Are you an introvert?

Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed by the expectations of others and the pressure of their demands? To go out, to talk more, to be something you’re not?

Do you fantasise about escaping, sometimes even from your precious loved ones? Do you feel guilty about these fantasies?

There’s no need to get stuck in this overwhelm-fantasy-guilt cycle. You can save your fantasies for more constructive scenarios involving Hemsworth brothers or whatever you’re into. You can use your guilt energy to start a creative project or possibly supply a small nation with an alternative fuel source.

How?

Just get rid of certain toxic shoulds from your life. Such shoulds are insidious critters, psychological termites that infect your mind and destroy the foundations of your life. You might not know they’re there – but leave them unchecked and they can eat away at your happiness and peace of mind.

Instead, eradicate these shoulds and you’ll enjoy deeper self-acceptance and more relaxation and greater energy for your, um, fantasies.

So here are the tyrannical shoulds. It’s time to exterminate them.

4 Shoulds To Give Up If You’re An Introvert

1. I Should Socialise More

You know the exact precise perfect right amount you should socialise? The amount that feels right for you.

For me, this is once or maybe twice a week, Saturday and/or Tuesday night. If there’s a week when I choose to do more because there’s someone I really want to see or an event I really want to attend, then I’ll plan another week when I don’t socialise at all.

Take into account what you do during the week. If much of your week is people-y then you may need less social time than someone whose work is solitary. It’s about balance.

The thing is, you must be honest with yourself about what feels right. If you’ve fallen into a rut of never going out and it’s getting you down, then push yourself to make plans. Distinguish between what genuinely feels healthy and what feels like a habit that’s not serving you.

Experiment with going out a bit more or less. Within a few weeks you’ll know what your ideal frequency is. Make that your weekly template and organise your social life around it.

2. I Should Be More Spontaneous

It seems to me there are two kind of people. Those who complete their thoughts.

Seriously though, there are those who like to be spontaneous and those who like to plan in advance.

If you’re like many easily-overstimulated introverts, you may prefer scheduling over spontaneity, you may feel thrown by last-minute changes. That’s your preference and it’s a perfectly fine preference to have.

Sure, sometimes things will change without warning, and it’s a mark of maturity to adapt when you have to.

But the rest of the time, don’t feel you have to be spontaneous if it’s not what feels good to you.

Become fine with saying, I get pleasure from planning in advance, or I like to enjoy anticipation, or I know you like surprises but I like feeling prepared.

Or make a joke, which is a great way to express yourself without tension: Personally I love spontaneity, as long as it’s well planned and involves snacks. It’s hard to argue with this because who doesn’t love snacks.

3. I Should Smile More

I know from the Louder Minds Facebook Group that many introverts suffer the debilitating affliction known as Resting Bitch Face. Perhaps you’ve quickly looked away from someone cursed with this cruel scourge. Maybe you’ve thought of starting an ice bucket challenge to raise awareness.

Interestingly, introverts are less tuned in to people’s faces than are extroverts. We’re probably too busy having convoluted conversations in our own heads.

For many introverts a smile is the facial equivalent of a giant Welcome sign, when we’d prefer a sign that says No one’s home, keep walking buddy.

All of which makes it understandable that we are not, as a rule, big smilers. And not being a smiler is fine. Give up thinking you should smile more if that doesn’t feel genuine to you.

As for others telling you you should smile more, try responding with something like, But I smiled yesterday or, You mean I’m not smiling now? or, It’s the Botox or, Yeah I lost my smile in a car accident in Reno in ’05.

A caveat here. Or perhaps a cravat would be better, as it’s hard for someone to criticise your non-smile if they’re distracted by a bright, colourful cravat tied just below your chin with a jaunty flourish.

I forgot what I was saying.

Oh yeah – a caveat. Consider how you feel about smiling. I realised a few years ago that I’d fallen into a habit of low-level scowling. I would go about my day with a kind of irritated glower smeared across my face. I noticed people thought I was angry – the receptionist at the gym, a salesperson at a store – and it complicated my interactions. Over time I worked at having a softer facial expression and I found I got along better with everyone I came into contact with. I can honestly say I now get great service pretty much everywhere I go, and I think part of that is having a pleasant, non-evil-glare look on my face.

So forget what you should do – decide what you want to do. Be genuine, be natural. But also be sure you’re not unintentionally coming across as a cantankerous cranky-pants.

4. I Should Explain Myself

If you like going out and you have a social personality and you enjoy noise and lights and heaps of things going on, then nobody is going to take you aside and ask you if you’re okay.

But if you’re quiet and you enjoy solitude and you’re easily tired by groups and often overwhelmed and you like observing from the sidelines then there’s a good chance you will find yourself being challenged about your choices.

Which can lead you to think you should explain.

But here’s the lovely truth: you simply don’t have to explain anything to anybody.

You’ll likely want to have some honest conversations about introversion with the people you care about, so they understand you, and your relationships can grow deeper.

You may also choose to share some things about being an introvert, maybe with humour, to make your own life easier.

But as for the rest of the world, it’s perfectly okay to live your life your way and have others not get it. Even to take a perverse pleasure in being somewhat inscrutable.

You can spend your energy endlessly defending yourself to people whose opinions aren’t important to you, or you can spend your energy enjoying your solitary hobbies, your deep friendships, your interesting thoughts, your growing self acceptance.

Which feels better to you?

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So what do you think?

Are you going to let these 4 shoulds keep burrowing into your psyche? Are you going to let others’ expectations tell you how you should feel? How you should be?

Or are you going to give up those shoulds and listen to what’s right for you?

The choice is yours.

But remember – those Hemsworths are waiting.

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