How to be an Introvert in an Extroverted World + Career
Oh, being an introvert. While I wouldn't trade it for anything, there's no denying that having this type of personality poses for some unique challenges in a world that is more social and connected than ever before. From balancing your own special set of self-care needs with work obligations, not to mention your social life, it can feel like you're constantly struggling in that perilous 5% zone of your battery. It's been a process to learn how to be an introvert in an extroverted world and industry-- and I still don't have it nailed down yet, but I have found things that have helped me thrive.
My jobs as a trainer/nutrition coach and blogger are completely social. They require me to be fully present + engaged-- not to mention, I am in the middle of launching a company + product, which requires an insane amount of phone calls, meetings, pitches, and being glued to your email. You would think I was an extrovert or something😆
That is a LOT of people time of constantly being "ON," even for someone who isn't an introvert. So for an introvert when she gets home? It's just this:
And I'm not special here-- so many of you kickass and driven readers juggle many different things too, and in industries that can definitely be more advantageous for people who aren't fazed by having to make small talk for three hours at an event, or that are happy as a clam to be chit-chatting all day in the office like a social butterfly.
Then there is that dreaded word for us introverts: NETWORKING.
A common misconception that people have about introverts is that we are allergic to people and social time. That's not true-- we love and crave meaningful social connection. Our aversion to networking is because we feel uncomfortable with and don't particularly enjoy insignificant conversation (aka small talk about nothing) around people we don't know. It can be very draining for us to stay engaged during activities like this, especially considering that it's even draining for us to do social activities we actually love!
Unfortunately there is no getting around the discomfort and exertion that come with certain social activities you have to do for your career, as well as your personal life. But just like with stress, it's more important and useful to learn how to manage it, rather than trying to eliminate or avoid it.
Through a LOT of trial and error, I've figured out a few things that help me manage this ongoing journey to balance while embracing the way I am built. I know a lot of us tend to struggle with this, and I was so overwhelmed by all the wonderful requests from my fellow introverts for this post on Instagram.
I've rounded up my 7 things to do and remember to help you manage being an introvert in an extroverted career and world. I hope these tips and perspective help you!
On career + networking
1. Budget your energy: Anticipate + Plan
I adore so many of these events and work opportunities I have the privilege of attending, and I usually have an absolute ball at them. But after a week of multiple events every morning, afternoon, and evening? There's such an energy crash for me where all I crave is utter silence and solitude for a little while.
I've learned to view my energy as a literal battery or bank account. If I have a big week of work events or meetings ahead of me, I will "save" up by minimizing the social activities I go to for the few days leading up to then. Sure, it might be a bummer to turn down drinks with my friends or a coffee date with a new friend, but I'd rather not put myself out of commission and be a zombie throughout and after my important work events and meetings. I find that I can definitely be quieter and more socially awkward when I'm feeling tapped out even before going to an event, so it's helpful for me to make sure I enter with a full battery/bank account.
Plan ahead and budget your energy, just like you would your money. You can't spend a dollar if you haven't saved up a dollar!
On social and personal life:
2. Communication about your introversion
Make it a open that you are an introvert, and be willing to educate + share what that means to you.
By all means, don't start shoving your proclamations of introverted identity into every segment of conversation like a vegan or crossfitter (just kidding, had to poke a little fun), but DO make it well known amongst your friends. That way, when there are those instances when you are feeling so burned out and just can't make it to girls night, they will better be able to understand that it's nothing personal and it's simply a part of what self-care means for you.
In general for everything
3. Be open to and expect the discomfort
Be realistic with your expectations. Going to a giant 3- day conference or a weekend bachelorette trip with 10 girls? Know that you are probably going to be tired and uncomfortable at some points, and don't get overly ambitious with how much energy you'll have left afterward
I know there have been several of a time where I get overly ambitious and I'm like oh no problem, I'll just see 4 training clients in a day, 2 meetings, an event, and even a morning coffee date! Then I come home and lay down on the floor because my cognitive thinking has flatlined and I feel like the tin man. As I said in #1, just plan ahead for it and budget wisely, but manage your expectations.
4. Pencil in Time
Would you cancel a meeting with your boss because you just have too many emails to respond to? Probably not. So set a meeting with yourself, even if it is literally only 10 minutes, and make it a non-negotiable to cancel on yourself.
Extroverts recharge and gain energy from being around others; on the other hand, introverts need solitude and solo activities to recharge their batteries. So if you know this about yourself, set up a time with yourself to recharge. How often? Up to your personal preference. I've learned that I do best when I pack all my social stuff into one day, and then I schedule all of my solitary work and personal time for a separate day-- however, you might operate better by alternating between the two throughout the day!
5. Learn How to Say No
I have the tendency to have a guilt about everything, all the time. It's something I've worked on, but it's hard for me not to feel like I'm failing a little bit if I'm not being everything to everyone (also LOL at my photography in that post). I know that's not possible, and it's not healthy to try. My mom frequently reminds me that you can't grab onto opportunity or something awesome if your hands are already full from trying to grab everything else.
It's okay to say no sometimes. It's okay to postpone a coffee date for the following week when your gut is telling you that you need a morning to yourself to quietly work. It's okay to ask a friend to hang out another time, when you've just been looking forward to a Sunday doing laundry, running errands, and cooking at home if that is what you need. Remember that you can't be the best version of yourself to your friends and colleagues if you are constantly drained!
6. Figure out your "Superfoods" for your soul
Sure, mindlessly zoning out and watching TV is good sometimes to unwind from the day. But invigorate, it does not. It's like washing your hands of the day, which is great, but I'm talking about the activities that are like putting on the deliciously luxurious hand lotion on after you wash your hands.
For me, getting outside and watching a sunset probably tops the list, then followed by mindlessly wandering around different streets listening to music, taking care of my plant babies + making flower arrangements, and reading in bed with fuzzy socks. These are my sure-fire ways to recharge my batteries in a supercharged way, and I make sure to do one or more of theses as a form of mental recovery after a heavily packed day or week. If I don't have time for those, a quick face mask and some tea gives me the perfect restoration for the evening.
7. Know that it's okay to have those waves of energy
We aim for the perfect balance too often-- so much so that we end up stressing out more about maintaining balance instead of practicing resilience. It's kind of unrealistic to aim for being perfectly balanced and even-keeled 24/7. Rather, practice your self-care management methods, and try to minimize the extreme highs and lows. So no surfing monster waves of adrenaline and coffee or deep-sea diving of going AWOL, but learning to ride those gentler waves as they come and go.