I’m a very proud introvert. I think it’s something of a super power. I tend to be a good listener, I’m very thoughtful and creative, and because of these things, I often have insights that others miss, especially about other people. My sensitivity makes me an excellent communicator because I’m paying attention to what you’re saying, how you’re saying it, and what you might be feeling that could be getting in the way of what you really mean.
I could talk for days about the ways that introverts are told there’s something wrong with them. Many of us grew up with other people making excuses for us and putting us in uncomfortable situations to help us break “out of the box.” I think a lot of us deal with thoughts of inadequacy creeping in and even a career field like librarianship can make it difficult for us to shine.
For a lot of introverts, a full conference experience is taking on the gauntlet. I went to my first national conference, a four day event, this year and battled through all the exhaustion and anxiety. I’ve survived to offer up some helpful tips.
- Let people know. This applies everywhere and anytime. Being up front about how you’re feeling and communicating what you need from people is so key to…any kind of adult interaction or relationship. As an introvert, you may have spent a lot of time trying to blend in with more socially-energized types, and maybe explaining that you’re ready for quiet time is awkward for you. All I can say is that life will get a lot better for you when you start caring a little less about what others think. If someone wants you to go out for drinks after dinner and the thought of it gives you a headache say, “I really appreciate it. I just really need some time to myself to digest the day.” If a conference buddy has latched onto you and wants to chat in every session and at meals, explain, “I really need some quiet time so that I can come back energized for our next talk. Let’s meet up later.”
- Eat one meal every day by yourself. May I suggest breakfast? At the conference, I’d wake up, do some yoga, and spend some time meditating and preparing my mind for the rigors ahead. Then I’d grab an omelet and caffeinate before heading to the conference center. Breakfast was a good meal to skip with the assembly because most people aren’t into deep conversation mode yet. Something about eating alone and savoring my food, the time taking care of myself, was restorative.
- Take a walk after lunch. If you’ve eaten lunch and you still have some time before your next session, take a walk. If you have a new friend who wants to come, maybe explain that you’re happy to have them, but you also like a comfortable silence. Take some time to notice what’s around you. Find details and marvel at them for a few moments.
- Let your mind wander. I took lots of photos while I was exploring the city. I let myself think about what living there must be like and talked with people around town. If you like to be creative, do some writing or drawing. Create some memories.
- If a round of sessions aren’t really appealing to you, head back to your room for some down time. I tried taking naps, but instead wound up watching HGTV during these breaks. I needed the mental vacation.
- Make a soundtrack that channels all your confidence. I listened mostly to M.I.A, Beyonce, and Nicki Minaj while I was there. Being an introvert doesn’t mean you can’t be fierce.
Above all, remember that there’s nothing wrong with the way you feel. Absolutely push yourself to try new things and talk to people you don’t know, but really respect yourself in doing so. If you make one or two conference friends, you’re probably doing pretty well.