There is no question that the world we live in seems better designed for extroverts, and this is becoming increasingly so. As time seems to speed up around us, leaving little if any time for quietude or reflection, the needs of introverts are going unmet.
Schools and other educational settings are changing the way curriculum is delivered to include more collaboration. What this means for the introvert is that, even from a young age, they are being asked to spend a lot of time outside their comfort zone. While this is helpful at times to challenge and facilitate growth, too much of anything is never a good thing. While the extroverted child may revel in group work, oral presentations and opportunities to share, the introverted student is in a living hell. The anxiety associated with all of those things can be overwhelming.
It is a common misconception that introverts don’t like people, but this simply isn’t true. It is more about how one gains their energy. The extrovert can spend time with people, often in a noisy and boisterous environment, and come away feeling alive and full of energy. In the same situation, the introvert can walk away feeling drained, exhausted and frazzled. To get the same feelings of energy and being ready to conquer the world, the introvert needs to have some time alone, to reflect on events and to process their thoughts. Without this it can be hard to manage situations like school and the workplace.
As the modern lifestyle gets busier and busier, the introvert can face and increasing struggle to find balance and feel well. Not only are schools and workplaces now set up to tear the quieter individual from their comfort zone, the online world now penetrates into our down time as well. Sharing stories and photos, the pressure to comment, say the right thing, interact, when all you may want to do is just be alone…..and quiet.
Is there a solution? As levels of anxiety in both children and adults seem to be soaring, perhaps we can all learn from the introverts. In schools, teachers could build time into lessons for reflection and solitary work. In an ideal world students would have some choice over how they demonstrate their understanding in a way that reflects their own learning style. Workplaces could provide a space for quiet reflection, a chill-out zone or meditation room. Programs to encourage wellbeing, both physical and mental, could encourage more mindful practices for everyone.
After considering my own experiences, and chatting to many introverts, I have come up with the following list of things the less extroverted amongst us love to do….
- spend time completely alone
- read a book purely for pleasure
- create – paint, write, cook, garden
- spend time outdoors
- contemplate the meaning of life
- commune with nature
- gaze at the stars
- look at old photographs
- a whole lot of nothing
- spend time with close friends
Sounds like a list of things that we could all enjoy on our quest for a life less busy.