A few years ago I did my Myers Briggs profiling and came out as an ISFJ. I haven’t gone into it in great detail, but I was a little surprised by my “I” – introvert. I suppose I’d always considered myself to be quite extrovert, but the more I thought about it the more I related to it. When I compared myself with others I knew, I could see myself as introvert. When I considered how I like to spend my time I saw that some of my favourite activities are indeed quite introverted …reading …writing …crafting … watching films.
I looked at my profile further and saw that I was on the cusp of “I” and “E” – introvert and extrovert. I identified with that – recognising the need for balance in these two things in my life… I can go for periods of being at home… alone (or more often these days with my children and husband) – reading, playing, being, watching films and then all of a sudden I feel claustrophobic and have to arrange some social dates with other people. I do that for a while, rushing around all over the place and then after a few weeks of doing that, once I’ve sated the extrovert in me, I am happy again to be at home with my family again.
I can also see it in my work – after a week (or even sometimes just a day!) of intense facilitation with a group everything in me cries out to be alone …to meditate …to read …to have a quiet hour in the bath. Often after delivering a course the last thing I want is a conversation or any more ‘people time’.
Since seeing this in myself I’ve become aware of tipping towards introvert and then needing to redress the balance towards extrovert – never seeming to get the scales just right, always tipping one way or another and I guess I always thought that was OK.
In the past year new thinking has come to me regarding my sway between introvert and extrovert… when I’m fearful I default to introvert characteristics and when I’m feeling the opposite of that (defined here as feeling loved) I am my extrovert self.
Twelve months ago I found myself redundant for the second time in 6 years. The first time it hit me really hard (as perhaps it would with my first child being 5 weeks old) and I was angry with the people involved; felt very hard done to; excluded from the communication and I blamed particular individuals for what happened. This time around I decided I wasn’t going to do that – there was no self pity (OK, maybe there was, but I only allowed myself 5 minutes before pulling myself together!) and I wasn’t going to blame anyone or give my power away in the situation, I was instead going to take it in my stride; focus on what I could do; deal with the people involved empathically (they didn’t want to make me redundant any more than I wanted to be redundant) and to make the best of the situation …I decided to meditate through it and trust that what was right for me to do next would unfold.
At the time I remember someone asking me how I was doing & I replied “it depends if I get up feeling self employed or unemployed” and although there was some truth in that, what really helped me was forcing myself to be my extroverted self. In the month or two whilst going through the redundancy consultation process and immediately after, I met with around 50 people … people I’d worked with in the past; people I respected; people I’d met on twitter, etc. I met with those people despite the fact that often all I wanted to do was let my fear consume me. After all…
- How would we pay the mortage?
- How could we afford the childcare?
- What job would I be able to get that was part time and challenging?
- How could I still coach and facilitate for a living?
- Where else could I earn a decent salary without having to travel to the city?
- Where could I work that would be flexible and allow me to work from home?
But I meditated and I kept connecting with others and I believe it is those two things that forced the fear away. I had some amazing conversations; talked to some inspirational people and those conversations kept my spirit up – helped me believe that I had something worthwhile to offer.
That was the start for me of the realisation that when I’m fearful my tendency is to hide myself away – to cut myself off from people; to talk less; to think more; to read more; to disappear from social media; to stop connecting and stop sharing myself with others and when that’s going on for me I need to do the exact opposite of that! I need to get myself out there & connect, connect, connect…
That’s not to say that at the end of a tough day at work I won’t let myself disappear for a long soak with a good book, just that (metaphorically!) I won’t let myself stay there for days!
- What behaviours play out for you when you’re feeling fearful?
- What helps you get back on track?
- How do you know when you need to switch behaviours?
I’d love to hear your thoughts… either by leaving a comment here or on twitter @ThePensiveCoach