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When I discovered this about being an introvert, it changed my perspective on aspects of myself that I thought were flaws. My negative thoughts were getting in the way of my effectiveness. Read on for steps to stop yourself from falling victim to your own negative self talk.
So, here I am sitting in a meeting with my mentors, people who I look up to, people who I have aspired to join for years! I am super excited to be here, am proud to be a part of the team. Why do I feel so dang uncomfortable? Why do I feel like I am not measuring up? Obviously they invited me to be on their team. They’ve told me that they value me. I’m terrified. I’m not measuring up!
This was me about 10 years ago. I was invited to join a consultation team with other mental health professionals who in my opinion were (and still are) the best of the best in my state. They were the who’s who of the treatment program that I provided to my patients. THIS WAS AMAZING!
Week after week, I showed up, tried to participate and all the while fought HARD to hide what I saw as my fatal flaw of not being as smart as they were. I was afraid somehow they would find out that I did not know the treatment as well as they did, that I was not smart enough to “get it,” that my thinking was “too concrete.” I sat in the meeting as we consulted on struggles we had in providing treatment. Everyone was supportive, it was a great experience. I pressured myself quite a bit to participate. But I always left feeling like I barely contributed.
You see, the conversation would go so quick…we would be on a topic…I would be listening…and would have something to say… and BOOOOM! They were on a different topic and it would be awkward to go back to the original topic. To me, this was evidence of me being stupid or slow. I had to rely a lot on skills to appear confident even though I was feeling far from it.
Fast forward to a recent exercise in the executive leadership course I am involved in (which is AMAZING by the way). We are doing an exercise on the Myers-Briggs and one of the aspects of my personality is Introvert. I mean, I know this already. I’m a psychologist after all. BUT, they said something in that meeting that I had never thought about in regards to myself…
Introverts typically take more time to process. They are thinkers, they like to have their thoughts formulated before speaking out loud. Extroverts on the other hand think out loud and often are formulating their thoughts while speaking.
WHAT?!? Ok, this makes sense. But I have beaten myself up for so long about this quality. I have had so many negative thoughts about how I am slow and cannot keep up with conversations and this somehow made me bad. Turns out it made me thoughtful! I am just an introvert who was in a sea of extroverts.
As a leader, I know that I need to pause a moment before making big decisions. I need to gather my thoughts. Rather than telling myself I need to be faster, or that I need to be something I am not, I need to embrace that I am a thoughtful person who likes to weigh the consequences, both positive and negative, of my decisions.
There is beauty in being thoughtful and in allowing yourself the time you need to think through your responses. I’m sure we’ve all been with the leader who makes quick decisions, often without thinking about the consequences of their actions. Heck, I’ve done that too. Things can be so complex at times!
As always, the problem comes in when we allow our negative thoughts to interfere with us taking the next step, the action that moves us forward. When I was telling myself that I was slow and stupid, you can bet i did not move myself forward in those situations.
But when my perspective changed through accepting my need to stop and think before responding, I had a different reaction.
When you find yourself stuck in the never-ending downward spiral of that yucky self talk that makes you feel worse and worse, take a minute and:
- Stop yourself. This could simply be telling yourself to STOP, imagining a stop sign in your head, whatever you need to do to pause.
- Notice the thoughts going through your head. Write them down.
- Remind yourself this is just a thought! Thoughts are not facts.
- Notice what it is that you were beating yourself up about. What was the situation?
- Have you felt this way before? In what other situations?
- Is there evidence that your thought isn’t true? What is it? Write it down. I’m not talking about turning your negative thought into a positive one. Instead, I want you to find EVIDENCE. If you are telling yourself you are stupid, what is the evidence. Is there evidence that you are not stupid? Have you done things well in the past?
- Remind yourself that the evidence against your negative thoughts is EVIDENCE, not just thoughts.
Sometimes you will learn that the thing you beat yourself up about is actually a positive. My ability to stop and think before acting is valued by others even though I don’t always like it. Having an introvert for a leader can be wonderful because they often have thought through a situation from multiple perspectives.
Now, if only we could get the extroverts to slow down a minute so that we can think and say our piece before the subject changes! 😉