Having a positive self-concept of yourself as an introvert—that is, a positive view of who you are—is crucial to your health and happiness.
When you’re at your worst as an introvert—tired, frustrated, ready to scream—what do you need to start feeling better?
For years now, I’ve had my own answer to this question. It’s a practical-by-design model I call The 4 Pillars of Introvert Well-Being, and it says that if you want to consistently feel happy and healthy as an introvert, you need to make sure you’ve got yourself covered in four key areas of your day-to-day life:
Solitude—You need your quiet time alone to recharge after events, or pre-charge before them.
Reflection—You need to be able to think, whether it’s before an event, after, or during.
Focus—You need to be able to zero in on one thing at a time, without constant interruptions.
Depth—You need to have deep conversations and deep relationships, and engage deeply in your work and leisure activities.
Without these four elements, you’re going to feel—well, you’re going to feel tired, frustrated, ready to scream.
With them, on the other hand, you’re likely to feel pretty good most of the time. Because Solitude, Reflection, Focus, and Depth are the “legs” holding up the “roof” that represents your well-being as an introvert.
I stand by this model.
But for a long time I overlooked something …
Those “legs” of yours can’t just float in space.
They need a solid foundation to stand on.
That foundation is a Positive Self-Concept—specifically, a positive self-concept of yourself as an introvert.
That’s not easy to come by in this extroverted world of ours.
A Nonstop Message of “Less Than”
“Introverts frequently tell me that they are made to feel like they need to act more extroverted if they want to get on, but [that] there is not such an expectation for extroverts. That is extrovert privilege.”
Susan Cain, author of the bestselling book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, describes a similar concept she calls the extrovert ideal:
“the omni-present belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha, and comfortable in the spotlight.”
Likewise, Laurie Helgoe, author of Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength, identifies what she calls the extrovert assumption—the notion that:
“as we grow and adapt to American society, we internalize the assumption that extroversion is normal and introversion is a deviation.”
“Less Than” Has to Go
Does extrovert privilege exist, especially in Western culture?
Is there an extrovert ideal or an extrovert assumption (or, as I like to call it, an extrovert default) running as an undercurrent in our collective lives?
Yes. It’s undeniable.
And that’s why, rightly or wrongly, so many introverts end up feeling bad about themselves, as somehow “less than.”
It’s the reason so many of us have asked ourselves, more than once in life:
“Is something wrong with me?”
The answer, of course, is no.
But you have to convince yourself of that—for real—before you can put a model like The 4 Pillars of Introvert Well-Being to everyday use.
Build a Positive Self-Concept
So what can you do, practically speaking, if you need to boost (and then maintain) your introverted self-concept? Here are a few ideas:
Read books that clarify what introversion really is. Fifteen or 20 years ago, there was only one comprehensive book on introverts and introversion: Marti Olson-Laney’s The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World.
Access blogs and other online articles on introverts and introversion. A simple Google search will help you find helpful blogs on the subject, and comprehensive websites like Medium frequently publish articles on the whats, whys, and hows of introversion.
Participate in introvert-related social media activities. On Facebook, for example, you’ll find dozens of groups that focus on introversion.
A caution, though: Stay away from the ones filled with complaints and negative memes. They will bring you down instead of filling you up.
Work with a therapist. If you’re like many introverts who struggle to have a positive introvert self- concept, you know in your heart that your problems go way back, perhaps to your childhood or teenage years.
A therapist can help you identify how you came to think and believe what you do. You can examine your past without dwelling on it.
And then you can develop new thought patterns and behaviors—the raw material that will become the foundational self-concept you can build upon.