I’m always up for a new discovery. As a huge advocate of lifelong learning, research, and self-education I can get real nerdy at times! Several months ago I started realizing that there seemed to be a certain set of behaviors and thought patterns that many of the women I know as friends, family, or coaching clients appeared to share, and I have as well. I found this fascinating!
This set of characteristics is quite different than what the majority of the population experiences and that totally fits with the feeling of “outsiderness” that many of us in this category have experienced.
What I’ve found is that women who are introverts—who recharge by being alone and are generally more quiet and reflective—who also have the characteristics of the “highly sensitive person” as coined by psychologist Elaine Aron, also seem to have a strong likelihood of experiencing anxiety/fear/worry. This set of traits—highly sensitive introvert with or without anxiety—has a significant impact how we experience and deal with life.
The center of this Venn diagram would seem to be a small percentage of the population, but as I began talking to women the most frequent response I got was “You just described me to a T—and no one has ever done that before!”
When I began interviewing women who self-identified as “sensitive introverts with or without anxiety” to see what challenged them, how they coped, what they wished they could change, how their traits influenced their self-esteem and their ability to take action, and what their ideal life looked like it got even more interesting.
The similarity of their responses was incredible! These women varied in age, country of origin, stages in life, occupation, etc., and yet their experiences and desires were uncannily alike. In fact, they often used the exact same words to describe their experiences.
Today and over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing what these traits and thought patterns are, what my experience as a sensitive introvert has been, and how I support women to use these characteristics to guide and inform them in creating a life that fits them perfectly.
Many of the women shared with me that they intensely question themselves about they way they function. They described being overwhelmed by life at times and how that can lead to feeling paralyzed and unable to take action. Because the rest of the population appears to function differently, the sensitive introvert feels wrong, bad, alone, and often full of self-doubt. Many said they feel unsure of who they are because it’s daunting to share their gifts and thus create a clear life purpose.
When establishing close relationships, they feel they have to educate others on how they prefer to socialize. For example, when making friends they might offer up that they sometimes need to hole up by themselves instead of getting together or going out, so to please not be offended if invitations are turned down. They also tend to blame themselves for not being an extrovert who’s always up for fun, which they see as weakness, but is really just having a very different way of nourishing themselves.
I want to be clear that these are only a few of the traits—and probably some of the most challenging. There are more characteristics that I’ll share in the next post and they have upsides to them too!
I have learned many ways to offer support for sensitive introverts through mindfulness, self-knowledge, and tools, so they can create fabulous lives that are a good match for their temperament. Self-love and acceptance, knowing how to set healthy boundaries without guilt to protect their energy reserves, and understanding their own unique limits are some of the things I share with my clients.
In September I’m offering the inaugural run of Welcome Home to Yourself, a coaching program exclusively for women who are sensitive introverts. Unlike many coaching programs, this one is created by a sensitive introvert for sensitive introverts, so it will be small, most interaction will be one-to-one, and there will be plenty of compassion for each participant’s pace.
The details are being finalized now and registration info will soon be released. To be sure you don’t miss out—especially on the Early Bird discount—sign up to be added to the the interest list here. No obligation, just be the first to hear the details and get access to Early Bird pricing.
I would love to hear in the comments any observations or realizations you had while reading. Let me know if this describes part of your temperament!
A huge shout out to all the women who let me ask them about being a sensitive introvert! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings on what makes you YOU.
P.S. Remember, sign up HERE to add yourself to the interest list so you are the first to get details on the program and registration when it's available. This is the way to find out about Early Bird pricing, ladies!
Last week was magical. I had the good fortune to be part of a four-day retreat focusing on the seasons of women’s lives that was incredibly powerful.
It’s remarkable what can happen when women come together with a common vision and purpose. From the vision makers who had the chutzpah to just contact the amazing @UmaDinsmoreTuli in England out of the blue and say, please come to the Midwest and work with us!, to the logistics magicians, to the women who signed up last minute because something told them they needed to be there, to my carpooling goddesses—I am so grateful to everyone who played a part.
What I experienced in this circle of women confirmed something I know as a coach at a very deep level: that while we can grow and work through stuff on our own, it is when we break our silence, share our experiences, and realize we are not alone in our struggles, that we are able to break down the walls of isolation and begin to heal.
We heal in relationship.
That should not surprise us since the pain we carry that requires healing also happened in relationship. We all want to mend our wounds, and yet, how often do we slow down enough to give ourselves space to experience it?
The retreat was such an wonderful reminder that when we are held in a strong container of love and acceptance, each of us can heal the wounds in our own ways, in our own time. Throughout our time together tears were welcome, rage was welcome, laughter was welcome, memories, grief, triumph, guilt, loneliness, pride, the sadness of the girls we once were, and of course, self-love—all were welcome in the circle. To feel it in your body, process it, and let it go—whatever was coming up in the moment—was not just tolerated, not just acceptable, but encouraged, welcomed, and absolutely normal. Imagine what it would be like to do that regularly instead of putting it off for decades!
What makes this so cathartic is being witnessed. Most of us shy away from this because it feels embarrassing or uncomfortable. I know there are times when I do. Ironically, being witnessed is what allows the embarrassment and discomfort to actually dissipate.
Brené Brown talks about having a “vulnerability hangover” when we wake up fearing that we shared too much with someone. What comes up is that old feeling of shame. Brown describes it like this: “For women, shame is a web of unattainable expectations that say, Do it all, Do it perfectly, and Never let them see you struggle.” Ouch. We all know that one. So instead of getting all messy and processing our pain and shame with someone, we may carry it with us for a long, long time.
The antidote for shame is empathy. Brown says, “If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.” So here it is again. In order to heal, we must share our stories, be witnessed, and have another human being respond with kindness, love, and understanding. Then we get to drop the shame and embody our authenticity to come to a place of being more whole than we were before. Our vulnerability, says Brown, “becomes the most accurate measure of our courage” and it is when we expose ourselves vulnerably that “we have experiences that bring purpose and meaning to our lives.”
This is big stuff for anyone, but for those of us who have introversion, high sensitivity, and anxiety going on—this is me and the majority of my clients—this is like asking us to casually dive into a sea of circling sharks. It sets off all our alarms.
What will people think of me if I share what I’m really feeling?
Will this exhaust me so much that I’m a mess tomorrow?
I want to be sure I’m doing this right; I better check and make sure others are sharing too.
What if no one relates to what I’m saying? Will they still like me tomorrow?
I’m not sure what I’m feeling is valid.
Maybe I should forget about me and check to see if anyone else needs support...
Can you relate to these thoughts?
It can be hard to raise our comfort level high enough to share vulnerably. It’s difficult to imagine that experiencing the discomfort can allow us to move on to a place of ease and joy. Let me tell you friends, it is true. Welcoming the hurt, holding it up to examine it, telling its story—and through it all being seen with love and compassion—this is where the magic lives.
We heal in relationship.
With warmth and love~
To get tips, insights, and encouragement on living a #fullcuplife of love and acceptance, follow me on Instagram @positivepathcoaching so you don’t miss a thing! My work focuses on women, especially those who experience the grand trifecta of being an introvert and highly sensitive with anxiety.
Brené Brown quotes are from an interview by Roman Krznaric.