1) Who are you?
I’m Andy, a UK based songwriter, blogger and podcaster. I have been making music and performing as Atlum Schema for over ten years and have released 4 albums. I also run my own website and The-Haven.co which are ever growing online communities for introverts and highly sensitive people where we explore how to use our traits to make a unique and gentle difference in a noisy world. When I’m not doing those things I’m also a part time undertaker. Bit of a strange ‘day job’ but/so it suits me just fine!
2) When did you first discover you are an introvert?
When I read an article by Carl King called 10 Myths About Introverts. It introduced me to this concept of introversion and I had a huge ‘aha!’ moment. This was around five years ago. I then read Marti Olsen Laney’s ‘The Introvert Advantage’ and related to so much of what was written. I did a few personality tests and came out as a ridiculously strong introvert.
3) What difference did this make to your life?
Massive. It put everything into perspective. The fact that I loved spending time alone and would actively choose a quiet weekend when I was young over constantly going out and meeting up with people. It explained why I found it so weird that some friends always wanted to hang out all the time. Realising I wasn’t completely weird or flawed was nice. It helped me manage that side of my personality better and understand that it was all to do with my energy. After a long week at school, and later work I always needed time to myself. But that didn’t mean I was antisocial and I was able to do social better when I knew what was going on.
I guess it’s also made a huge difference to my life because over the years, since starting the blog and podcast I’ve been growing a business around it all. So in that respect discovering what it means to be an introvert has changed everything.
4) Which of your introvert traits/strengths are you most fond of?
I find it very easy to enter ‘Flow’. I am very self-motivated and love getting creative in solitude. I guess that is probably the thing that has been most beneficial to my life. I speak to people who get bored easily and find it difficult to do stuff they want to do. That has never really been the case for me. I rarely get bored, especially when I’m alone. There is always stuff to do, explore, create etc so I guess that is the side of being an introvert that I love most. I can lose days and even weeks at a time when I’m immersed in a project or a new idea. I guess the flip side is that I can get a little obsessive which is something I’m getting better at managing, and it has meant in the past that I’ve gone for long periods without making contact with another human. That’s not usually great for my mental state, so again I have become more self-aware about the risks of doing that.
5) What is the main challenge you face as an introvert?
I guess the biggest one is the maintenance of friendships. I am a social introvert, I love spending time with friends and family. I love those relationships where it feels like no work to get back into even when you haven’t seen each other for a while there is little awkwardness and small talk at the start. But I’m rubbish at making contact and organising to meet up with people I care about. Because my default is to treasure time I get to spend alone and because I’m so content being alone, relationships seem to get pushed down the list and I hate that. It’s something I am constantly trying to improve but I guess it’s my achilles heel. I worry that people think I don’t care when I really do, so it’s the challenge that I’m always looking to confront in myself.
6) What are your top tips for being a contented introvert?
Know what you value and be aware of those things in life for the sake of which you’re willing to ‘act out of character’. If you know what matters to you then you know what’s worth pursuing and acting more extroverted for. Brian Little has a lot to say about this subject and is hugely inspiring. We are not defined by our temperaments, we are defined by the choices we make and the relationships and activities we ascribe meaning to. We can create ‘free trait agreements’ when we have quality restorative niches to come back to and recharge. I love the fact that we have so much autonomy over how we spend our energy.
I now embrace solitude. I used to feel guilty about saying no to things when I needed a quiet night alone. Now I get those times in the diary and stick to them without any sense of guilt, shame, or fear of missing out. It’s liberating. Shame is a huge stumbling block for introverts. Whether it’s because you wish you were quicker at making witty comebacks during small talk, able to be the life and soul of any social situation, or whatever it can feel like there is something wrong when you judge yourself by the wrong yardstick. Understand your strengths, realise that you have a rich and wonderful inner life and that there is great beauty that seeps out over time from the depth of your being, the more that people spend time with you. Do that and you will stop caring what people think. Then you will stop comparing yourself to others. Then you will be content with who you are and what you’re about.
7) What/who inspires you?
Integrity and gentleness in unexpected places. I love seeing people doing stuff for motives that transcend the common ideas of success. People who believe a better world is possible, those who help even when no one is watching (or they think no one is watching). People who lead from within – self-leaders who are wanting to change themselves before they inspire others to change. I am inspired in all kinds of areas and by all sorts of people. I watch a lot of documentaries, read a lot of books, and love having conversations with other introverts, songwriters and those who are willing to be vulnerable about their own life’s struggles.
Read more about Andy’s online communities for introverts on the Web Resources page