Isn’t it incredible how something that was seemingly hidden can suddenly be seen everywhere?
As I’m working more with introverts, I’m recognizing so many introvert tendencies and needs in myself and my way of doing things. And I’m wondering how I didn’t see it before…
(Side Note: suddenly noticing things happens because there is a part of the brain called the RAS – Reticular Activating System. We let it know what’s important to us, by simply wanting to buy a new car of a specific brand or colour, or falling pregnant, or deciding we want to work with introverts! Having those things on our radar, so to speak, brings it to the attention of the RAS. We’ll start seeing it everywhere even though it was right under our noses all the time yet we didn’t notice it.)
Back to introverts.
I have recently become extra aware of the value of a safe space where we can be honest, have no fear that we’ll be judged, where we can share our thoughts, feelings and behaviours. No matter how silly we think they are.
What sparked this article for me is that I’m blessed to have a number of those very safe spaces available to me. Only a few days ago, after I shared my thoughts in one of these groups, I really GOT in my bones what it does for me.
I’m in a small group with 2 precious friends. One here in South Africa (Mark Kahn, who does awesome self-esteem work), and the other in the US (Desiree Marie Leedo, who does beautiful work with women after divorce.) We all have our own businesses, working with clients. We work in different ways, with different tools – yet, we all have our daily struggles and challenges running a business. We’re all authors, and have had more than one marriage. We meet regularly on Skype, and have daily conversations in WhatsApp. We can share absolutely anything about our business, relationships, books, articles, what bugs us, what’s hard, what’s lovely. We can ask for ideas and share our pain.
These friends always have empathy and love. They ask sincere questions when I’m going through a challenge.
And here’s the thing!
As I write my answers to their questions and inquiries, I often ‘hear’ myself think for the first time. I may have had 243 thoughts about my challenge milling around in my head. But because there’s too many of them, and they gain momentum and get babies and drive me crazy when they’re in my head, I don’t REALLY hear them. I can’t make any sense of them at all while they’re having a noisy sing-along, all together.
It’s usually as I’m writing (slooooowly, because I’m typing on my small phone keyboard), that some of the thoughts stand out for me and become crystal clear. I suddenly HEAR (okay, SEE) what I’ve been thinking. Eye opening, mostly.
Another incredible thing I’ve noticed is that as I’m busy typing, I often find myself saying “And I really need to….. “ and then I proceed to provide myself with a workable solution that has eluded me till that moment.
How cool is that?!
I remember learning in coaching and NLP: No-one else has the answers for us. They’re all already inside…. We need to be in the right environment to get them out of us.
And the right environment, for introverts especially, is a place where they can think slowly and quietly, with ample time for reflection. Where they’re not pressured to give the ‘right’ answer, but where they’re encouraged to think things through, in silence, slowly. Where they won’t be laughed at, ridiculed or pressured to think faster or come up with a better answer. Where their slow, deep thought process are honoured and celebrated.
What I realised most of all through these past weeks with my 2 wise friends in our Inspiration Triad is this: simple questions in a safe, non-judgmental space can lead to awareness of how we do things. And without awareness, nothing can change.
I am also in a Strengths Mentoring Group on both WhatsApp and FB. Every few months we have a Strengths Challenge where we share the way our strengths play out for us as individuals. Sharing in our group always, always leads to new awareness and insight. I LOVE those moments when I suddenly ‘click’ that I’ve been doing something a certain way… and I may not have seen it up to that moment.
The moment we’re aware, we can decide whether it’s a pattern that serves us, or not. We can’t change a thing about it until we know it’s there.
There’s a cool saying in the personal development industry:
“The way we do anything, is the way we do everything.”
Scary (and a bit unbelievable) until you see it in action.
It refers to the patterns we have. Those habitual ways of doing things the same way, over and over. The same response to a trigger. The same emotions that pop up for us when someone gives us ‘the evil eye’. The same road we take every day, the same chair we prefer, the food we love. On and on.
I recently read in ‘The Power of Habit: Why we do what we do and how to change it’ that a shocking number of our daily actions are purely based on habits and that conscious choice comes less into play than we think. Around 40% of our daily actions are not choices – they’re habits.
If we wonder why our life is not working for us, or why we feel so stuck or why an area of our life is in pieces, we need a place where we can investigate our thought-patterns and habits. Where we can sit with questions, hear ourselves and pause for reflection.
We get so used to the same thoughts milling around in our own heads, that they feel ‘normal’ to us. We don’t question our own thoughts or beliefs. Obviously, they feel normal and in our eyes, they don’t need questioning!
The value of being in a group where others can ask questions, where we’re open to hearing those questions, to reflecting on them, to releasing resistance to the discomfort that may arise when our status quo or thoughts are challenged, is priceless. There’s no value we can attribute to being able to hear the folly we’ve believed, or the suffering we’ve put ourselves through, because of a thought or belief that might not even be even true.
In one of these conversations in WhatsApp recently, I had the remarkable experience of giving myself excellent advice on something I’d been struggling with recently.
I started a part-time contract in April, working for an Innovation Company. I had to draw on my rusty IT skills again and it’s been rough to stretch my brain into this old, new direction. I only work for them a couple of hours a week – so by the time next week’s IT day rolls around, I need to think really hard to get back into where I left off the previous week.
I was feeling very stressed out one day. Things were not flowing and I was feeling loads of pressure. I was writing down my thoughts after one friend asked how my day was. And I saw myself typing something like “I just need to do xyz and then abc.”
I paused for a moment after I pressed send and thought, “WOW!! Why didn’t I think of this before? There’s the answer that will let so much of the stress disappear!”
Well. My perfect solution, tailored for me, by my own wisdom. Hidden – until that point when someone simply asked how my day was.
The next part of it is …. Implementation!
Of course, it’s easy to say “Just do xyz.” Saying it is not hard. DOING it is what will let my life feel different. Mostly it’s the execution that’s the harder part.
And for that, support is also priceless. Especially if that thing we need to do is going to stretch us out of our comfort zone. I don’t know about you, but I do SO much better when I have friendly support –someone to hold my hand. When I was petrified of the dentist up to quite recently, my husband sometimes took me there so I didn’t have to do the long drive there on my own. That support is priceless. I still had to get on the chair, relax my legs and listen to the drill, but the hand-holding before was what made it possible for me to face the ‘fire’.
Where’s that safe space for you? Do you have one, where you can be totally open and honest, and come out with your true thoughts without being scared of what ‘they’ will think? Do you have friends or colleagues who can question your thoughts, and help you to get your ‘normal’ thoughts in front of your OWN eyes and hears, so you can hear if it’s really serving you, or just part of what was passed on to you?
I am in various groups (like my Inspiration Triad and the Strengths groups) that are free of charge. And then I’m also in paid groups, where one person is the expert. Where I KNOW I can rely on that person’s guidance and mentorship, because they’ve been through the thing I’m trying to solve.
Share your Thoughts!
If you don’t have a group or safe space right now, and you’re an introvert – would you be interested in such a place? If you DO have a group or safe space where you can share your thoughts and gain awareness – please share! Where is this place for you? What awareness have you gained recently? Please share with us in the comments below.