- Who are you?
I’m the author of a newly published novel which has an introverted heroine. I’m also, like all of us, a person of many layers! I work as an editor and author, and have been a researcher in the past. I enjoy yoga, my garden, and my Jack Russell. I’m also an introvert with a big heart and a quiet voice who loves people but gets her energy from solitude.
- When did you first discover you are an introvert?
Like so many of us, I always knew I was ‘different’. Even as a young child, I was confused by the fact that my friends loved birthday parties when all I wanted to do was run from the games and cover my ears against the sugar-induced noise! I loved my friends – but could only take them in small doses.
We lived by the sea in a small town called Whitby in Yorkshire, and I enjoyed nothing more than being on a deserted winter beach with only the call of the gulls or the rush of the wind in my ears. I learned to read at a really young age, and spent my days buried in books.
While the signs were there right from the beginning, it was not until four decades later, after years when I was often confused by my own needs and how at odds they were with the mainstream, that I happened to do a Myers-Briggs test. It provided me with the small but oh-so-significant label of INFJ. I don’t usually go for labels but this one helped me. I was a member of a mere 1% of the population: no wonder I was different, no wonder I often thought it was ‘just me’! And no wonder I always felt alone in a crowd. I actually wept when I got the diagnosis, and then read avariciously about this new INFJ label. The more I learnt, the more it resonated. There were happy tears and tears of relief – I wasn’t ‘mad’ or ‘odd’: I was an INFJ!
- What difference did this make to your life?
These four little letters gave me a new kind of confidence, and a place in the world that made more sense. They explained my life choices up to that point – a life of books and art, the baffling exhaustion brought about by parties or long stretches of time with big groups of people (even though I loved people), the preference for rural life over city life, a meditation practice that has endured for over twenty years and gives me enough sparkle for when I ‘go out’ into the world.
- Which of your introvert traits/strengths are you most fond of?
As I love solitude, I’ve been able to hone my writing skills in a way that I simply could not have done if I had always sought the company of others. Writing fiction requires long periods of time spent working alone, drafting the story, developing characters, and researching locations.
My need to recharge my batteries in peace means I walk miles with my dog in the beautiful English countryside each week, taking photographs, relaxing, and processing my thoughts. In a similar way, the insights I have gained through yoga and meditation colour every living moment, and I’m so appreciative of that.
I’m a good friend – quiet but loyal, and very good in a crisis. I listen with empathy – probably because so much of life in the modern world has troubled me, and I’ve had to find ways to deal with it – and I can use what I have learnt to help others.
- What is the main challenge you face as an introvert?
I find cities and airports challenging (is the world getting busier and louder or is it just me?!) and public speaking almost impossible – although I have done it, somehow!
There’s an imbalance when the solitude I love can tip into loneliness and a sense that I’m not part of the modern world. I’m aware of this fine line though, and as I write from home, I make sure I see my friends often, and I take classes in poetry, art history and yoga, or simply go into town for a coffee and a chat with a stranger – so mostly, it’s not a problem.
Like so many introverts, I love people and company (even though I dread a party or invitation to dinner) and if you met me at certain times, you’d even think I was an extrovert – but then after a while, enough is enough, and I retreat for a little more ‘me’ time! There’s a lot of contradiction involved, and quite a bit of explaining to people who haven’t a clue what you are talking about!
- What are your top tips for being a contented introvert?
Know yourself and trust yourself. Honour your own needs and learn to communicate them to others.
I’m a great believer in the power of journaling – writing down whatever comes into my head when faced with a problem or difficulty, and then going through what I have written and seeing if I can approach the issue in a different way. Thrashing things out on the page of a journal that nobody else ever reads is a marvellous way of releasing stress too!
At home, I tell my family I am ‘off for some quiet time’ and retreat with a book or to meditate. Nobody questions this, and I am so much happier when that need in me is fulfilled and I have had some ‘time out’.
- What/who inspires you?
The great spiritual leaders of the world are a constant source of inspiration for me – people like the Dalai Lama, Eckhart Tolle and Thich Nhat Hanh – and the Sufi poets, especially Hafiz. True spirituality is not allied to any religious belief and so is available for all, and there is a wealth of knowledge waiting to be tapped for people who value solitude, introspection and a deeper understanding of life.
And then there are the great writers and artists like Cezanne and Jane Austen and the lesser-known like the marvellously irreverent Mary Wesley. Mary Oliver, the contemporary American poet, is one of my most treasured reads. Many authors, painters and poets portray worlds that are a far cry from the frantic experience of today’s world – somewhere we can still escape, and fill ourselves with energy again!