I live in a city where I am PUMMELED by diversity the second I walk out the door. Diversity in race, diversity in religion, diversity in gender identity, diversity in age, class, body type, occupation — you name it, New York City’s got it. Bougie brownstones next to dirty bodegas. A multi-zillionaire riding the 1 train next to someone without a penny to their name.
I have never ever ever once in my life been exposed to so much diversity in my daily life. It has made me a better person because my eyes are opened wider. It has made my voice louder and stronger because I know it’s the only one of its kind in a sea of unique songs. Diversity has made me deeply internalize that the lens through which I view the world is neither right or wrong – no one’s is – because it is merely a single lens amidst COUNTLESS different prescriptions.
But. BUT. Here is the thing about diversity. Living amongst such radical diversity has also made it abundantly clear that while we all have different backgrounds and opinions and deep-seated beliefs about the way the world is, everything boils down to one of two buckets: GOOD or NOT.
We can all have different lenses on, but there are only two choices when it comes to what we condone when it comes down to the very basics of humanity.
I have noticed that sometimes the people around me can be harsh. They can sometimes be bitter or mean or maybe have different political views than I do. But at the end of the day, they (for the most part, don’t wanna generalize a whole city) believe in the notion that no matter who you are or where you come from, you deserve equal rights and you deserve to be here. Exactly as you are. The beauty of living in NYC is that while it’s maybe the most diverse city in the entire country, and the diversity is APPARENT on every street block, we’re all in this together. The majority is GOOD.
The majority of AMERICA is GOOD. I know it. But when we don’t own our stories or speak up or simply get curious as to why our story has favored certain races, religions, genders etc for so long – when we can’t even be proactive with our CURIOSITY – the GOOD gets weaker. And the NOT gets stronger.
As Queen of All Things Brené Brown said so eloquently in her FB Live this week (seriously, go watch it HERE), we need to own our own story in order to write our own ending. If we don’t, the story owns us. The ending gets written for us.
The shame is that too many people think that owning your story means making yourself feel like an asshole. Or that owning your story means aligning yourself with things you don’t believe in. And neither of those could be farther from the truth.
We’ve been talking a lot aboutrecoveryandeatingdisorderson WANT lately, so to go with an analogy: owning that you once had an eating disorder does not mean it defines who you are. Owning the fact that an eating disorder was a part of your story does not mean it is anywhere near your entire narrative.
Owning that our country was built on white supremacy, that anti-semitism and racism and homophobia are woven deep in our fabric, does 👏not 👏mean 👏 that WE ourselves are any of those things. But to stay silent – to not even let your curiosity question GOOD vs NOT out loud – is to stay in denial of a NOT that has gone on for far too long.
Speak up. It matters. Oh my god does it matter. I’m not saying you have to be posting all the time on social media. But words have immense power. We learn from each other. Just like bonding over negativity, if we make silence our MO, others will follow suit. However, if we start thoughtful conversations or make at the very least offhand comments boosting the GOOD and admonishing the NOT, others will start to follow. Your words let others know where you stand and how you think we should write the rest of our story.
And if you are struggling right now at speaking your mind – if you are feeling like you’re maybe at risk of losing your community or someone you love because they’re afraid of what owning their story might mean and will disown you if you’re the one who brings it into the light, because I do recognize that that is a VERY REAL THING for some people – I urge you to at the very least weave curiosity into your conversations.
It can go something like this: “It’s funny: we were raised to believe that XYZ” or “We learned 123 in our textbooks or in Bible study”…”But my current, more enlightened self WONDERS: _______?”
Create your own script. Wonder deeply and with intention. But do it out loud.
Wondering out loud opens doors that blame or shame cannot, and can lead to taking ownership of your past and therefore creating a new future.
One of the many joys of my childhood was coming downstairs for breakfast on a lazy Sunday and seeing the newspaper parceled out for each family member. My dad got the front pages – the major headlines and serious stuff. My brother always started with the Sports section, which he split with my mom between bites of cereal or an Eggo waffle or a big fluffy cinnamon roll baked fresh from the Farmers Market.
And me? I got to start with the Comics.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved the Calendar section for Arts news and the “Lifestyle” section for the op-eds. Chris Erksine’s weekly column in the LA Times was a staple in my repetoire, and the candor with which he and other columnists (in what I deemed the more “cool” and “down-to-earth” sections of the paper as a young reader) wrote about their small yet mighty life experiences was for sure an influence on my speaking and writing style.
But I found that my tween-ish mind could learn way more from the Comics section than any other part of the newspaper. In just six or so pages of newsprint, I could dive into different worldviews, laugh at jokes that I might not have been deemed “marure enough” to understand IRL, and – my favorite – watch characters, in bite-sized vignettes, put words to what every single adult around me was thinking and not saying. As a highly sensitive person and an empath to the core, I could often feel what adults around me felt. I just wasn’t always able to put it into easily understandable terms. How could I, if no one else around me was even validating that these feelings existed?
What’s more, *I* felt those feelings, too. Stress. Loneliness. Awkwardness. Through comics, I could watch these characters morph and evolve week after week right along with me. They helped me wrap my head around a world that was sometimes a bit overwhelming, and even got me seeing – laughing – at the absurdity of so much of it.
When I think of “The News” migrating from the page to the screen, I always feel a pang of sadness. Yes, of course, because of the value of the printed word…but also because of the immense pleasure of the Sunday comics and the parceled-out paper sections at the breakfast table. The newspaper, and particularly the Comics section helped shape me as not just a writer and artist but as a full human being.
Which is why when I started to discover the vast amount of cartoonists and illustrators on Instagram, my heart felt like it had been reunited with a childhood bestie. But better – because the bulk of the cartoonists I was finding myself drawn to were WOMEN.
The one gripe I have about the Comics section of my youth is how male-dominated it was. Baby Blues, Zits, Mutts, and Momma were my go-tos. When Calvin and Hobbes ran its last strip, I cried. But rarely did any characters look like me sans a token mom or female sidekick – and very rarely was there a woman in the byline. If I wanted a female point of view I really only had Cathy to turn to (who was a badass. for the record).
Today, there are countless female cartoonists and illustrators on Instagram creating witty, poignant work that is HIGHLY relatable whether you’re a woman or not. Their bravery to use their art to tackle mental health issues, take a stand for causes they believe in, and help their followers understand the nuances of what makes each person unique toes the line between art and activism.Their boldness helps me, and others like me, be bold by boiling things down to images that make us FEEL.
I might not have a breakfast table decorated with parceled-out newspaper sections and words and ideas just waiting to be discovered, but I love that social media has allowed the Comics section back into my life – and, what’s more, a brand new Comics section that looks a lot more LIKE my life.
Here are five female Instagram cartoonists and illustrators I’m loving – and think you will, too:
Marzi from Introvert Doodles is the one that started it for me. Her cartoons are always a high point in my day, and get me shouting out “ME TOO!” more times than I can count. But silently, because #introvert. Unless I’m alone. Then out loud. I honestly don’t have adequate words to describe how much I love Introvert Doodles…so go check her out yourself to see what I mean.
Hannah Daisy of @makedaisychains is a mental health activist who uses her #boringselfcare series to remind us all – whether we’re struggling with an illness or are feeling down in the slumps – that no act of self care is too small. She’s helped me “just clean the dishes” or “just do the laundry” multiple times. Because sometimes, those “justs” can feel a lot more than that.
I’m obsessed with Mari’s adorable, quirky, uber-positive (but never saccharine) illustrations. Every time an illustration of hers pops up in my feed, I’m reminded of how many little things there are to smile about – and how many of those little things aren’t really so little at all.
@SarahAndersenComics The comic strips that Sarah Andersen of Sarah’s Scribbles (aka @sarahandersoncomics) draws remind me the mosts of the comics I LOVED as a kid – but even better. Sarah tackles anxiety, periods, dating, and the thoughts we’re all thinking but rarely say out loud. And…her comics make me snort-laugh. Which is very important.
Okay, so Kimothy Joy’s work isn’t so much cartoons or comics as it is illustrations and art. But I love her so much, I couldn’t leave her out of this mix. Her gorgeous paintings and drawings are the perfect merger of art and activism, sharing the wise words of women along with artwork that will make your heart sing. New writing goal? Write something worthy of a Kimothy Joy quote illustration.
NOW YOU: What other female cartoonists, illustrators, and artists are you loving? Who else should our WANT community be following on Instagram? Tell me in the comments below!
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So many of you have asked me questions about eating disorder “recovery.” How to get there. How to stay there. How to exist there.
I’ve avoided writing about recovery – like, really writing about it – for a while. Not because I haven’t wanted to, but because I’ve seen others do it and either face scathing criticism from experts or get unwanted attention and get pinned AS an expert. That’s what being hyper-aware of the internet will do: make you worry yourself into inaction.
I feared that some doctor would read or hear my words and rip me a new one. I feared someone would view my words on recovery as this panacea for basically any and every eating/body issue they’ve ever experienced. I feared WANT would become a recovery-specific movement and was wary of diving in as our community was still finding its legs. Because I am no expert.
But now? Now we’ve got our legs, and now they’re damn.strong. We’ve gotten to the point where I feel it would be irresponsible to NOT address the dark, extreme turn negative self-talk can take, head-on. Especially because I’vebeen there.
When you’re coming out of a dark place, any solution can seem like THE solution. Nixing the one trigger from your life or following the one pearl of wisdom can feel like you’re finally on the right track. But it’s never the case. Contrary to what most people who haven’t experienced addiction or body/eating-related disorders (which are, many times, just another form of addiction) think, the most vulnerable time isn’t always when you’re IN the darkness. The most vulnerble time can be actually when you’re actively trying to move toward the light.
Recovery is a three-steps-forward, two-steps-back kind of deal. One moment you forget how you could have ever given so much energy to your disorder, the next you’re sideswiped by an inauspicious trigger and you’re suddenly in shackles again. And the main thing I’ve realized in talking to you all about this…is that recovery is still a hazy concept until you’ve gone through and past it.
For all these reasons and more, I am so proud to bring you The Recovery Myth: a miniseries by WANT sharing real-life stories, smashing open misconceptions, and shining a light on what recovery really looks like.
I’ll be talking to experts, healers, and real-life recoverees answering some of the top recurring questions I’ve gotten from you over the last few years. Not just questions about recovery itself, but about the befores, the durings, the afters, and all the in-betweens that can sometimes seem like you imagined them.
To be clear: the point of The Recovery Myth is NOT to prescribe a roadmap or provide a neat-and-tidy picture of what recovery looks like. The point is to dispel myths surrounding recovery and gain multiple perspectives to provide a more inclusive, holistic, and ultimately helpful view of what it looks like to go from the darkness into the light.
A few disclaimers:
– The Recovery Myth is a four-part series. Once a month, we’ll dive into The Recovery Myth on the site and theWANTcast, culminating in the first week of October for Mental Health Awareness Week.
– I’ll be focuing primarily on eating/body-related disorders, but will also be touching on substance abuse, as they often stem from the same place mentally and emotionally.
– I know that I’m not the authority on recovery, and I think you know that, too. But like I said above, I am incredibly sensitive to the fact that darkness can drive us to latch onto any answer as THE answer and can create codependent relationships. I am not here to provide anyone with definitive answers, nor am I here to be anyone’s crutch. I AM here, however, to maybe spark a conversation, maybe open some eyes, and ask the hard questions that someone maybe might not feel brave enough asking. And I’m hoping, it can maybe help someone feel powerful enough to seek the change they wish to be. Although, spoiler alert: you’re already powerful enough.
So, where do we go? Where do we start? The myths themselves. Totally not an exhaustive list (because the whole never-ending exhaustive list is…exhausting), but let’s kick this off by talking the most ::facepalm:: inducing ones of all.
Here are 7 common myths surrounding the concept of “recovery:”
Myth #1: Recovery means getting “back to normal.”
Ever heard the phrase “you can’t unsee it?” You “can’t unsee” your experiences with an eating disorder or addiction. That doesn’t mean an ED or addiction is a life sentence. Kind of like a relationship gone sour, you can either let that relationship dictate your narrative or you can view it as something that led you to become the person you are today. Recovery isn’t so much about getting back to normal as it is about the process of creating a new normal. In this new normal, the disorder or addiction is still a part of your story – it just is not the defining chapter.
Myth #2: Recovery is a set of definitive answers and a straight path to success.
Recovery is like taking three steps forward and two steps back. Then five steps forward and one step back. Then eight steps forward and four steps back. Over and over and over again. Until those steps back become smaller and smaller and smaller and eventually non-existent. No one formula works for everyone, and no one path is linear.
Myth #3: Recovery is all about changing what you DO.
Yes, your relationship with food, exercise, and your body desperately need to be healed – but you can’t To-Do-List away a paradigm shift.
For a good long while (think years), I did just enough to convince other people I was trying to get better. That I was trying to be the person I once was. It backfired really badly. I would eat in secret. I would not eat for an entire day – yes, even if I was hungry – in order to consume a large dinner and “show” people I was back to normal. I created rules, regulations, strategies, and stipulations that no one could see from the outside.
In reality, an eating disorder is NOT about the food. It’s never about the food. It’s about the mindset, the control, and a larger problem desperately trying to be fixed. The food, the substance, the exercise, WHATEVER it is, is symptomatic, not causative. Which is why saying things like Just Eat, Stop Eating, Don’t Exercise, or Don’t Drink aren’t just ineffective, they’re insensitive. It’s also why, as the person trying to recover, you can’t simply address the surface-level stuff and call it a day. The real healing happens in parts of your head and heart that no one can see.
Myth #4: After you recover from an eating disorder, you’ll never think a negative thought about your body again (but if you do, you’ve relapsed).
There is a difference between relapsing and being human. We all have up and down days when it comes to the way we feel about ourselves or what we see in the mirror. The difference between negative thoughts and a mental disorder is that with the latter, those negative thoughts dictate your every move and start to steal your voice, your space, and your life away. Like I’ve said before,youcan have moments of not liking your body but still loving your body. That’s normal. What’s not normal is when eating disorders steal the love away. Learning to create a new normal in life also means creating a new normal when it comes to how you deal with discomfort.
Myth #5: If you don’t look like you have a disorder, you don’t really have a problem.
LOLz to this ignorance. It’s not just young women – young, white, heterosexual, and middle/upper-class women, to be trope-specific – who develop eating disorders. It’s not just underweight people who are in danger. It’s not just those who have broken homes or relationship friction. Men, women, and non-binary folks of all ages, races, socioeconomic statuses, backgrounds, and body types can and DO develop eating disorders. All the time. To generalize is to deny a huge chunk of the population a chance at being seen.According toNEDA, “In the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men will suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, or EDNOS (eating disorders not otherwise specified).” It’s not about what you or your life look like, it’s about what’s going on underneath. No one is immune to developing an eating disorder.
Myth #6: The hardest part of recovery is abstinence.
The hardest part of recovery isn’t necessarily when you’re first learning how to stay away from or replace the behaviors you once had. The hardest part of recovery can be when you think you’re on the right path and then get sneak-attacked by something you didn’t realize was a trigger. That’s why it’s called a trigger. You don’t see it coming and it hits. FAST. The recovery dance can feel like a risky one. Triggers everywhere. And not a lot to trust. But then again, building trust often times feels like the riskiest feeling of all. And just like building trust in a friendship or romance, the biggest risks reap the biggest rewards.
Myth #7: You need to be at your lowest low in order to seek out recovery
I read an eye-opening fact today onThe Endometrisis Coalition‘s Instagram account stating that the “Stage” of endometriosis doesn’t dictate the amount of pain the stage causes. Someone with Stage 2 endo can have more severe pain than someone with Stage 4 endo. I immediately thought of eating disorders and how, often times, people think they or their loved ones are not “bad enough” to need recovery. But just like with a chronic illness or a feeling of grief, no one person’s experience is more or less valid than anyone else’s. What’s going on underneath the surface is what counts – and if it’s affecting your life for the worse, it warrants intervention.
To be completely transparent, even though I technically fit the bill, I have a very hard time identifying with the word “recovered” and calling it a day. Because it barely scratches the surface. My “recovery” looks like way more than a Before And After photo (which is why you won’t be seeing any of those on WANT). It’s not that think the word, or concept rather, has gotten a bad rap…it’s just gotten the wrong rap.
To be “recovered,” by society’s standards, insinuates being saved by something or someone. And let me be clear: YOU NEED TO ASK FOR HELP. Call. Text. Reach out. Book the appointment. Have someone book it for you. Just involve others. Humans are community-driven creatures. We need each other, in our highest highs and lowest lows.
But no matter how much therapy you go to, treatment you have, or self-help books you read, the only person who can truly save you…is you. It’s a choice that comes about with a lot of support, but is spurred into action when you finally say no to your crutches and YES to your capabilities.
Let’s let go of the old ideas that we can get back to who we once were once upon a time. Let’s start to think of RECOVERY as it really is. Something better than once upon a time: becoming the you YOU know you’re meant to be.
Know someone who might need this miniseries? Forward it along and let them know you care.
Know someone who might be able to contribute something unique to the conversation? I’d LOVE to meet them. IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW HAS GONE THROUGH AN ED/ADDICTION/SUBSTANCE ABUSE (**AND HAVE SUCCESSFULLY RECOVERED), OR ARE AN EXPERT IN THE FIELD, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can get to talking.
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Vincent Van Gogh only sold one painting in his entire lifetime. As such an iconic artist, it’s natural to assume it was one of the “greats.” Starry Night? Irises? Sunflowers? One of his many, famed self portraits? Nope – it was a golden auburn-toned piece entitled “Red Vineyard.” A depiction of farmhands harvesting crop at a wine plantation. Not the one that I, at least, would expect. His life was tumultuous, his paintings underappreciated, his world not ready for what he had to offer.
And yet…he kept painting. He kept expressing himself in the unique way he knew how.
We are so lucky he did.
I’ve been contemplating success a lot lately. What it means to succeed, who it is that determines success.
So many of us desire to be lasting or expansive, or maybe simply useful. We long to make a difference that goes beyond us or lasts way past our own existence. Whether than means a change within the four-ish walls of our apartment uniut or on a big huge global level, our sense of mortality can sometimes scare us into a scramble for success that’s visible, success we can SEE.
Whether our definition of success involves the immediate future or posthumous celebration, we want to be sure it’s gonna happen. We want to know we’re being the change we wish to see in the world.
But how do we know what is actually lasting?
When it comes to success, what is more important:
success that lasts a lifetime, success you can scale and be sure of…or success that is not shown to you directly, but is impacting the world on a level that’s beyond your awareness?
Social media and technology provide us with amazing tools to connect with and impact each other. It’s now easier than it’s ever been to gain signs and signals of our success. Whether it’s likes, shares, or just a message from a friend saying how happy they are to know you, in some ways we’re able to be hyper-aware our influence. Seeing our impact, however small, can keep us fueled and connected.
But not everyone reaches out. Not everyone is connected. And as dialed in as our culture is, in many ways the true tell-tale signs of success are old-school. You don’t always know.
And then there is the work we do in the world that we’re not necessarily recognized for. Work that, centuries from now, our society might deem revolutionary. So what’s more indicative of success: that the success materializes, or that we see its impact?
I’ve come to the conclusion that seeing our impact can be a metric of success – a symptom of and supplement to the success itself. But if we’re truly successful, there might be a whole boatload of impact we don’t see. Lives we’re never aware we touch.
And we need to be okay with that. Because lasting impact is the one thing we cannot control.
Success you can’t see is scary (“Does what I do really matter?”), but it’s also kind of empowering. Success you can’t see is what drives us to be fully and completely self-expressed, for how will we know if we don’t even try? If you’re one of those people who believes we are all put on Earth for a reason – and I for sure am one of those people who believes we are all put on Earth for a reason – then we must let ourselves fully and completely live on purpose, and look for the little signs telling us we’re doing the thing that’s in our DNA to do (or at least on the right track).
We see only one star in the dark night and confuse it for a lack of sky, when instead we should be taking it as proof that there’s a huge universe out there filled with way more stars that we can imagine.
It might be a smile from a stranger. It might be a comment on your blog or a tweet from a stranger. It might be your best friend’s child expressing gratitude, or hearing a family member repeat a word of wisdom you offered up randomly one day. Maybe at first glance they don’t seem like much, but that’s the sneaky thing about success: it shows itself in the micro moments, but the macro effects often are so big – so many collective moments upon moments – we can’t accurately gauge what a difference we’re making.
If you keep your eyes open and live your life to its fullest, its fullness, you will start to see signs everywhere that you’re a lasting force in this world. It’s only those people who actively choose NOT to create change that don’t.
Whether you’re far along your path or just beginning to let it live, please know and trust that what’s right in front of you is just the tip of the iceberg. A star in the sky. One painting in the collection. Simply desiring to make a difference means you’ve probably already made one.
Faking it is the worst. No, matter whether you’re feigning confidence in an interview or fighting off your impulse to hide from adult responsibilities or in the passionate midst of a NSFW sitch, “faking it” feels uncomfortable, guilt-riddled, and, well, fake.
Multiply this by a bajillion if you’re an introvert – and a bajillion more if you’ve just said yes to yet another social invite on the cal.
As an introvert, going to an event or getting yourself into a social situation “just because” is usually a set up for disaster, guilt, and low self-confidence.
So how do you avoid a meltdown…without avoiding a social life at the same time?
On one hand, you’re an introvert through and through…along with about half the population. You gain energy from within yourself instead of from interaction with others in the outside world. You need time to make decisions and mentally rehearse what you want to say, instead of making decisions quickly and thinking out loud.
Most importantly? You have a private self that is only revealed to your inner circle, the people you trust – which can make it hard to want to be social when you don’t know many people.
The people who don’t understand might peg you as aloof or shy.However, you know that shyness and introversion are not the same thing. Shyness is the fear of negative judgment, and introversion is a preference for quiet, minimally stimulating environments – your thoughts and ideas, the way you react to a piece of music or a string of words, that is stimulating enough. You do your best work in your head, with deep reflection. You are truly your own best friend.
On the other hand, just because you’re a bona-fide introvert doesn’t mean you want to shun socializing. And you know, introvert, that being your personality type doesn’t mean you’re necessarily quiet or shy.
As an introvert, you truly enjoy being around others and benefit most from deep connections. Small talk doesn’t really interest you, and the quantity of connections aren’t so much as important to you as the quality. You get high off of those instances that just seem to click – and even though you are at your best when given time alone, sometimes you feel your trait is shutting you off from a whole world that awaits.
We live in a culture that pays the most attention to extroversion: one that tells us that the signs of a thriving personal life are having a large social circle, bustling days filled with activity, and jam-packed nights filled with soirees.
In reality, we actually live in a culture that is FILLED with scenarios made for introverts, from one-on-one interactions to solo commutes to independent choices.
Pop culture caters to extroverts, so you may believe you’re the odd (wo)man out. But introverts are the ones who instinctively know how to navigate the deepest of waters in any social scenario. You’ll gain the most value from your social activities if you not only recognize your strengths, but find a purpose behind why you’re going. Because you, dear Introvert, have so much to add to the world, and every social situation can benefit from your insight and worldview. Introverts instinctively know how to navigate the deepest of waters in any social scenario. Click To Tweet
Here are 7 ways to stay social while still being true to who you are at your core – no faking required:
1.) Enjoy the silence. As an introvert, bustling parties and crowded rooms can be overwhelming – making you shy away from those situations altogether. There will be times, though, you cannot avoid being in the middle of the action or simply don’t want to opt out of every invitation.
Intersperse moments of silence throughout your day, and bookend the event with silence as well. Knowing that you’ll be able to decompress in peace is vital and prevents panic from setting in when you feel like you can’t get away from the literal and metaphorical noise.
2.) Redefine “networking” as “friend-netting.” Don’t worry – I shudder at the thought of “networking,” too. And when you’ve got work functions to attend or mixers you’ve said yes to, it’s easy to feel like a fish out of water.
Instead of focusing on the quantity of people you meet or conversations you have, relish in those one or two meaningful conversations or connections. Instead of networking, find the one or two people that you can devote your focus and attention to. My fiance calls this “friend-netting.” The chances are very slim you’re the only introvert at the party – even if it feels like it at times. Use your killer instinct to find your fellow introverts and maybe even bond over your shared trait.
3.) Ask active questions. One of your strengths is what a wonderful listener you are – and most people love to talk about themselves (not a bad thing – we all love to talk about things we feel we have expertise in, and who is a better expert of ourselves than…ourselves?). Avoid small talk by asking open-ended questions to people you meet, listening carefully, offering up a little piece of information about yourself to form a connection, then ask another question based off the last answer.
For example, instead of asking where someone is from or if they’re been to this person’s party before or if they like the weather or whatever (all of which usually only involve a single word answer), ask how long they’ve lived in your town, how they first met the host, or what they usually do for or love about whatever season you’re in.
4.) Know your yesses – and your nos. What are the qualities you enjoy in an event? What are the things that drain you? Maybe you become anxious and tired at night, but enjoy daytime or afternoon events. Maybe you’re a night owl but any social scenario that takes place before noon makes you cranky. Maybe you don’t bat an eye at parties hosted at someone’s home, but clubs and bars give you goosebumps in a bad way. Know your preferred times of day, locations, days of the week, and other details so that you can make an informed decision about whether to attend or not. If the nos outweigh the yesses by more than two thirds (or even one half), opt out and pat yourself on the back for knowing yourself so well.
5.) Go with a like-minded friend. As an introvert, it’s in your nature to shy away when you sense a highly extroverted personality taking the spotlight. What’s frustrating is not the person herself, it’s that you end up feeling like you’ve put your own personality on hold in order to accommodate someone else – which is usually never an extrovert’s intention to begin with.
Going with a like-minded friend not only evens out the playing field when you’re in group conversations, it ensures you’ll have at least one person to bond with in merriment. Hey, you can even go with a trusted extrovert who gets you and can help take the pressure off being “on.”
6.) Do the coordination yourself. Whether it’s offering up the location of your lunch spot or diving deep and hosting your own soiree, taking charge of the coordination is a secret tool of introverts. If you’re coordinating, it not only gives you a say in choosing an environment/guest list that suits your comfort level (say, a unique hole-in-the-wall coffee shop instead of a loud trendy restaurant). It gives you a sense of purpose…which is key for an introvert’s social fulfillment.
7.) Cut yourself some slack. As author Elaine Aron says in her book The Highly Sensitive Person (someone who is extremely easily affected by their surroundings and emotions – another personality type you very well might possess as an introvert. I do!), everyone is a bit awkward at their non-specialty.
If you find yourself in the middle of small talk or a conversation you’re flubbing up…if you’re slowly gravitating toward the corner and hugging the punch table…ease up on your self-judgement. Your speciality isn’t small talk or big groups, it’s deep conversations and making a small group or one-on-one interaction feel like it’s the biggest, most important interaction there is. And that’s a gift you should never overlook.
Worst case scenario? You get to people watch. And every introvert knows that is a goldmine.
Recent Question: “Katie, as someone who writes as a profession…do you ever sit down some days and feel like you don’t have anything to say?”
Recent Answer: “LOL. Try almost EVERY WEEK.”
The comparison trap – ie comparing yourself to others – is one I know well. When I’m feeling good, I can look at comparison and self-doubt and see how pointless and counter-productive it is.
But when I’m in it? On my best days, it takes a lot of work to talk myself out of that place of “what do I even have to say.”
On all the other days, I completely check out.
There’s not really a middle ground: I’m either aggressively talking myself out of self-doubt or I’m voting myself off the island by not doing ANYTHING whatsoever. I think maybe it’s because I know how exhausting the pep-talk can be.
Doubt-induced inaction is a frightening place to be. You stop creating, stop participating, stop BE-ing who you are because you look out and don’t know if you really add value to what you see. And that fear isn’t fun, so a lot of times we’ll just decide we don’t want to deal.
The thing with checking out, however, is that our feelings of doubt, envy, and fear are still lighting up a big ol neon NO VACANCY sign in our minds. We might be dissociating mentally…but those doubts and fears are growing like weeds in the meantime. No wonder we feel anxious when we’re triggered and lash out at other or push the blame on something else – those overflowing feelings have to go SOMEWHERE.
For me, this happens when I sit down and think of the MASSIVE PROBLEMS I care about and how the hell I’m going to help fix them…and then for some reason I think it’s a really good idea to just go down a big long rabbit hole and see what everyone else is doing.
I’ll save you some frustration and let you know that comparing yourself to others and looking to them to inform what you “should” be doing pretty much never works. You either end up feeling like everything has already been done OR start comparing what you do/who you are to everyone else OR maybe on the off-chance you actually get inspired you make like me and tell yourself you’re not allowed to be inspired by someone else’s work because that’s being something that’s way too close to a copycat. Yeah. You read that right. I look at others for inspiration and then talk myself out of it when I actually get inspired.
The thing is, I KNOW I’m not a brain-box of empty thoughts. I KNOW I have something to say…it’s just that my intentions don’t always line up so nicely in sentences. Sometimes I have just the right words…and sometimes, the above box of vintage Scrabble letters is my spirit animal. Somewhere between my brain and my lips (or fingers, if we’re going the writing route), the lines get all crossed and I end up with a bunch of gibberish. Worse than gibberish. What’s worse than gibberish, you ask? Fake wisdom. Fake fake fake. I can feel it in my bones. Nothing sounds right; nothing is what I really mean.
And that…that can SCARE THE F outta me if I let it. Because then I start to doubt I have anything new or interesting to say, and then I start looking at what everyone else is doing, and then I wonder if what we REALLY need is just another essay, just another tip or trick, just another podcast episode.
And that’s when I check out. Except you can’t check out when it’s your job, your calling, your through line to stay in it. So all that happens is that my anxiety mounts and my points of comparison multiply.
What helps me is to identify when I am most likely to get into this shithole of a headspace.
It’s usually when I’m home sick, when I need to take it easy, when I’m bored with the status-quo I’m stuck in…basically, whenever I am NOT acting on my desire, either by choice (laziness) or necessity (circumstance), to do one of three things: move, learn, or create. And when I am not acting on my desire to move, explore, or create, I get out of integrity* with what I say I value or what I know I care about.
(*Integrity, for the record, is different than character or values. Character or values are your ethical/moral code. Integrity is adhering to that code. So if I’m out of integrity with my values, I’m thinking a lot about things like gender equality, reprogramming self talk – i know, ironic – race relations, teaching empathy, etc etc etc, but not DOING anything about them. Doing things like exercising, reading, or journaling help me get back in alignment with who I am and what I stand for.)
That’s not to say a run or watching a documentary or painting a picture (or a table, as I did last weekend) can or will fix everything. But little by little, it can be the start. One walk around the block might not seem like much, but after a few days of walks you might find your mind drifting off into places it hasn’t been in a while. Reading one night a week instead of scrolling through Instagram might not stop the comparison (and oh, does that Insta-comparison sting), but once you get in the groove, it just seems way more interesting to feed your mind than it does to feed your fears.
But also…and here’s where it gets really real…it’s not just when I’m home sick or I’m stuck in a loop of sameness that I doubt my value.
It’s when I find myself trying so hard to explain myself over…and over…and over to those I love most.
That’s when I really want to check out.
And that’s a harder one to admit. Because it can’t be solved by the habit a run every morning or a doodle-in-your-notebook break. Because it doesn’t just make you feel like you have nothing important to say, it makes you feel like the things you DO have to say are wildly inefficient. If I can’t get through to them, then who CAN I reach?
But here’s the thing.
And I want you to read this a few times over and let it sit.
Those are not the people who need to learn the lessons you have to give.
They are here to learn those lessons on their OWN time, from someone ELSE and some OTHER experience. And just because your words aren’t the ones they need DOESN’T MEAN THEY’RE NOT IMPORTANT.
Someone once told me that public speaking is 10% what you say and 90% how you say it. Just because it’s been said doesn’t mean it’s been said by YOU. That’s how people actually hear things – when they’re being said by someone who makes it “click” for them. You can’t get mad at it, because it was never your lesson to teach those people to begin with. That’s why comparing yourself to others never works – they’re here to teach and learn in ways that are entirely different than your own. We’re all here to learn the exact same lessons, just not at the exact same times. So wouldn’t it make sense that we all have a different way of giving and receiving these universal truths?
Of course you have something to offer. Of course you have something to say. We ALL do. That’s what we’re here for, right? To teach each other and help each other grow. Just the fact that your ideas exist means they’re just as valid as what that best-selling author has to say – just the FACT that your loved ones learn from others MEANS that YOU are here to teach someone ELSE. The comparison traps and the deaf ears – they’re all just distractions that, when flipped on their head, can help you see how strong your voice really is.
So do I ever sit down and feel like I have nothing to say? The answer is: all of the time.
But my logical brain knows I DO have something to say – a lot of somethings, in fact. And if I can just *be* with myself long enough to listen, I’ll eventually start to find the words.
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