When you’re feeling stressed—or worse—as an introvert, focus on what you can control in your everyday life.
Most days, you can hear me coming as I’m driving around in my car.
No, good stereo speakers. Great ones, in fact, the kind you wouldn’t expect to be the factory-installed originals that they are.
I am routinely in rock concert mode during my trips around town, performing as the wannabe lead singer for a wide variety of bands.
My neighbor across the street has told me more than once that she’s enjoyed the previous night’s Metallica performance as I’ve turned into our driveway to park in the garage.
Control Matters, Especially to Introverts
I’m a card-carrying introvert. But the ear-piercing music—often from the genre my dad referred to as Noise—not only doesn’t bother me; it invigorates me.
On the other hand, if I’m sitting in our living room reading a book and one of our kids comes in and starts making random, pointless, ridiculous noises because—well, who can ever understand why, then I tend to go through the roof.
Keep in mind: The decibel level in this latter situation is perhaps one-tenth the typical decibel level of my car concerts.
But it somehow drives me 10 times crazier.
It’s all about control.
Or lack thereof.
Introverts Thrive on Independence
In his 2020 New York Times article entitled “Yes, Even Introverts Can Be Lonely Right Now,” organizational psychologist Adam Grant—himself an introvert, and the author of the bestselling books Think Again, Give and Take, and Originals—offers up some intriguing food for introverted thought.
“It’s often said,” he writes, “that extroverts get their energy from people, while introverts are energized by solitude.”
But the research data, Grant argues, “show that’s a myth.”
He goes on:
“Being introverted has nothing to do with liking alone time. It turns out that the desire for solitude comes from a different trait altogether: independence.”
Whether independence and the desire for solitude are mutually exclusive is open to debate.
But Grant is making a crucial point here: Whether you refer to it as “control” or “independence” or “autonomy” or simply “the freedom to choose,” you likely crave this particular entity as an introvert.
Thus, if you somehow lose it or have it taken from you, you stand to pay a price.
Perhaps a considerable price, depending on the severity and the circumstances.
The Cost(s) of Losing Control
Burkheiser, a self-described introvert, talks about the band’s rapid rise to stardom and how the many demands placed upon him and his bandmates—to record new music, play more concerts, make more appearances—nearly destroyed him.
“We never had time to recharge,” Burkheiser says in the article:
“After we got on the road it began to wear on me, being this introverted guy; it can wear on you mentally. I was trying to get away from people.”
“I felt like I lost control,” he says.
Focus on What You Can Control
Finally, after a sleepless night in Chicago, Burkheiser broke down at 5 in the morning, crying in the shower and letting loose “everything I had pent up over the years.”
Since then, he’s taken steps to regain control of his professional life, surrounding himself and his bandmates with people who, according to Friedman, are “respectful of his and the band’s mental well-being.”
You can’t control everything in life, of course, and you may not even want to; there is beauty in both serendipity and the development of resilience.
But control probably matters to you more than you realize.
So look for places where its absence is getting to you, and for ways to take it back where you can.
Focus on what you can control.