Are you an Introvert? Do you ever have those moments where you start to feel overwhelmed by everything and everyone? For me personally, when someone comes in demanding my attention and energy -- especially while I’m barely surviving by a thread -- it can make me pretty upset. After having to repeatedly stand up for yourself and reinforce your boundaries, it’s not surprising that anger and resentment might build up over time.
It’s easy for Introverts to feel like the victim in the situations when people are constantly intruding on our space and asking us to give more energy than we can actually expend. But is it actually other people who are to blame ….or is it ourselves? Are we spending so much time focusing on what others are doing wrong, that we’re forgetting to include ourselves in the equation?
What does an unhealthy Introvert even look like?
This is how an Introvert looks when she’s in an “unhealthy state” or when she’s under extreme stress:
1. Avoids responsibility - Sometimes I can avoid taking care of the basic responsibilities like the laundry, even when I absolutely need to do it. Being an overwhelmed Introvert makes everything just a little bit harder to take care of.
2. Has a fear of conflict - IP types (INFP, ISFP, INTP, ISTP) tend to avoid conflict with others because of the shame that can arise when someone calls out one of their weaknesses or areas of need. Even as an INFJ, if I don’t have harmony with my community, it can be really stressful for me.
3. Becomes very overwhelmed - Unhealthy Introverts become ridiculously overwhelmed when:
- Put into new, unfamiliar environments, especially when having to receive all of the sensory details
- They feel like their values have been violated
- Having to “Extravert” too much
- Having to take in an excess of sensory information such as loud auditory or distracting visual information
4. Can appear controlling, stubborn, and inflexible - As an INFJ, I get too attached to my own ideal outcome. I hate to admit this, but I definitely get upset when things don’t always work out my way. This can be a huge challenge in relationships. ISFJs, too, can get too attached to their routines, systems, and patterns and can be seen as inflexible and rigid.
5. Can be harsh in their expectations of others - As hard as we are on ourselves as Introverts, we can be just as harsh in our judgements towards other people who don’t meet our high-expectations.
6. Can appear passive-aggressive - Instead of confronting a problem head on, overwhelmed Introverts express their frustration in underhanded and passive-aggressive ways. IPs are especially guilty of expressing their frustrations indirectly.
What can we do?
What can Introverts do when they’re getting in their own way? Here are some tips to help you out of the unhealthy slump:
Communicate: Sometimes when we feel misunderstood, it’s because we haven’t even explicitly communicated our needs to others. As Introverts, we can help people to better understand why we feel overwhelmed and why it’s so important for us to talk about capacity, space, and energy in our relationships. Be honest! Tell people that you don’t put yourself first, you feel misunderstood and you need alone time. Sometimes we just need to take care of our most basic needs like eating, staying hydrated and sleeping to get back in balance.
Set Boundaries: You can tell your partner, family, and friends what your boundaries are over and over again until you’re blue in the face. But, we need to teach people how to respect our boundaries. Solely wishing for others to respect your boundaries is like casting a fishing line out to sea hoping to catch a fish, but never coming back to check the line is still in the water and that it’s still doing what it needs to do in order to get the job done.
You are in charge of your own energy, actions, and time. This gives you the power back to take action on how much of your time you dole out to others. Sometimes the hardest thing to learn is saying no when you need to.
Know that other people are capable of taking care of themselves (at least in some capacity): If you aren’t entirely helpless, then neither are the people around you. While you might feel the need to help others, allowing them to help themselves is sometimes the best gift of all. I learned that it’s not about being a doormat and it’s not about appealing to everyone. You’re an Introvert and still need time to yourself to recharge, process, and reflect.
Develop your Auxiliary Function: Sometimes we forget that we still need to nurture and develop our auxiliary or co-pilot function because it is our highest point of leverage in terms of achieving personal growth. As an INFJ, my co-pilot is Extraverted Feeling (Fe). I’ve learned that it is just as an effective a decision-making process as Te, but it works a lot slower. When I feel forced to make a quick decision, it stresses me out and I default to using Introverted Thinking (Ti), which is a faster decision-making process than Fe. But I don’t always feel so great about my decisions afterwards because I often feel cold and less in touch with my compassionate side. For me, developing my auxiliary function can help me use it in a healthier way so that I can make decisions that will be best for the group as a whole (with me included!).
To change a situation, you have to start taking your actions into your own hands. Only then do you become responsible for the decisions that you make. This means owning the times that we make mistakes and dealing with the consequences and emotions that come with it, too. This one has surprisingly made me less resentful of people who I used to think of as “energy vampires.”
With taking your control back, you will command your space, energy, and capacity more easily without being a commander. I had to lean into the uncomfortable and do some of the hard work before I could even start to feel a slight change in taking my power back. This can also help us as Introverts to not adopt the victim mentality or the perception that everything in the world is happening to us all of the time and that nothing is in their own control.