Refining Life, on Purpose

Okay You’re an Introvert, So What!?!?!?

Even the introverted can thrive in the extroverted world

I have to warn you, this post might make you mad – especially if you are an introvert. It may even hurt your feelings and I realize I risk losing some readers. But it’s a message you really need to hear.

Listen, I get it. We introverts view the world with a filter that is much different from those used by our extroverted brethren. That’s probably because we have a tendency to over-analyze. We’re less prone to be described as one who’s able to “live in the moment” or seek out the spotlight because we are sensitive and personal. In fact, we’re probably overly sensitive and it is that hypersensitivity that can all too-often be the fatal flaw of our characters.

Because of that self-perceived flaw, our introversion becomes our crutch, our excuse and our obsession! I’ve said it and I bet you have too.

“Yeah, but I am an introvert.”

I’ve said it more times than I care to admit. That statement may say something about me, but it should not define, nor should it limit me. Yet, sadly, we introverts are so distressed and obsessive about the shortcomings of our introversion that we allow it to keep us from reaching our potential as we fixate and dwell in our discontent.

Again, I understand and genuinely do empathize with ye Introverts of the world. But I have news for you and I sincerely apologize for the bluntness of my delivery… you need to get over it.

Even the introverted can thrive in the extroverted world

Even the introverted can thrive in the extroverted world. Photo Credit: Kian McKellar via Compfight cc

I have spent the majority of my life telling myself I can’t do such and such because of my introverted nature. I have missed out on some awesome moments and experiences because I over think to a point where I talk myself out of things. I’ve filled my head with silly rationale to justify inaction, but the truth is, I was scared.

Of what, who the heck knows? And who cares?

Once I finally got tired of missing out, I discovered the extroverted world is a pretty fun place and the experiences an introvert can have within it don’t have to always manifest themselves into episodes of irritable bowel syndrome or night terrors.

The introvert can navigate and survive extroverted waters

I won’t say I have completely overcome the challenges of my introversion, but I promise you, I am done allowing it to cripple my life and keep me from loving a life I have too-often told myself I can’t have.

Here are some practical affirmations and words of wisdom that have helped me:

1.) Your inner self is an inner strength. Culture is so often slanted to favor the extroverted personality. Trust me, I’ve been there. Hanging out at gatherings, weddings, reunions, etc. where I am constantly spinning a narrative in my head that it’s not my scene or I just don’t belong. At the very best, I tell myself these events are stupid and I shouldn’t be wasting my time at them.

Meanwhile, I’m working the room with my eyes and mind and having a wild conversation with myself. It doesn’t take long to spot opportunities for me to be myself. Of course, I am not venturing out onto the dance floor, nor am I going to join in the conversation with that group of complete strangers. But I might notice someone sitting alone at a table or a moment where I can connect with a couple of people on the periphery. Sure, I am not in the spotlight – but that’s the last place I want to be anyway.

2.) Being someone else often erases your true self. We human beings are complex creatures. But we can be very simple too. It’s okay to look to others for inspiration and even to mimic some of their successful strategies and tactics into our own life missions. But when we begin to behave and act in ways that are counter to who we are and what we stand for, we have literally forced ourselves to be someone other than who God created us to be. That’s a very dangerous walk. Hiding your true self in a locked fault and living counter to your natural inclination deprives the world of your brilliance and you of your true happiness. In a lot of ways, it can be an act of disobedience toward God.

3.) Identify what excites and drives you. We all have things we like to talk about, things we like to do, and ways we like to be. What is it that naturally puts a smile on your face and makes you feel relevant? There should be no shame in wanting to feel relevant! (hey… let’s tweet that).

You are God’s child, so don’t believe you or your life are inconsequential. I started to really become aware of this point while doing book signings for Baseball in Fort Wayne. The book being local and historical in nature and having stories and photographs within it fostered some amazing conversations with buyers. I met with sons and daughters who were buying for moms and dads featured in the book. I met brothers and sisters who were buying for siblings. There were former players who had lost their entire baseball collections and hadn’t seen pictures of their glory days in ages.

I and the book I had produced provided opportunities to build bridges between generations, to help people relive cherished memories, and so much more. For me, baseball, history, and writing are among those passions that drive me. But I got the most energetic highs from bringing smiles to the faces of those folks as we talked about their moms, dads, brothers, sisters and personal experiences. I helped them connect dots and helped to bring genuine joy into their lives on that day and hopefully for years to come.

Making a positive difference in the lives of others.
That drives me and everything I do.

4.) Identify what deflates and drains you. Just as important as knowing what brings you energy is knowing what drains you of energy. By identifying those things, we can begin to control our exposure to them or do what it is we need to do to prepare for them when we have to do them. For instance, when I am in situations of public speaking and/or representing a business endeavor at a trade show, I have to mentally prepare. While I am in those moments, I have a mindset that I am there to “perform” and I know I  will be absolutely wiped out when it is all said and done.

It’s best if I can get some “me” time during those post-performance moments. A time where I can be alone so I can get in my head and set everything straight, identify the lessons I can take from that time and generally re-balance my psyche. On the flip side, our Extroverted counterparts would draw energy from those situations and be drained from the downtime that comes afterward. Neither is right or wrong. It’s just the way we are wired and a matter of how our minds align us with our world.

5.) Find the pattern of purpose in your life. I bet, throughout your life, there is something that you always did where you found joy in doing it. Where it wasn’t work, but a passion. Something you are always gravitating toward as a means of retreat. For me, that thing was and is writing. Even after I published my first book, I was hesitant to call myself a writer. But looking back on my life – whether it was cutting up magazines to compose my own versions, writing my own comic strips, starting a classroom newspaper, journaling or blogging, I found my balance whenever I was writing.

This realization allowed me to grant myself permission to say I am a writer and has affirmed it as my purpose in life based upon the patterns that I observed while looking back on life. For you, it could be music, dance, technology, science, sewing, cooking, farming, or any of an endless list of possibilities. Just ask a couple simple questions.

1.) What do you do that provides you the most joy and energizes you,
2.) How can I incorporate that more intimately into my life?

Pray on those two questions and also consider reading Jeff Goin’s The Art of Work (a fabulous read that will help you do what I just described). Perhaps God will show you the alignment and reveal the purpose for which he created you.

6.) Take a break. There is no rule that says you have to live an “always on” life. There is nothing that says it should be all work and no play. In fact, God displayed the example for us to follow in Genesis 2:3. “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.”

After having spent six days in His creative work, God ceased from His labors. We should do the same. Taking a break from our labors provides opportunity to rest and restore our bodies, relax our minds and perhaps uncover some of the answers to questions that have recently been perplexing us. Rest, in this case, can be in the form of sitting on the couch and catching up on television shows, but it can also be in the form of long walks, vacations, camping trips, etc. Anything to get your mind to “reset” as I call it.

While at work, I often get up and walk around the building before moving onto a different task simply so I can get my mind to shift gears. This is important for me and helps me to have proper focus.  As an introvert, it’s important for me to process information make sure this processes have ended before I start new.

7.) Draw strength from God Your Creator. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you…” This verse from Jeremiah (1:5) is so wonderful to meditate upon. How amazing to realize that God has carefully crafted us, like a potter or a painter who takes the time to carefully plan and develop a cherished masterpiece. As a writer, I like to think of my life as a narrative written directly from His divinely guided hand. To know that he created me for a specific purpose and truly believing that I have identified that purpose and am living it out as he intends strengthens and encourages me. But I remain ever mindful that it is He who provides the wind to my sails and not the other way around. 

About Chad Gramling

Chad Gramling makes his home in Indiana with his wife and three daughters. He's the founder and primary blogger at 1Glories, a vision cast onto his heart and detailed in Listen Up Kids: Foolish Dreams, Syncing with God & Running to Win.

  • Hey Chad,

    Last month, I read an article on the ambivert. Apparently, it’s a new word that is being used to describe an introvert, extrovert, hybrid. I think this category describes me well. I’ve had friends portray me as an extrovert in the past (to which I’d always think, “I sure have them fooled). In other settings, the introvert part of me shines through.

    This post was an excellent reminder not to let that introvert side of me take over–which can be particularly tempting after a long week of connecting with people. I especially like points #6 and #7, which will be my focus this weekend.

    Thanks for the excellent reminder that I shouldn’t use my introvert side, as an excuse for not connecting with others 🙂

  • Interesting perspective Jed, on the ambivert. I used to be the guy who was always “in the middle” when there was an either/or scenario. Made for,some goofy Meyers-briggs outcome. I certaintly won’t suggest that there can be no,such thing as an ambivert, but once I accepted and embraced my introversion instead of running from it or curseing it (blaming all my als on being an introvert),,I have been able to understand my reactions and emotions better than I ever had before. It has also helped me understand when I am mentally in over my head so I can aalter my environment or devise coping strategies that helps me through until I can recharge and move forward. Even better, it has enabled me to initiate and nurture more relationships with others.

  • This is a hard topic for me. One I’ve not paid a lot of attention to but I do recognize when I hear a lot about it. Which recently I’ve seen multiple articles and listened to podcast that exclusively talk about it. It is hard because I guess I don’t understand or see introverted or extroverted as black and white. Every personality test I’ve taken I’m a borderline introvert/extrovert which allows me to adapt to both situations. It’s interesting but it never has challenged me or I see people in his manner. I can identify with much of this but see them as personal challenges and areas of growth more than I see introverts exiled in an extrovert world. I guess because of my ability to navigate both types I just don’t see it.

  • Jed can you share that article I’d like to read it.

  • Absolutely! I couldn’t find the original article that I read, but this one explains it pretty well too: http://www.cnn.com/2015/08/11/health/ambivert-introvert-extrovert-hybrid/

    I’m with you Kirby. I’ve always had a hard time seeing introversion and extroversion as a black-and-white quality. Even the tests can be difficult to take as most questions I want to answer, “It depends.” I’m excited that additional research is being done in this area and hope it leads to new tools for growth.

    Many of the articles are suggesting that ambiverts make good sales people, as they know when to push, and when to hold back. It’s an interesting thought 🙂