An introvert’s guide to self-acceptance

When following the spiritual path, the importance of silence cannot be underestimated. Finding periods of silence, meditation and self-reflection are very important in our spiritual journeys and for introverts these are not the most foreign of concepts.

introvert (n.)

a person predominantly concerned with their own thoughts and feelings rather than with external things

There is nothing wrong with self-reflection and exploring our most inner thoughts and feelings. But, generally, as an introvert we are often-times misunderstood. I am sure many introverts can relate to being called the following as a criticism:

Quiet

Shy

Serious

Reserved

Loner

We end up feeling quite alienated and misunderstood.

Generally, there is a cultural bias towards the extroverted personality type. We idealise the boisterous, outgoing persona who is the centre of attention and demands the respect and admiration of his or her peers.

They are popular, famous and have an endless supply of friends and followers. As a society, we are told we need to get out there, do it all, have it all – and an extroverted personality type is often viewed as the best medium to achieve this.

extrovert (n.)

a person concerned more with practical realities than with inner thoughts and feelings.

Many introverts can therefore feel out of place or think that their contributions are less valuable.

I sometimes fall prey to this thinking, but as a mystic, I remember that everyone forms part of the Whole.

We must remember that each and every person has value and has a unique way to contribute to the well-being of humanity.

As introverts, we cannot best serve others or ourselves by shutting off the outside world and cutting all interaction with others no matter how misunderstood we may be.

We must learn to face our environments and the myriad of personalities we come across in our day-to day lives, including those that clash with our own.

I remember reading an old proverb which said something along the lines of:

it is easy to find peace up in the mountains in solitude, the true test begins when you come down from the mountain and enter the village.

I believe this is one of the many challenges we face as modern-day mystics – that is applying the principles we learn in the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

As an introvert, I found the four steps below key in giving myself permission to be my true self and serving others in my own unique way:

  1. Recognise that you are an introvert

Being an introvert isn’t some form of deficiency or a personality disorder. The renowned Myer Briggs Test Indicator (MBTI) classifies personalities into 16 categories – 8 extroverted types and 8 introverted types which are all perfectly acceptable and unique in their own ways.

Reading about my own MBTI personality type really opened my eyes and made me understand it was OK to be my true authentic self –  it is OK to be an introvert.

I spent many years feeling uncomfortable and questioning why I couldn’t just be extroverted. I waited for the day when I would just magically transform into this magnetic social butterfly who thrived off of the attention of others.  I was tired of being called shy or quiet and reserved as if they were the worst things to be. Being an introvert just seemed like a phase I couldn’t grow out of and which was based on my own shortcomings and inability to spread my wings and flourish.

But the older I got, the more I realised I wasn’t in a ‘phase’. I realised I was always being myself and that there were many others like me who were introverted but were putting on an extroverted mask to fit in.

Whilst we must all be extroverted to a certain extent (i.e. social interactions, public speaking meeting new people etc.) it is such a relief to know your core personality is OK and you don’t have to constantly change yourself into something you are not.

  1. Understand your strengths….

There are many strengths associated with being an introvert. To list a few, introverts are generally:

  • good listeners
  • observant
  • have good memories
  • stay calm under pressure
  • play important support roles behind the scenes
  • have a rich inner world and imagination which means they are often great writers or artists
  • make good and loyal friends

Realise you have many strengths even if they aren’t valued as much by society. All these characteristics are really valuable and you can use these to help others and make a difference to someone. Remember we all have gifts – introverts included.

  1. and work on your weaknesses…

Yes, none of us are perfect…and that also includes introverts.  Although there are many misconceptions about introverts, it does not mean that there are not any areas where we could genuinely improve on.

Life is full of experiences and opportunities that will force us to go outside of our comfort zone. Nobody is immune to that. There will be times when we will need to engage in public speaking, go into a room full of people we don’t know or engage in small talk at an event or party when we would much rather be at home.

We as introverts may find experiences like this particularly draining but there will be times when we need to go beyond what is safe to truly grow and expand as a person.

It is important to discern these opportunities and not get stuck in a rut. Life is active and not passive, and there will be times in our journey when we do need show up, not only for ourselves but for the people in our lives as well.

There is absolutely no reason why an introvert should miss out on this.

  1. Preserve your energy

Realise you can only be the best version of yourself if you take time to ‘re-charge’. For introverts, quiet time and alone time are essential. Whilst there will be times where you must go outside of your comfort zone, do not neglect taking the time afterwards to re-charge and engage in activities you truly enjoy.

Reward yourself with a big night in, peaceful time alone to read a good book, catch up on your favourite show or enjoy a nice stroll in nature or around a museum.

Do not feel bad for taking the time to do so.

Whilst your interests may not be as ‘exciting’ as someone else’s, they should never be neglected if they give you the time to relax and switch off.  You can’t show up for yourself or for others if you feel drained, uncomfortable and anxious.
Self-care is vital in keeping the balance.

Ultimately life is a journey of self-discovery. We must learn to accept who we are, so that we can understand our strengths and weaknesses in order to truly evolve as a person and make meaningful contributions to the world.  Understanding myself as an introvert has been liberating in terms of not comparing myself to others, or trying to mould myself into the person I think I should be.

Self-doubt is a major hindrance in the spiritual journey and self-knowledge is truly a powerful tool. Instead of criticising ourselves lets us take the time to understand ourselves and realise how valuable we are.

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