I have a couple of mantras I live by and I didn’t recognise until recently how I came to create them:

If it’s regarding making a decision it’s… ‘If I don’t know what to do, I do nothing.’

This generally works well. And it doesn’t mean I don’t consider the problem at all, quite the contrary, I think it through, deeply. However, more often than not an answer reveals itself. Although, I will accept that sometimes, what might have seemed like a good idea at the time, goes sour: Time and life moves on, subcultures and hidden agendas are revealed and changes of circumstances and influencing factors and it turns out it was a wrong decision after all.

However, most things aren’t immutable; you’re allowed to change your mind. Move with the times.

My other mantra is … ‘If I have nothing of value to say, I say nothing.’

This, I’ve learned, is my innate nature. I am an introvert and a highly sensitive person. (Crikey the ‘accusations’ I’ve endured my entire life over that!) All my life I’ve always had to endure certain contexts where I feel really uncomfortable, e.g. large groups of people chitter-chattering and shallow small talk; it completely frazzles me out. Drains me completely. And some people, even when they sense I’m tense, dismiss the way I’m feeling tell me to ‘chill’ or ‘relax’; that turns my internal spring even tighter and I get even more distressed.

On the other hand, in a small group of two to four people having a deep intelligent discussion on something of value, to gain clarity to meaning and I’m in my element. When I’m interested and feel passionate about a topic, it’s great to discuss it and listen to others’ perspectives.

To understand where these mantras derived, I’ve been reading up on introversion and highly sensitivity; I have classic introvert preferences:

• I prefer to write not speak, when I have time to choose my words and consider the meaning.

• The phone is a nightmare for me, always has been – message or email me instead.

• The thought of public speaking anytime terrifies me.

• I love attending lectures, but not a workshop or group discussion.

• Give me work to do, preferably remotely, and just let me get on with it (with a line of communication open, in case I need it).

• Please don’t include me in Group Think, Team Building Days and ask for ideas in a meeting, e.g. brain storming. Give me time to consider and research the topic and allow me to email/message my ideas.

The many books and websites I’ve read recently regarding these topics suggest there are changes in cultural attitudes towards introverts, high sensitivity (HSP), and human givens. (Really?) People like me shouldn’t have such a hard time anymore – in fact we should feel valued. We’re caring, intuitive, deep thinkers, creative and innate learners, we read around topics without just taking the first idea unquestioned on board.

I now understand why my mantras are particularly apt. After decades of going against my innate introverted nature I want to be kinder to myself in future and learn strategies to remove the pressure to conform in a harsh, loud, competitive ‘me, me, me’ world.

About Caroline Scott Collins

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