition, and your worth should not be measured by traits like talkativeness and how outgoing you are. What about kindness, respect, and compassion? These are the traits I value in myself and in others, so I will continue to champion them.

Fitting in is not the be all and end all of life. Loving yourself and accepting who you are… that’s more important, I think.

~ Lauren

As featured on Introvert, Dear.

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