When you’re an introvert in our extroverted culture, it’s easy to believe that you have to justify your decisions in life. You don’t. You can just pick—same as extroverts do.
A few years ago, the counselor I was working with at the time did a life-altering exercise with me.
She held up a pretend chocolate ice cream cone in her right hand and a pretend vanilla cone in her left.
“Pick one,” she said.
[Insert two-second pause here as I silently pondered her motive and evaluated potential countertactics.]
“Is this a trick?” I asked.
“Nope,” she replied. “Pick one.”
[Pause to think. And then …]
“Chocolate,” I said.
[Pause to think, and to see if I could pinpoint the trick she was indeed trying to pull. No luck.]
“Because vanilla is so blah and chocolate is richer,” I offered.
“Wrong,” she responded. “Pick again.”
[Pause for annoyance to sprout atop my attempts at sleuthing.]
It Sure Seems Like a Trick
“I thought you said this wasn’t a trick,” I said.
“It isn’t. Pick again.”
“Chocolate,” I said.
“Umm … because I like it better than vanilla?”
“Is that a question or a statement?”
“Because I like it better than vanilla,” I clarified.
“Closer,” she replied, “but still wrong. Pick again.”
When Your Counselor Tests Your Sanity
I couldn’t figure out what she was trying to do, or why she was suddenly trying to drive me nuts in the process. (She had always seemed so kind …)
I kept picking chocolate and coming up with a litany of reasons for doing so.
“Wrong. Pick again,” my counselor patiently repeated.
Finally, in desperation, I picked chocolate yet again and, when she asked why for the fifty-seventh &$%#-ing time, I blurted out:
“Because I just want it, that’s why!”
“Right!” she (finally) exclaimed.
[Pause for confusion to set in.]
You Don’t Have to Justify Your Decisions
“Pete,” she continued:
“… you don’t have to justify yourself. You can pick chocolate because you want chocolate. That’s enough. There doesn’t need to be any further explanation.”
[Pause for realization to begin.]
Make Your Choice and Be Done with It
Now, I won’t lie.
I didn’t magically grow more assertive in my choices following that session.
To this day, I am still working on my no-need-to-justify mindset. You don’t undo decades of misguided thinking and behavior overnight.
But I have (slowly) learned to apply this critical lesson to one of the most deep-seated parts of myself: my introversion, and the choices and behaviors that arise from it.
For years, my default has been to immediately start defending choices like, for example, declining to go to the holiday party.
In my own defense (there I go again!), I’ve had my reasons, and you have too if you’re prone to doing the same thing.
We live in an extroverted world—especially in Western culture. And extroverted culture has its mores on what sorts of behaviors are right or wrong, healthy or unhealthy, to be pursued or avoided.
But you know what?
You don’t need to defend or justify or rationalize or apologize for your introverted preferences.
Neither do I.
There comes a time in life when you need to quit playing defense—not because it isn’t understandable, or even effective in some backhanded ways, but because you don’t deserve to have to play defense all the time.
No one does.
Pick your own ice cream in life and be done with it.