I spent decades justifying my feelings of fear and unworthiness by hiding behind labels.
“I’m an introvert.” I would say to anyone calling me out for being my painfully shy self.
I recently realized that the labels of introvert and extrovert are limitations we sometimes pose on ourselves when we want an excuse for our behavior.
I still exhibit all the typical qualities of an introvert—that hasn’t changed. I bask in solitude, feel energized when I’m still, quiet or alone, and socializing in large crowds of people tends to drain me rather than fill me up. What has changed is my ability to find joy and even excitement in expressing my real, wild self to others, even big groups of others.
The work I’ve done to know my worth and transform my fears has healed the part of me that used introvert as a shield.
I remember one day about ten years ago, before I knew the real me, when one of my daughter’s friends caught me in the hall at her preschool to chat.
“Are you in sales?” she asked when we got around to talking about our professions.
I actually laughed out loud, but stifled it when I realized she wasn’t laughing back.
The me people were seeing surely wasn’t introverted. So what was happening? Sales, I thought? Not over my dead body (or my painfully shy, humiliated one anyway)!
That day I began to peel off some of the layers that laid heavy over my soul.
Someone had seen my light shining out and I couldn’t hide anymore. So who was I becoming? And what was I supposed to do with her?
The more worthy I feel and the braver I am the more extroverted I seem, but I still don’t vibrate with the labels. It doesn’t feel like extroversion to me now.
It feels like loving myself. It feels like finally being comfortable in my skin, enough to relax and enjoy other people.
What a relief! Feeling this way is so much more expansive, inspiring, exciting and full-feeling to me. It has opened up my world in huge ways. It has brought me connections in my personal and business lives that have been nothing short of miraculous and enriched my creative projects by adding collaboration as an option.
Can all of that come with extroversion? Sure. But I’m asking you to drop the labels and just feel the feelings.
Feeling what is going on, using that awareness to tap into the moment and what it feels like was the way I moved into the current state of what I’ll call the Brave Expression of Me. Is it extroversion when I feel amazing and connect with people from that new energy? I’m not sure I care. I just know that what happens from that space is magical.
If it hurts to be introverted, why not examine what is going on.
Understand that being yourself can and should feel good—even awesome. This isn’t about how you fill your energy cup, it’s about how you feel about expressing yourself and your gifts to the world. If that feels tight, constricted, limited or painful, ditch the label of introvert and go for what’s holding you back.
Begin to uncover the layers that smother your soul and make you feel unworthy of expressing your ideas, opinions and talents. Let your discomfort be the way your body speaks to you, letting you know that introvert is just a shield you’ve been using to stay in your comfort zone.
Maybe the introvert/extrovert story is more like the yin/yang one. We need to find the balance between the two sides of ourselves and thrive inside the flow of that balance. If we identify with the labels as who we are, then it begs taking a look at redefining ourselves. If we’re attached to the label and use it as an excuse for our behavior, then maybe we should explore that.
We’re so much bigger than that.
Here are 10 big questions you can use to explore this for yourself.
Grab a notebook, pen and a timer, and give each question five minutes. There are no rules, just write about the question for five minutes without stopping…don’t worry about punctuation, spelling or finishing sentences. See what you discover!
1. Who am I really?
2. What does it mean for me to be an introvert?(or extrovert)
3. How does my definition of myself limit me?
4. What attachments do I have about the labels I use to define myself?
5. When I’m in my introverted or extroverted state, how does that feel?
6. When I’m being introverted or extroverted with other people, how does that feel?
7. What are the voices in my head saying when I’m in the state of introversion/extroversion?
8. Am I in full expression of myself and my gifts on a daily basis?
9. If I wasn’t afraid I would_____?
10. How can you be brave and express yourself and your gifts to the world?
Author: Laura Probert
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren / Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Graeme Law/ Flickr