Summer in Portland has twice the light hours as winter.
Okay, I don’t know if that’s a fact. I could look it up, but switching brain hemispheres sounds like a lot of effort. So, I’m sticking with TWICE as much. A lovely, crisp, mountainous, and absurdly temperate atmosphere descends on the city. Everyone here wants to be outside. Everyone everywhere else wants to be here.
The joke is that there are two seasons in Portland: Winter and Construction.
I would argue that the two seasons are: Winter and The-Whole-Internet-Comes-to-Town.
For an internet-based business, living in Portland is wonderful. There is so much entrepreneurialism and freelancing here. Whole conventions of such things bring people from all over the globe to convene over exactly the sorts of content-marketing and location-independent scenarios that we do. I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many of my digital colleagues in person, deepening the foundations of fortuitous relationships. It’s so cool. There is no substitute for seeing what people are like in real life.
It can also be really demanding, especially for an introvert.
So, decisions must be made about summer socializing. If you simply react to every request or event, no actual work will get done.
Doing good work requires making big trade-offs.
Whoever told you that you can “have it all” lied. Unless you want across-the-board mediocrity, you are going to have to choose between your work and amazing opportunities. Often.
And sometimes, your family, or your health will get your time and energy. Remember picking 3?
But don’t fret too much, because here’s the cool thing: the better your life gets, the more fantastic the things you will have decline.
You’re doing great!
So, while you may not live in Portland, and unless you’re one of my friends in the Southern Hemisphere, this is also your summer, so hopefully this stuff will be helpful for the things you will inevitably get invited to, the sunny opportunities that are heading your way.
FIRST, understand, accept, and be sensitive to things that overstimulate you. If loud noises, bright lights, crowded rooms or whatever it might be make you feel like you need to run and hide, you are probably just the sensitive darling that you are, and in true form, easily overstimulated. You are not broken. You are not broken. You are not broken. The upside to this is that your sensitivity makes you a great empath, easily drawn to compassion, and a loving friend. But in a crowd it can leave you feeling like a hairless raccoon. Fortunately, you get to either avoid, or moderate, these kinds of situations. You don’t actually have to go to Safeway, or the Mall, or that horrible networking event at the Red Lion. You have options. So many options it’s kind of absurd, actually.
Don’t go to things you hate. Have you heard the saying “If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a fuck no?” Now you have. So live by it. Do ONLY the things that really light you up, that will have the most impact, that will surround you with the most uplifting and supportive souls, and then plan to be wonderfully present. Remember, if you are the most interesting person in the room, you are in the wrong room.
So, your first line of defense for your social-situation-serenity is to politely decline.
“Thank you so much for thinking of me, I am currently working on a project that has my full attention and won’t be able to do the thing with you this time. Please have extra fun for me and let’s see if we can make it work next time! Thank you for understanding!”
Notice I didn’t apologize or say “unfortunately”. Doing your best work is the opposite of unfortunate and you should never be sorry.
Now, when it’s something that feels like a holy, resounding YES – here are some tips and tricks for you savvy, savvy introverts adventuring confidently into this extroverted world.
YOU GOT THIS, BABE.
1. Set expectations.
Set them. And set them realistically. Plan for feeling a little overwhelmed. Plan for your recovery the next day. Plan your arrival and departure times and stick to them.
2. Armor up (AKA Dress for Success).
Wear comfortable clothes that make you feel beautiful. You don’t need many clothes. One fantastic black dress and a pair of boots is fine for everything. Black has the unique ability to be slimming, and also both striking and subtle. (Be invisible OR intimidating! Your call!) Boots help you stand strong. Do not wear heels unless you have loads of practice with them. Pain and teetering are stupid. Rely on your jewelry. Imagine it’s armor, protective talismans for your sensitive self. Let it carry the outfit. I love these shield earrings so much.
3. Take Breaks.
Excuse yourself whenever you get overwhelmed. Yes, you can step away. Go to the restroom, help with the dishes, go outside for a minute, return when you’re refreshed. You might think that people focus all their attention and judgements to watching you walking away, staring after you and thinking things like, “WHO JUST WALKS AWAY?” But the truth is, while you do matter, people are always more concerned with how they’re being perceived than what you’re up to. Moreover, your willingness to look out for your sweet self gives implicit permission to any other introverts in the room to do the same. TRY IT.
4. Pre-plan a couple of questions (icebreakers).
As an introvert, I often feel like a deer in the headlights when people start small talk with me. I feel like every questions requires a thorough and thoughtful answer and it gets so effortful and interrogation-y, when usually the person is just being friendly. So here’s a tip: take a breath, and instead of trying to answer deeply, respond simply and immediately ask a simple question. This will re-direct the focus and get them talking. Soon, you might even find you have something in common that actually piques your interest and transforms into a deeper level of interaction. Heaven for introverts!
Here are a couple of questions for you to start with:
“Read any good books lately?”
“Where were you born?”
“Where’s the coolest place you’ve ever traveled to?”
Also, in a pinch, you can just re-ask them whatever they just asked you. Answer short and then say, “What about you?”
5. Take care of your body
THIS CANNOT BE OVERSTATED. It’s your first line of defense. Health and self care go so freaking far in giving you the strength and flexibility to navigate ANY kind of situation. Endorphins, confidence, stride, posture. ALL OF THE THINGS. So please exercise, hydrate, meditate, breathe, sleep, and eat your vegetables.
Staying firmly stationed in your own orbit is part of a larger conversation, but using tools to help you takes regular practice (like yoga, meditation and breathwork). Is your attention all over the room? Or inside of your own body? Are you comfortable just taking up the space of you? Sitting in the chair? Standing around in your own skin? Are you trying to pre-determine what other people want from you before giving them the chance to like you or not like you?
You have the permission, the right, and the RESPONSIBILITY to take up a you-shaped space in the world and let the opportunities and input come to you. Build a beautiful, flexible, clear, foundation for you in all of your perfect imperfection to shine through and you will make all of the connections, build the right relationships, and enjoy yourself the most in all of the situations.
NEED MORE ACTUAL HELP WITH THIS STUFF?
I’m over the moon to announce this audio series of breathing meditations I made to help you do this very thing – be really, really comfortable in your own body, your own allotted space in the world. Embodiment 101.
So keep your gorgeous eyes open for my next post: Tips + Tricks For Savvy Introverts: Recovery Edition. We will talk more about how to stay well *after* giving your best self to a great event and super cool people. And you will also have the chance to be first-out-of the gate, breathing easier and feeling all comfy in your skin. Promise.
As always, I’m so looking forward to more with you. You really do deserve all the love.
(Image of jellyfish by me from my recent trip to San Francisco Bay Aquarium. I thought it illustrated how I feel in public. Or something. Either way. Those jellyfish were hella cool and worth showing you.)