When I first moved to Austin, Texas, I became an extreme extrovert; I went to every Meetup I could find, every open social event available and made as many friends as possible in my new city. I surrounded myself with noise and drinks and then fell into bed every night, exhausted. Distracting myself with a semi-contrived social life, I shook different hands while holding onto bad habits and moved at a feverish pace until I was so burned out that I got sick. This constant motion saved me from having to reflect on the fact that, even after moving away from a place that held a lot of painful memories, I still had a deep sadness that I couldn’t shake and emotional baggage that filled the emptiness of my silent room.
It was only when I went to Hawaii on a 5 day business trip that I realize how starved I was for solitude. While eating breakfast, lunch and dinner alone and exploring the island by myself, I had the chance to really examine some of the things that I had been avoiding.
I realized that I had become a master at deflection and an avoider of reflection – a genius at hiding in plain sight. I had always been relatively introspective, but it was this trip that made me realize that reflection needs room to breathe in order to germinate and grow into something useful.
Although our society tends to advertise extroversion as the ‘more valuable’ of the two personality types, this incorrect assumption disregards the importance of an introvert’s tendency towards contemplation and their appreciation of silence. If you are like me and lean predominantly towards extroversion on the personality scale, it’s important to find a healthy balance between our sociability and our alone time so we don’t end up using people as a distraction from fully understanding ourselves.
Taking a page from an introvert’s book, here is a challenge for the extroverts interested in personal growth.
Go somewhere by yourself – on a solitary drive, a walk on the beach, a hike through a forest, etc. – and answer these 13 questions for yourself:
1. How am I doing right now?
2. What are the emotional words I would use to describe how I feel in this season of my life (happy, content, confused, angry)?
3.What are the main things in my life contributing to these emotions?
4. Compared to where I envisioned myself being at this point in life, how do I feel about where I’m actually at?
5. What steps can I take to meet some of the most immediate life goals that I have set for myself?
6. Are there any negative influences in my life that are taking away from my joy/sense of fulfillment?
7.How do I lessen these influences and the impact they are having on my life?
8. Is there anything I can change in my life right NOW that will make me a healthier person?
9. What is something that I would like to work towards that makes me happy?
10. Are my relationships helping me grow as a person?
11. Are there any unresolved issues in my relationships, my finances, or my job that I can resolve?
12. What things would I like to be different by this time next year?
13. What am I thankful for right now?
While on your own, allow yourself to be fully honest; don’t be satisfied with simple answers. You can even record yourself on video or a voice memo so you can externally process what you’re feeling. Let yourself be raw, honest, and real.
After you answer these questions, reflect on how you’re feeling. Were you surprised at your answers or the emotions they evoked? What changes in your life do you want to make based on the answers you came up with, if any? Bring back those social skills and talk about these realizations with a friend or mentor.
After spending time alone, I feel like I have a clearer picture of the person that I am and who I want to be. I realized that I need to be better about giving myself a break and that there are some things I believed about myself for a long time that aren’t true. I feel as if I am a more well rounded person because of my time in solitude.
All of this to say, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being an extrovert. However if we use our extroversion as a diversion from self reflection and active personal development, one of our best qualities could actually become one of the biggest contributors to stunted self growth. I encourage you to take some time this week to channel your inner introvert and check in on yourself. Take care of yourself emotionally and spiritually. It’s amazing how we are able to appreciate our time with others so much more when we can value the importance of time alone.
Originally published November 23rd, 2017 on bevalyouable.com