I’ve been reading and thinking a lot about the pros and cons of being an introvert lately. Personality is such a complex concept, and I have felt for a while that I have the perfect storm of personality traits. Not only am I an extreme introvert (my happy place is at home on the couch with a book and warm socks), but if I’m comfortable with someone I feel the need to share my every thought with them. So that means that I have to force myself to be social and outgoing but I also have to reign myself in. It can be pretty exhausting.
One of the things that has helped me to be less exhausted is the acceptance of the value of chit chat. Sound simple? Well, chit chat and small talk for a long time were things that made me feel like my soul was dying. I always wondered why people would waste time with small talk when they could have real, genuine conversation with a close friend. It took me a long time (too long) to realize that small talk is a huge part of getting to those genuine relationships. As an introvert I never wanted to waste my precious social energy on meaningless conversation when it wasn’t going to lead anywhere. But in the last few years I have realized that small talk is a valuable tool in forming relationships, and it is never a waste to be polite and show interest in someone. If I feel like I’m faking it, I just power through and keep up the conversation until I find something in that person that I can relate to. And as of yet this system has not failed me.
What HAS failed me is sitting in awkward silence because I was unwilling to engage in small talk, or passing up small talk because I didn’t immediately see that person as someone who could be a life long, best friend. I know that I have missed out on a lot by thinking I wouldn’t click with someone or judging a situation too quickly and just walking away (metaphorically).
I have found it very valuable to build up a toolbox of tricks and tips to get me by and help me to ‘fake it’ until I actually start to feel at ease in a situation:
- Ask questions that show genuine interest in people. This sounds simple, and it really is but for me there was a huge barrier and once I got over it a whole new world opened up to me. People will notice if you are not really interested, so pay attention to what people say and pick out specific things you can expand on. If the person has kids ask about the kids, ask about work, their weekend/week, etc. After the first conversation you have with someone you almost always have something to go off of.
- Learn to move on and don’t judge yourself too harshly if you slip up. Trust me, I am the master at bringing the conversation to a screeching halt because I didn’t read the situation correctly or had a string of thoughts going on in my mind that no one else was aware of. But I have realized, after agonizing over many conversations and jokes gone wrong, that no one else is dwelling on these situations and I shouldn’t either. If you are a good person and you listen as much as you talk, and you show a genuine interest in others then you will be fine.
- Be open to new experiences and set realistic expectations. I have spent hours psyching myself up for a party or gathering and had ideas in my mind of how the night would go. This almost always leads to frustration and disappointment. I don’t exactly have a sure fire way to avoid this scenario, but a few things that have worked for me in the past are mediation and distraction. If I find myself getting worked up or anxious I work out or watch tv (something engaging enough to really take my mind off the situation). If you have ideas let me know in the comments!
- It’s acceptable to keep asking the same questions. Living overseas has helped me to build up a bank of simple questions that I can ask over and over again. What are your travel plans? How long have you lived here? Where else have you lived? etc. Obviously you need to remember the answers when you ask people these standard questions. Don’t ask the same person if they have travel plans two days in a row, but asking a few months apart is OK.
All you extroverts who are reading this post are thinking, ‘duh why do we even need to say these things?’. As an introvert I know that my thoughts can run away with me, and often I have a hard time sorting through the chaos unless I can confide in someone I trust. If I were left to my own devices I would analyze every social situation and pick out what I did right and wrong and what I could improve on etc., until I was just an empty shell of a human. Luckily I have people in my life who are willing to point out when I need to relax, take a step back and stop punishing myself for not always being a social butterfly. Instead I need to realize that I can improve certain things and also pay attention to my strengths and what I bring to the situation. I encourage all the introverts to invest in at least one close relationship to make sure that you have someone you can trust and confide in as well. Make sure it is someone who will call you out when your introverted self takes the driver’s seat, but also someone who can appreciate that side of you and values the strengths you bring to the table.
Reading about the introvert experience has really helped me and made me realize that there is nothing wrong with me. The Introvert Experience: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World, by Marti Olsen Lancey, Psy.D. I didn’t read the entire book (the parts about parenting and dating don’t apply to me) but this book is full of tips and ways to ‘fake it’ in social situations when you feel out of place or unsure of yourself. Lancey also does a great job of revealing why introverts are great and why the world could use more of us!
Fish bowl. Digital image. Desiree Munn. Feb 10, 2015. Mar 11, 2015. Are you really…
Girl in hammock. Digital image. Sultan’s Suites. Aug 8, 2013. Mar 11, 2015. Relaxing time.
This post is all about the things that I have learned after living in Moscow for the past 6 months. Some of these insights are based on my limited experience of traveling and living overseas. Some of them are the random things that I have observed on a day to day basis. Ultimately I hope this will be interesting and possibly even helpful!
1. Being uncomfortable IS something you can get comfortable with. I have been in so many situations at this point where I had to set aside my pride or my fear of looking stupid and just get where I needed to go. For example, being late for a meeting and having to use hand gestures with a random person to ask for directions (it’s not easy). These days I am totally comfortable showing up at an airport and figuring out at the last second how I will get to my destination. So far everything I’ve tried has worked out!
2. Having people to lean on is a must. I have become dependent on skype calls with family and friends back in the states to keep me positive when I feel down. I definitely did not appreciate my close proximity to family when I was stateside, but now that I am so far away these relationships are something I cherish and try not to take for granted.
3. Accepting different personality types is also a must (if you want to stay sane and not be miserable). Many of you probably realized this one long ago, but I’m still learning this important life lesson daily. I am learning to love those personality types that are opposite from mine. Mainly the type A, always organized always thinking twelve steps ahead. I’m much more a ‘let’s just relax and drink some coffee’ type. I also tend to be pretty sarcastic and critical, but from you ‘always-positive-they-mean-well’ types I’m learning to honestly look for the best in every person and the good in every situation. It’s doing wonders for my stress levels! (That was not sarcastic)
4. Don’t sweat the small stuff. That’s all, decide what you can live with, what you want and don’t want and let the little things go. I am pretty good at holding onto little things, but getting better at focusing on what really matters and not getting hung up on insignificant things that don’t.
In the past few years, I have become a pretty serious yogini, although I have taken breaks from my practice I have learned so much about myself through the process. Here are just a few of the lessons I have learned:
How you are in your practice is how you are in your life. Yoga has given me a new understanding of how I respond to challenges and obstacles. In practice when I come to a new pose or balance that I find challenging my first response is criticism, and then I criticize myself for being critical, and THEN I reach openness. After much practice, I am now less critical of myself when I come to a challenge that I can’t conquer right away. In my life, I have also learned to be less critical and to approach challenges in a new way. Instead of assuming that I will fail, I step back and appreciate my strengths and my ability to achieve my goals.
Your mind is like a file cabinet. This is a metaphor I used a lot when I was working as a middle school counselor. I would ask students to think of their mind as a file cabinet with a trash can right next to it on the floor. Then I would ask them for some examples of files they would keep and files they would get rid of. Fear, anxiety, negativity, and resentment are examples of files that can stick in our minds if we give them a place there. Or we can choose to throw them in the trash and declutter the file cabinet in our minds. Hope, joy, ease and peace are files we can focus on and keep forever, they never clutter up our minds but help us to stay organized and clear headed. When a file starts to clutter up your mind imagine throwing it away in the trash can and make room for the files that will increase joy and ease. This is easier said than done and takes practice, but it has been a great visual for me!
Embrace the process. Anyone who has practiced yoga with any regularity will know the joy and bliss of reaching savasana. This is the pose at the end of your practice where you lay on your back and close your eyes. But the only way that you can really appreciate the bliss of this pose is if you have challenged yourself throughout your practice. It is so satisfying to lay in savasana knowing that you just conquered a new pose or stretched a little further than last time. I have learned this valuable lesson and have begun to apply it to my everyday life. Although the process is not alway easy or even enjoyable, the end result of hard work and dedication makes it worthwhile.
Discomfort and pain are two very different things. Pain is your body’s way of telling you to slow down or stop because whatever you’re doing could be hurting you. Discomfort is something that I have learned to recognize and I ask myself in that moment what is causing the discomfort. There is a good chance, especially in yoga, that discomfort is coming from a pose that I am trying for the first time, from feeling tired or frustrated. And none of these is a good enough reason to stop. Trying things for the first time is difficult, but I can accept that I might look silly or not get it right. Being tired is a sign that I am working hard and frustration should be a motivator to keep trying.
What gifts has yoga given you?
lotus flower. digital image. reference.com. 18 Apr 2017. www.reference.com
yin yang yoga. digital image. Smithers Yoga Loft. 18 Apr 2017. smithersyogaloft.com
file cabinet. digital image. Overstock. 18 Apr 2017. overstock.com
Just some thoughts on International Women’s Day, better late then never!
One thing I love about Russia: International Women’s Day is a non-labor holiday and has been since 1965. This means that most banks, schools and official buildings are closed. I am ashamed to say that I have not taken much of an interest in this holiday until now, I’m not sure why. I want to say it’s because it wasn’t as widely recognized in the U.S. as it is in Russia but I’m not sure if that’s true. Maybe I just didn’t pay enough attention. However, I’m trying to make up for that now by getting informed and involved.
I pledged to #BeBoldForChange and I hope you will too! This step is not only meant for women, guys should get involved as well! To me this means using this and other platforms to recognize women and the difference they have made in the world. If nothing else, follow the link above and go to the IWD website. It is full of information about women who have changed the world and what this day celebrates. Here are just a few examples of some of the larger than life women I admire and:
I love this video: #likeagirl. To me it is so sad that growing up I heard ‘you run like a girl’ used as an insult. I may have even used it myself at some point. This video is such a perfect example of how our ideas and perceptions of girls should change. Being fast or excelling at something should should not be a condition of your gender.
Women who work hard and achieve their dreams are to be looked up to and admired, not belittled.
How are you celebrating International Women’s Day?
Today on the Modern Mrs. Darcy blog, Anne talked about what’s saving her life. Meaning what is getting her through these dreary winter months and helping her to stay positive. I am so appreciative of this post, it brought me back to the present and is helping me to notice all of the wonderful things going on in my life right now, instead of focusing on what I’m not doing or what I’m missing out on.
So here is my list:
- My sister is getting married in July (yay!) and I’m in the process of planning her bachelorette party at the beginning of June. There are ten of us renting a lake house in South Haven, Michigan for a weekend of relaxing and celebrating the bride to be. My sister is THE most kind and easygoing person on the planet (possibly in the entire galaxy) and she has made everything so easy and fun. Having things to look forward to always keeps me going.
- Italy!!! We are planning a trip to Italy (Naples, Pompeii, Rome, Florence) for the end of February. I don’t know if I will ever get used to this whole international lifestyle, being a Midwest girl born and raised, but I am definitely feeling fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to new and exciting places.
- AWO (American Women’s Organization) Meetings/lunches/hangouts. The women I have met through this organization have been a HUGE reason why Moscow is starting to feel like home to me. The minute I walked into my first AWO meeting I felt welcome and like I had instant friends. Spending time with these women, at meetings and social events, is always a good time and always lifts my spirits.
- Oh yeah, being in Moscow. Living overseas has always been something on my bucket list. I wasn’t sure how it would happen or even if it would happen. Now that I am here, sometimes I am just in awe of the experience. While living here has brought me out of my comfort zone, I’m so grateful for this experience and the perspective it has granted me.
- My health/ability to be active. While some days I am just happy if I can drag myself to the gym and spend ten minutes on the treadmill, for the most part I am getting faster and stronger, and continuing to push myself. Since my knee injury last summer, I have had to take a step back from running and yoga but I am still able to exercise and stay in shape, and I am grateful for that every day.
- Cat videos. I’m not joking, they might be low on the list but they are hilarious and wonderful.
- The luxury of time. Being able to journal, read, work out, try new recipes and just appreciate this experience.
Making this list was like a form of therapy for me, and I encourage you to make a list of what’s saving your life right now!