Introverts Can Step Outside Their Comfort Zone

As an introvert, I feel happiest at home spending time with my family, writing, reading, or puttering in my gardens. As much as I prefer doing these things, though, I’ve found I need more. There are times I want to stretch my abilities and learn something new. This often involves leaving my comfort zone and — gasp! — actually interacting with people.

It's hard to step out when all you want to do is hide.

It’s hard to step out when all you want to do is hide.

I’ve thought of this more and more lately, particularly since reading Quiet by Susan Cain (which I reviewed in a previous post). Also, with the nice Spring weather, I feel more energetic and ready to tackle new projects.

Before going any further, I want to emphasize I am not a doctor of any kind and these are only my preferences, opinions, and suggestions. Your mileage may vary.

In the last couple years, I’ve made an effort to expand my experiences, grow as a person, and not let my hermit-like inclinations get the better of me. As long as I get quiet time to mentally process and physically recharge after social interactions, I’m usually the better for it.

Granted, I’m an expert at clamming up at crucial moments or saying something incredibly unclever in front of people I’m trying to impress. Those make me cringe for days. But, the way I see it, the more experiences I have, good and bad, the better I’ll get at it. I tell my kids all the time they won’t improve at drawing or playing an instrument if they don’t practice. Time to do as I say, ya know?

My preferred method of stretching myself beyond my comfort zone is through a desensitization process. This involves subjecting myself to the things I’m uncomfortable doing, or downright scared of, many times over in manageable doses. Manageable being the operative word here. And I always enlist the help of a buddy, so I don’t melt into a pile of ooze as soon as someone looks at me. I’ve learned a smile goes a long way.

For instance, last year my mom invited me to join her History of Art club and I decided to give it a go. It only meets once a month for about an hour or for an afternoon if we go on a trip. I grumble a lot before each meeting but have a good time once I’m there. I learn new things and everyone is so nice, I’m actually able to hold up a conversation pretty well.

My kids have forced me to get out, too, simply because of the activities they are involved in. At concerts, art shows, marching band competitions, etc., you tend to see familiar faces, so I’m making an effort to say “hi.”

This month my husband and I are attending a fundraiser sponsored by a local service organization. Lots of food, drink, raffles — and some of the more prominent people in our home town. I’m kind of upping the ante this time. Wish me luck.

In the future, I’m considering taking a writing or art class. In-person. But only when I feel ready for that kind of ongoing comittment.

What’s great is these activities have a time limit. Afterward, I can go home and recover the energy I used up by operated outside my comfort zone. I don’t feel overwhelmed as long as I schedule these far enough apart.

For an introvert, doing these type of social activities is hard work. I have to psych myself up beforehand. I still get sweaty palms and my heart pounds. But it’s getting easier. I don’t feel like I’m trapped in a cage with a bunch of starving tigers anymore. Well, ok, maybe just one starving tiger.

WikiBengelTiger

As much as I hate to admit it, we humans are social creatures and even an introvert like me can feel the need to get out once in a while. It’s not impossible. It can be done.

Hopefully, someday, it won’t feel like I’m balancing on a high wire over Niagara Falls while I’m doing it.

Have you ever felt trapped in unfamiliar situations or have problems conversing with people? Do you have any strategies that have helped you get through these? I’d love to hear about your experiences.

Image attribution: hiding man image, tiger image

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13 comments on “Introverts Can Step Outside Their Comfort Zone

  1. J. L. Mbewe says:

    Your post resonated with me. I am an introvert all the way, but I have noticed that I need to connect with others as well, just not in a large group setting. One of the ways I’ve found to help me cope with my introvert ways in a large group setting is to volunteer or get involved doing something. If I am doing something, then, in my mind, I have a purpose, otherwise I have a very strong urge to just leave because I’ll sit there dumbfounded trying to come up with ways to engage people in conversation, unless of course I’m sitting next to an extrovert, then I don’t need to worry so much. ha! But that doesn’t necessarily meet my needs either.

    But I”m with you. Just keep pressing through. This social media stuff has really helped, but it is a two edged sword too! A balancing act. 🙂

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  2. I usaes to suffer terrible panic attacks if asked to speak in public, so I never did. But I started taking friends on history walks, then was able to do it with strangers then got to give talks in public. Start in the shallows and practice till you’re ready to go into the deep water.

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    • E.K. Carmel says:

      That seems to be a common thread here – as long as we have something else engaging our hearts and minds, we can put ourselves out there.

      I remember two speeches I had to make for classes, one in high school and one in college. Because I was really interested and passionate about the subject, they were successful speeches. I’ve made a few others that failed because I wasn’t as enthused.

      Thanks for mentioning this, Barb!

      Like

  3. As an introvert I find it very stressful to get out and cope in social situations. Even staying with my eldest daughter for several weeks to help with my granddaughter is very stressful. But I still like to get out and be with other people, just in limited amounts of time. I do require peace afterwards so I can unwind and shake off the stress.

    It seems as I get older that either I’m becoming more aware of it or it’s getting worse. Either way I cope the best I can and try not to be limited because it’s really not good to have no social interaction. You get weird otherwise. Lol.

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    • E.K. Carmel says:

      Haha, Angela, you are so right! I imagine visiting at someone else’s house for an extended period of time would be stressful even to extroverts. But at least you got to play with that grandbaby!

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    • D J Mills says:

      I am with Angela, happy to go out and visit but need to get home and de-stress a few hours later. I am happiest pottering around at home, gardening, writing, etc with a few hours visiting others during the week. i wonder if all writers are like that?

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  4. I, too, have gotten “out there” more as a result of my daughter’s activities. It’s enough for me at this point. When I feel the urge to go out amongst the humans, I do. When I don’t, I don’t. Have fun with your hubby at the fundraiser! Seriously, just be in the moment and enjoy yourself. That’s the easiest way I’ve found to be comfortable in new surroundings.

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  5. E.K. Carmel says:

    UPDATE: I had a great time at the fundraiser! My husband was a wee bit grumbly about having to somewhat dress up, but he got in the spirit and even threw himself into a (sort of) bidding war on one item up for auction.

    A couple glasses of wine helped loosen me up a little, but as it happened, I knew several other people there. I knew my sister and brother-in-law would be there because she is a member of the service organization in charge of the fundraiser. Turns out my parents attended as well as several of the ladies in the History of Art club I joined last year. And the entertainment was two singing groups from the local highschool, which included a couple of my daughters’ friends. And, of course, my husband knows everyone in town anyways. So, I (we) never lacked for someone to talk to!

    All in all, it was just enough socializing that I was comfortable without being overwhelmed. In fact, I found it quite enjoyable.

    Thanks for all the lovely comments and encouragement!

    Like

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