“Introverts live in two worlds: We visit the world of people, but solitude and the inner world will always be our home.” ~Jenn Granneman, The Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside Our Hidden World
Never at any point in my life did I think I was an introvert. I always thought I was just a regular kid flowing with life’s experiences just like everyone else, and there was nothing strange about me.
That was until I started being told I was too quiet, serious-faced, shy, and a nerd. I liked, and still do like, my own space and doing things by myself or with a very close friend. Spending time at home surfing the web, learning new things, and obsessing over the latest technology has always been my thing.
I never liked the idea of being around groups of people, attending parties, and socializing for long periods of time because I felt weighed down and lacked energy for such activities.
I would always feel anxious and self-conscious walking outside, and whenever someone approached and started talking to me, things would end up being awkward no matter how hard I tried to keep a steady conversation going.
Such was my life. As I kept growing, it became so much of a bother that it started affecting how I perceived myself.
I became more anxious—stressed about socializing and being outside, making friends, and even expressing myself in serious situations like job interviews.
I also had a bad temper back then, and whenever I got angry, I turned into this ugly and angry bear that could not be calmed down by anyone. After my moments of anger, regret would slowly creep in, and I would chew myself up for all the mean things I’d said and done to others.
“This is not the kind of life I want to live to my old age,” I thought to myself. Being the introverted nerd I was, I decided to do deep research and look for permanent solutions to change the situation for the better.
In the research phase I stumbled upon the practice of mindfulness. The idea of training your mind to remain in the present moment and being aware of your thoughts, feelings, and sensations was kind of interesting to me, and I felt it could work for me.
So, I took up the responsibility of learning about mindfulness and how I could get started and use it to improve upon myself.
A few years down the line, after immersing myself in the practice and doing it daily, I have seen much improvement in my life and how I do things, and I couldn’t be prouder of myself.
I have become more empowered and equipped to handle the aspects of my life that I had problems with before, and I’ve seen good results with them.
5 Ways Mindfulness Empowered Me as an Introvert
Here are the five ways mindfulness changed and improved my life for the better.
1. Mindfulness made me feel comfortable in my introvert skin.
Initially, I thought the only way my life was going to improve was by training myself to be extroverted.
I had even created a strategy of how I would slowly become more talkative and vulnerable—how I would force myself to attend more social events, talk to as many people as I could, and tell them everything about my life. Then they would feel I’m being open with them and in turn open up to me, and life would become amazing.
Looking back, that strategy was designed to help me live a lie. It was supposed to teach me to be everything besides myself, and I’m glad I didn’t get to execute the plan because I discovered mindfulness shortly after considering it.
After practicing mindfulness for a while, I became aware of my nature as an introvert and how I did things in my life. I noticed that while there were many drawbacks to introversion, there were also many advantages.
And extroverts face problems that spring from their extroversion just as introverts get criticized for their introversion.
As an introvert, I often appeared to be boring and quiet, so many people disliked me, but a friend told me that because he was an extrovert, he had many fake friends who hurt him.
That’s when I discovered no side is better than the other. Introversion and extroversion both had advantages and disadvantages.
With that realization, I became comfortable being the introvert I was, and I thought to myself, “I’m going to hold onto my nature as an introvert. It may not be perfect, but at least I won’t be living a lie by pretending to be someone I’m not.”
2. Mindfulness made me more confident.
Self-acceptance is perhaps the best thing I got from mindfulness because it helped me feel comfortable with who I was, and as a result, my confidence increased.
I no longer believed that it was bad to be an introvert and instead, focused more on the positive side of it. I also came to learn that extroverts envied me just as I envied them.
While I thought being an extrovert was cool, I remembered that extroverted friends had once told me they wished they were like me. They thought my quietness gave me a mysterious personality, and being comfortable staying alone for long periods also made me powerful and independent. Remembering this added to my overall confidence and self-acceptance.
I went from “Man, I wish I was more social and talkative!” to “Man, I love how I’m quiet and comfortable being alone!”
Also, being aware of the anxious and stressful thoughts and feelings I had when I was among people helped me realize that they were baseless, and they were just that—thoughts and feelings. Things that would keep coming and going.
They were neither the reality nor the truth.
I had created exaggerated scenarios in my mind, which made me feel anxious and awkward around people. By simply being aware of them, without doing anything, they became powerless and the social anxiety slowly disappeared from my life.
3. Mindfulness gave me mental clarity and focus.
By learning to be aware of my thoughts, sensations, and feelings in the present moment, I had fewer thoughts and was also able to have more control over my feelings. Fewer thoughts, especially the anxiety-inducing thoughts, translated to more mental clarity and focus.
Instead of having negative thoughts about how other people perceived me when I was interacting with them, or about how awkward I felt talking to them, I became more open and aware of the experience of speaking with people, and began going out more without overthinking it.
That slight change of approach made it possible for me to look people in the eye when talking to them and keep a normal and steady conversation without someone realizing I was once a “socially disabled” introvert.
On top of that, the reduction of distracting thoughts and the emotional control I got from the practice helped me improve my level of productivity in my education and work.
It turns out when you have fewer thoughts to explore, your mind can maintain focus for a long period and your attention span increases.
4. Mindfulness increased my self-awareness.
By being constantly mindful throughout the day, I was able to understand myself better. I discovered the specific areas in my life I was good at as well as those I needed to work on.
For instance, I noticed that when speaking to people, I would think before I spoke. This helped me avoid the embarrassment of saying thoughtless words that would make me look like a fool or hurt the person I was conversing with.
I also realized that while I was strong with my communication, I lacked when it came to taking action. I took many thoughtless actions, which got me into trouble.
With the tiny observations I made, and through the reflection of better approaches combined with determined and disciplined effort, I was able to improve and became a better person.
5. Mindfulness brought me peace and inner harmony.
Within a couple of years, I went from a socially awkward, constantly anxious, self-loathing person to a self-loving, more confident, mentally and emotionally stable person, which helped me feel more peaceful and in sync with myself.
I didn’t have to pretend or think and do things from an extrovert’s point of view so that I would be accepted. I accepted myself as I was and discovered how other people love my introverted traits, and this brought me a feeling of satisfaction with myself.
Moreover, I was free to think and act according to my nature, and that has made everything in my life work in harmony.
How I Made Mindfulness Work in My Life (And How You Can Too)
After researching and reading articles, watching videos, and listening to podcasts and teachings on mindfulness, I decided to take action.
I began with mindfulness meditation because it is the easiest and most rewarding first step to mindfulness. It not only helps you learn how mindfulness feels and how to cultivate it but also trains you to be mindful without much effort.
It is even more rewarding when you use guided meditations for mindfulness meditation. I worked with guided meditations for a couple of months before I could begin meditating on my own, and I saw good results.
A guided mindfulness meditation will walk you through your whole experience, with the help of an expert who’ll explain how to relax your mind and body so you can have a fulfilling session.
It’s simply the best place to start building mindfulness in your life.
I began meditating for one or two minutes and increased the duration to five minutes, then ten, and then twenty as I felt more at ease with the practice.
After I got comfortable with meditating, I started incorporating mindfulness into my daily life, practicing while eating, listening and speaking, showering, walking, and working.
These techniques really improved my level of mindfulness and helped me be more aware of myself. The best approach is to begin incorporating these techniques into your life one by one. Begin with the one you feel is easiest to work with and stick to it for a few weeks. Then take up another technique and do the same until you find it natural to do all of them throughout the day.
The goal is to do the regular activities more mindfully, and as a result, increase your moments of mindfulness through the day.
I have seen mindfulness turn my life around as an introvert, and if I was able to become that empowered through it, I believe you can too. I invite you to work closely with mindfulness and see how it can spice up your life.