We highly sensitive introverts often feel like underdogs. Like it’s us against the world.
And no wonder really, because most of society doesn’t give a crap that we struggle with its rules and norms, and most other people don’t seem to mind either.
So we get used to living as underdogs. We apologize and overexert ourselves. We lose our confidence and sense of worth.
Which is tragic. And unfair.
We can’t do much about the how the world and its people works. But we can take more responsibility for ourselves. We can limit our disadvantages, and even turn them into strengths...
Here are 3 situations where you might be feeling like an underdog, and what to do about it:
“I feel overwhelmed in group discussions at work. I never know what to say.”
That’s because you need to think before you speak. Usually by yourself, in a calm environment.
In a group setting, you are too busy absorbing what everybody else is saying. You never get a chance to reflect on your own thoughts, and to formulate them into words. And the more quiet you sit, the more stressed out you get by your own silence, which blocks your thoughts even more.
I feel you. I’ve been in that situation so many times, having all these ideas and opinions boiling inside of me but never getting a chance to speak up. And I can feel so left behind, so overlooked and so upset about the experience that I sometimes don’t even bother doing anything about it. I feel like a failure and a victim.
No one should have to feel that way at work.
Be completely honest with your managers and coworkers. Explain to them how your mind works in these situations. Tell them you really want to be more active, and ask for time to prepare and assemble your ideas either before or after the meeting.
If your coworkers know the reason you're more quiet in discussions, you can relax more and not feel the need to defend and explain yourself.
And if you know the agenda of the meeting beforehand, or the topics you will brainstorm, you can be one step ahead. You can do research, reflect, brainstorm on your own and prepare an arsenal of brilliant ideas. You can come to every meeting armed to the teeth and confident. Afterwards, you can take in what everybody else was saying an incorporate that into new ideas and suggestions.
You'll get the same chance to contribute as everyone else. Probably a better chance, but let’s be honest: we need every advantage we can get.
Preparation and organization is the introvert's greatest strength at work. It not only brings out your best qualities, but can also help bring out the best from your team mates as well.
“I feel like a bad partner. I can’t seem to communicate my feelings.”
I have been on both ends of this dilemma. I’ve been frustrated with my boyfriend, yelling at him for not “just saying what he’s thinking”.
And I’ve also been that person myself sometimes, drowning in my emotions and feeling paralyzed by fear of being misunderstood.
Sometimes our mind is so chaotic and we are so deep inside our own emotions and contemplations that we can’t come to the surface. Our logical left brain is temporarily disabled.
But no relationship can work without communication.
Make sure your partner knows that when you are too much in the thick of it, you can’t speak. You need time to process your emotions and thoughts before you can communicate them.
Introverts tend to prefer to communicate in writing. It allows us full control over what we say and how. And it’s asynchronous: we can take all the time we need to write and re-write, read and re-read.
In my relationship, when things get heated and complicated, we write letters to each other and slide them under each other’s doors.
Usually I start by emptying my thoughts onto paper and asking that he answer me in writing too. Then we exchange letters a few times until we both have said what we feel, have calmed down and are ready to talk again.
Seriously, this is such a better way to communicate. Especially when you are angry or upset. You avoid the misunderstandings and escalations that often happen when you talk over each other in a face-to-face argument. You both get the chance to express yourselves without interruptions. And you can refer back to the letters for deeper understanding.
Also: don’t just write letters to your partner when you’re upset, write them love letters too. Love can be just as hard to communicate as anger or disappointment, but even more valuable to have in writing and to read at tough times in the relationship.
“I feel like a bad friend. I’m always turning down social invitations”
Hands up anybody who ever canceled on their best friend three times in a row. And made up some bullshit excuse each time.
What is it with us that we can't be honest about our introverted nature even to our best friends?
I don’t know. Probably because we’re so scared they wouldn’t understand and wouldn't want to be our friend anymore.
But who wants friends who don't appreciate us for who we are?
First, remember that we introverts have a much less frequent need of hanging out with friends than our friends might have. We might go for weeks or even months without feeling the need to meet up. And this can be a lurking conflict in many friendships. “I always call you, you never call me.”
So naturally, explaining this to your friends is key to making sure they don’t take your distance personally. You can’t fill all of their social needs. You’re more like a fine wine to be enjoyed in moderation on special occasions. (That was so cheesy. For god’s sake, don’t say that to your friend. Send them this link instead.)
Next, ask yourself the real reasons you always want to cancel on your particular friends.
Is it because of the places your friend likes to go to or the stuff they like to do? Because you don’t like their spouse or kids or other friends who usually tag along? Because your friend always calls you last minute?
Or maybe because you just don’t really enjoy this particular person’s company that much? Some friendships you hold on to out of habit, but they might be unbalanced or just boring. Don’t spend your precious time on them. Save it for the ones who truly matter to you. The ones that energize and uplift you.
And then, take initiative to hang out with this person more on your terms. You might decline their party invitation, but you can call them the next day and ask them over for dinner and a movie at your place. You could propose a weekly video chat date. Or start exchanging handwritten letters old school style.
Whatever makes it easier for you to stay in touch with your friends, do it.
“Hanging out” doesn’t always have to imply getting dressed up and going somewhere. If you take more control over how you spend time with your friends, it will allow you to relax and enjoy it more. And it will probably deepen your friendship as well.