Every introvert has that moment when they realize they don’t quite fit in within the space they occupy. Perhaps it’s a teacher making a concerned comment about how they spend too much time alone on the playground or a parent worrying that they don’t enjoy socializing as much as their siblings. At that moment, we introverts go from blissfully enjoying our inner worlds to becoming acutely aware that we’re different — and that’s usually not a good thing.
Personally, I’ve often felt like I don’t fit in at school, work, and even around friends and family. Social situations are exhausting, and the older I get, the less energy I have to pretend otherwise. I can put on the extrovert mask as easily as any other introvert, but wearing the mask is much more draining than just being myself. For an introvert, there is no greater feeling than being accepted for who we are.
However, for many of us, those moments of acceptance seem few and far between. So we keep wearing the mask and pretending it’s not so bad. Meanwhile, we’re trying to operate at 100 percent when our batteries are struggling to stay above 10 percent.
The world is slowly beginning to understand and accept introversion, but we’re not fully there yet. If you feel like you don’t fit in and are constantly drained from trying, know that you aren’t alone. Here are some words of encouragement for introverts who are searching for somewhere to belong.
No, there’s nothing wrong with you.
The world continually reminds introverts about all the things that are wrong with them. We need to socialize and speak up more in meetings. We should “act like an extrovert” if we want to be successful. Society makes us feel like our personality is a disease in need of a cure.
I spent most of my teenage years and early 20s searching for what was wrong with me. In college, I was sure that my struggle to keep up with my extroverted friends who wanted to party five nights in a row meant that I had a problem. Discovering that I’m an introvert — and that it’s a personality preference, not a mental illness — changed everything.
Despite being aware of my introversion, I still doubt myself. I beat myself up for not speaking up enough in a meeting at work. The voice in my head will pop up to say, “See? I told you — you’re not good enough.”
However, when we allow ourselves to live in that headspace, we limit ourselves from living to our full potential. When I silence the negative voices and focus on my strengths, I thrive. I do this by giving myself positive pep talks before a big meeting or event that will push me out of my comfort zone. I also take time to slip away and be alone when I start to feel overwhelmed.
If the negative voices appear, I keep them at bay by focusing on deep breathing or other mindfulness practices. I understand how easy it is to slip into negative self-talk as an introvert, but it’s important to recognize your value.
You are an introvert, and that is okay. Go out and conquer the world, my quiet friends. You’ve got this.
Your tribe exists. You just have to find them.
As a young introvert, I remember thinking that no one understood me. I had good friends and a supportive family. But these people didn’t really “get” me. They had an idea of who I was based on the role I played. This character was largely based on who I thought people wanted me to be.
When I discovered I am an introvert, I sought to connect with like-minded introverts in a space where I knew I’d be most likely find them — the internet. It’s not rare nowadays for introverts (and extroverts, too) to have “internet friends.” Through social media, I’ve connected with dozens of individuals who share similar experiences and whose dreams and desires run parallel with my own. I’ve connected with writers, business owners, artists, and counselors, all who share my quiet temperament. This tribe of people has encouraged me during the challenging times and celebrated with me during the wonderful times.
The best part is that I know I don’t have to pretend around them. I’m accepted the way I am.
If you’re still looking for your tribe, know that they are out there. Maybe you will find your people in an unconventional way, like through a Facebook group or on Twitter. Perhaps they are at a book club or a church group. You’ll never know where your tribe lives until you start looking for them.
How do you know when you’ve found your tribe? Much like with romantic relationships, it’s often a “when you know, you know” type of feeling. Ultimately, you feel free to be yourself and you feel heard and accepted for who you are. While your quiet personality may be viewed as a flaw by many others, your tribe embraces it as a wonderful part of what makes you who you are.
Don’t be discouraged if you try out a few groups that aren’t a good fit. Finding your tribe is a lot like dating or choosing a major in college. Don’t settle for just “okay” when something better is out there.
Sometimes, we belong right where we are.
Buddha said, “What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: our life is the creation of our mind.”
External factors, such as relationships and work satisfaction, play an essential role in our happiness. Every person on earth (yes, even introverts) needs a sense of belonging to be satisfied in life.
However, there is a reason so many self-help gurus preach that “happiness comes from within.” Our internal beliefs play a huge role in how we feel about ourselves and our lives.
As introverts, we spend a lot of time in our inner worlds. Because of this, many of us are incredibly self-aware. We may say little, but our imagination know no bounds. However, amid the beauty of our inner worlds exist limiting beliefs that can hold us back.
Each time we tell ourselves who we can’t be or what we can’t do, we are shaping our reality. A true sense of belonging doesn’t merely come from being accepted by others, but by accepting ourselves as we are.
If you imagine your best self in 10, 20, or 30 years in the future, who is that person? What does he or she look, act, and feel like? Use this vision to set your present beliefs about yourself. Deep inside, you know what you are capable of achieving. You just have to start believing it.
My hope for you and for every other introvert — including myself — in this new year is that you find your sense of belonging, whether that means finding your tribe or finding peace within yourself.
Most important, I hope that you know that right now in this moment and in every moment, even when it doesn’t feel like it, you belong.