- courage to be different and accept themselves for who they are.
- compassion for themselves first, not despite others, but recognizing that for worthiness to be there, they have to have compassion for self. It has to start at home.
- vulnerability, to fully embrace vulnerability with a recognition that without it, they cannot embrace their self-worth. One cannot exist without the other.
- Shame - “I am bad, because of an action I did or did not do.”
- Guilt - I did something bad, ie “I broke the vase.”
- Recognizing shame and understanding the triggers - get to know how shame shows up for you. How do you feel in your body when shame is presence? What needs to be going on for shame to show up in your life?
- Practicing critical awareness - counter the stories in you that are feeding your shame. How realistic are the expectations that you are putting on yourself? Do I really want to be like that? Start pulling the rug out from under your shame by telling the true story.
- Reaching out - find an ally, someone who you can trust and who will listen. Someone who loves and respects you for who you are. Someone who will not try and solve the problem, who will not judge you but will listen and hear your story. Connection wounds shame.
- Speaking shame - naming shame’s presence. Shame does not like that. Speak to how you feel. Ask for what you need.
I’ll go further - I felt, “YES!”
Kline speaks, not mincing her words, of how interruption is an assault. In the first paragraph of the essay she says as much,
Interruption is assault.
She goes on to say,
There is violence in it. Interruption is a slice made into the guts of an as yet unfinished idea. Interruption is arrogance masquerading as efficiency; it is efficiency massacred. It stops the thinking of one person in favor of another. It is the politics of the aggressive laying waste to the brilliance of the respectful.
Her words laid bare for me everything that I felt when I am interrupted, but was afraid to verbalize. Her words contrast with the relative tameness of my choice of title for this article.
A colleague introduced me to Kline’s work because of my interest as an introvert and highly sensitive person in having space, specifically quiet space, to think and work. While Kline’s work is not specifically for quiet people, she is interested in creating environments where people can think, her arguments around being interrupted really resonated with me and I would imagine for all those who value quiet, focused time.
I work at my best when I am alone and in a quiet space, maybe with some soft music playing. At its best there is absolutely no one else present. Just me and the task at hand. In such an environment I can just drop in and focus on the job that I am doing.
When I know that someone else is present who might blurt something out at any moment - a question, a statement, just making conversation for the sake of it - my body and mind are on edge and it seeps into my ability to focus and concentrate, eating away at my capacity to get work done effectively. In one of her recent newsletters, Kendra Patterson shared some words that really resonated with me,
it’s not the loudness of sounds that bothers me, but the invasiveness of them
Loudness can bother me, but I also relate to the invasiveness of sound. Patterson linked to a scientific study on misphonia, a condition where people suffer an extreme sensitivity to and decreased tolerance for sound. I like the passage that Patterson picked up from the article,
people with misophonia feel in some way that sounds made by other people are intruding into their bodies, outside of their control. The results of the new study support the understanding that misphonia is not about having a negative reaction to sounds, but that hearing certain noises causes brain activity in the areas involved in creating that sound.
I have been known when someone makes their presence felt, and by that it might just mean a person stepping into the room that I am in, that I will get up and involve myself in other work elsewhere. Work that might need to be done, but which I’m not in the space to do in that moment. Regardless, I do so simply to give myself the mental and physical space.
I admire people who appear to get things done in the middle of complete chaos, but that is definitely not me. Though I still wonder what the quality of the work is that that person does, and if they could get much more done in a more quiet and focused environment (my sense is sometimes yes, and sometimes not)?
I have been called out before when I turn the music down or step out of a room because someone has entered, the implication always being that I am doing something wrong. At other times I have stayed put, gritted my teeth, and tried to proceed with my work - but I can feel the others' presence in my body, and wait anxiously for the interruption.
Some might have the superpower of working with mayhem happening all around them? All power to them, but it is not my strength or, dare I say it, ability. This is also a superpower that I have absolutely no wish to try and cultivate. I am quite comfortable with who I am.
If like me you feel as though interruptions are an assault, I highly recommend reading Kline’s short essay. It could become your ally.
There’s pattern which repeats itself pretty much each time I find myself home alone for a few days - which with the presence of the COVID pandemic is not that often right now. It goes something like this,
I drop my wife off at the airport - living on an island, that is usually the start of the home alone period. On the way home I run a few errands, pick up groceries, and perhaps go for a walk. Over the the days that follow, as commitments are crossed off my todo list and I get into my bachelor rhythm, I notice a weariness start to creep over me. It is more than just feeling tired. It is a fatigue that seems to come from deep within my bones.
With my home life running quieter, and with nothing planned socially I find myself just resting. A phrase comes to mind - I “sit deeply”. I am perhaps reading or writing, or just sitting and watching the world outside. As I do so I feel exhaustion rise up from my body calling me to rest, and so rest I do.
As I say, this is a pattern. Whenever I find myself spending time alone for a prolonged period of time, the weariness manifests. I want to explore here what has brought this about, so first let me step back and give some context.
Pushing myself too far
Weariness and exhaustion have had a presence in my life for many years now, I am going to say for two decades. I used to push against the fatigue. I was aware of its presence, though due to peer pressure, that is me wanting to be seen to be able to be keeping up, I would deny its presence and try to push through. “Keep going, keep up with others, don’t show any signs that you are not up to the job (read weakness as my self-imposed put down).” That was the place that I lived in, measuring myself against those around me.
More importantly, and with the benefit of hindsight, I did not have a context for how I was feeling and so put my feelings down to something wrong with me. I think if I understood the reason for my feeling fatigued and had the support behind me, I would have acted more responsibly towards myself much earlier.
So, how was I feeling?
This is maybe not an easy one to answer, as at the time I wasn’t clear myself! Tired and weary, yes. Another symptom was a racing heart. I use to describe it as feeling like I had put my heart beat through an amplifier. There was this intensified beating happening in my chest and “yes,” it was uncomfortable. I could also add to these symptoms a pain in my left wrist, as if a lot of pins were being stuck into the wrist. So there was physical pain and discomfort, but no cause that I could relate these symptoms to…and so I just pushed on.
Eventually my discomfort became too much and I went to see a doctor, however the visit was not of any help. My vitals all checked out fine, and I came away with no diagnosis. Dissatisfied and now desperately wanting an answer I went to see separately a Tibetan doctor and an Acupuncturist/Chinese herbalist. From those initial consultations I choose to receive treatment from the acupuncturist/herbalist, but in their own words they both gave me the same diagnosis. It was,
that I was pushing myself, physically and mentally beyond what I could cope with, and that I needed to stop and take a look at what I was asking of myself. My batteries were drained and needed replenishment.
When I heard those words, I had a sense of relief.
I believe that deep down I knew what was going on with myself, but that I was sitting in shame (see below). With so many around me being able to operate in a different way to me, I felt as though I had to step up - whether I could or not. These doctors were giving me permission to own my pain, physical and emotional, and to step back and take a look at what I needed and who I was. They gave me permission to stop and take stock.
That diagnosis pulled the wind out of my sails. I collapsed. The next two years were spent receiving regular acupuncture and Chinese herbs. I owe that doctor so much, and regularly think of my gratitude towards him. I rested a lot and paced myself. Some days I could not get up from my sofa. I just lay there. This was fatigue, not tiredness. Like the fatigue that I spoke of at the beginning of this article, it ate through to my bones. Although no formal diagnosis was given, for those two years I now say that I had chronic fatigue.
I believe that the seeds of chronic fatigue still rest within me. I now allow myself to rest or sleep if I need to. I am so much more in control of my energy levels now. If I do feel a drop in energy manifesting, I wind things down as soon as I can. Some previous symptoms can still arise, but I take them as warning signs and use them as a signal to slow down.
So what was going on with me?
To what do I put my exhaustion down to? I identify as an introvert and highly sensitive person. I don’t let knowledge of these traits in my personality run my life, but they do inform me. I now understand where overwhelm and exhaustion are coming from when they manifest in me. I now understand the ”why” if I don’t feel like engaging in some social activity while others around me do. I understand and I listen to my needs, and don’t let shame run my life…quite so much. I used to not only not listen, but also not understand what my needs were. I told myself that I should show up just as those around me were showing up in the world, and so pushed myself to keep up with them - shame was running the show. This was not only a physically exhausting thing to do, it was emotionally and psychologically exhausting as well. As I increased the demands on my body and mind, with my reserves slowly disappearing as I wore them away, so fatigue crept up on me.
Once I started to learn about introversion and high sensitivity, I was given a context for what gave rise to my limits. With that understanding and finding a supportive community, I started to change my behaviours.
Shame is a focus on self. It is feeling bad about who you are because of what you did or didn’t do. It is equating your’s or others’ judgement of an action you did or didn’t do as a reflection of who you are as a person. Brené Brown says,
shame is a fear of disconnection,
shame corrodes the part of us that believes we can do and be better.1
That makes total sense to me when I look back at what I did to get myself into such a fatigued state. For me shame and lack of understanding not only corroded self belief, but also personal health. It was driven because of fear of being judged and with that, of being left out.
The blessing behind that, the silver lining is what I learnt about myself, and about shame and self-worth. I can now look back at that time of chronic fatigue with a sense of gratitude, of lessons learnt.
I find myself sitting in my car on our driveway. It is overcast and there is steady stream of rain falling. The weather looks set in for the day, and likely tomorrow as well.
I feel at ease, comfortable, safe.
This weather takes me back to weather in Britain that I grew up with. At times it might be weather that the British poke fun at, or complain about. Or it might be weather that visitors tease the country for. But for me this weather would fit my introverted spirit, giving me permission to hunker down, to write, to read, to be productive at home alone and not feeling as though I need to go out and be sociable.
I feel comfortable and at ease.
I’m grateful for the climate that live in here in Hawai’i, and when it closes in I remember what I miss.
A short, inspiring video on the power of quiet leadership.
I am looking forward to the 2nd Highly Sensitive Men’s Seminar this coming Saturday. Most of all to sit in the company, virtually, with men of a the same personality trait as myself, to share stories and experiences. I believe that there is still time to sign up?
In this little corner of Hawai’i the wet weather has been slow in coming. While the seasonal changes are not as noticeable as in the far northern hemisphere, there is a subtle, perceptible change in the atmosphere - the light, the sensed feeling of the days. Autumn arrived a few weeks ago . . . in part. The part that was missing was the wet weather, the rain.
Days have been hot, the sun piercing in its strength. We have been running the sprinkler system off and on to keep the lawn from turning brown, and watering the vegetable garden three times a day to keep life in our vegetables and salad. There have been hints on rain, a few minutes or an hour or so of wet weather, but never coming to much.
In the early hours of this morning I lay in bed listening to rain falling. It was still falling when we woke up a few hours later, and although a little brighter now, the clouds are lingering and drizzle is in the air.
I love this weather. Not only do I appreciate the break from the hot sun, but it also takes me back to wet weekends that I grew up with in England and Wales, and then subsequently when I lived in Portland - weekends when I would stay nestled at home. The mood of this weather fits with my introvert nature - no reason for going anywhere, for getting involved in the noise of life. Of staying comfortably at home, reading, writing, or perhaps watching a movie.
Breaking my own suggestions
This is an ongoing series running through May to compliment the twice weekly meditation sessions that I will be hosting on YouTube (and are now archived on my YouTube page). If you have any questions, please contact me.
I titled one of the earlier articles in this Nudge series, “Beware of waiting for silence before you meditate.” While I believe that the advice that I offer in that piece is important, I am now going to apparently contradict myself!
There are times when the noise of life is getting to me. If I was to use an analogy, it is as though my mind is a glass of muddy water that has been shaken up so much that it is not possible to see the clarity of the water. I need to spend some time to allow that mud to settle, and get my clarity of mind back. For me this is exacerbated as I am an introvert and high sensitive person (HSP). I will find myself getting overwhelmed by external distractions that might not even register on the radar of the more extroverted amongst us. At times I simply need to take a break, have a rest and recharge. That rest can take on the look of say quiet time by myself reading a book, but I have also found meditation can play a part in this. Simply sitting, watching the breath, noting the thoughts and noise in my head as they distract me, and returning to the breath. With time the noise in my head settles, my mind becomes clearer, I feel lighter (both mentally and physically) and better able to reengage with the world.
The trick is to remember not to see meditation as an escape to a quieter place, as I warn in the Nudge article linked to above. Meditation can offer itself as a tool to bring the mind to a quieter place, but meditation can also offer so much more than that. For those times that I need to quieten my mind, when the sense of overwhelm that I am experiencing is hurting me, meditation can be one method available to get me to a healthier place. But remember that we then have to step out into the world which is far from quiet. It is then that I can use the Swiss Army knife of tools that meditation offers to help me deal with the vicissitudes of life, and perhaps help to keep some of the noise at bay before it starts to overwhelm me.
It’s raining right now. The forecast is for overcast weather through the day, and the likelihood of more rain. For the most part I will be by myself today. Overcast, rain and by myself feel like ideal working conditions for me.
An observation, no judgements, just an observation.
Extrovert and introvert sit outside together on a beautiful evening, to eat dinner.
Extrovert sits there exclaiming enthusiastically and describing the scene.
Introvert sits there, saying nothing, just taking it all in.
When you are the solitary introvert or HSP amongst many who are not. When you are the quiet one and your actions or needs are looked on as being off or odd. When you are looked on as not fitting in, and the sole justification is because of what everyone else is doing. When your different needs are seen as wrong because and simply because no one else present has them, and everyone else is doing something else. When societal expectations tell you that something is not quite right in how you show up, and you are judged accordingly.
Just remember, you have have the right to be who you are.
Two tools that I would like to offer here can help you build resilience against the messages that you are receiving and to trust in your own worthiness.
Tackling the beast
Feeling inadequate and alone is a debilitating experience that can take the wind out of the sails of even the most well intentioned endeavour. These beliefs can feed a lack of worthiness, and knock our self-esteem. At the same time we stand there knowing that how we feel and act is who we are. We are not trying to be awkward or act different, this is simply who we are.
If I build a belief and trust in who I am and my own sense of self-worth, it is harder for the outside world to sway me when I’m challenged. A sense of worthiness is always a work in progress. Just as you conquer one critique, another challenge that you hadn’t dealt with before will find its way in and you will feel knocked down again. But as long as the wish is to build your worthiness is there, it will only get stronger with time.
Fear is the beast that gets in the way of us believing in who we are. Fear of loosing connection with those around us. That in turn feeds into shame, the shame of being different, of standing out and being alone. Of being different and being criticized for it.
Those who have a strong sense of self-worth have the,
This path to self-worth is not necessarily comfortable, but it is necessary. Without one the other cannot exist.
The critique of others or even simply judging ourselves against others will see the rise of shame within us. The path to self-worth sees one having to face the beast of shame.
Shame corrodes the part of us that believes we can do and be better.
~Brené Brown, Daring Greatly
Shame quite often gets mixed up with its near relative, guilt. There is a difference between the two and it lies in the object of identification. Shame identifies with self, guilt identifies with action.
Guilt is an honest admission of an action that I did. Shame is identifying with the action to the degree that I believe that it speaks to the nature of my character.
If we are to build our self-worth, we need to build a defense against shame, catching it when it arises and countering the story that it is telling us…and that we are believing. Essentially pulling the rug out from under its feet.
Shame resilience as developed by Brené Brown is made up of four stages,
The bumpy path
This is not a comfortable path. Dealing with fear, shame and vulnerability will never take us into a comfortable place, but it will take us to a courageous place. It is from a courageous place that we can start to build connection with who we are and stand in our own power. Then despite the voices that come from outside we are no longer the lone one amongst many. We might be different in our needs and how we act, but at the same time we are at home with ourselves.
From that place I can say, "I am worthy."
One of the things that I like about being an introvert is being happy and secure in my own company. In fact sometimes I have to be careful that I do not get too comfortable with that. I do have a family and friends after all! I sneaked in a past #mbnov word for good measure. 😁
I love meeting new people and the company of others, but as an introvert I sometimes just need to be alone. Please don’t take it personally. At times it is simply a need that I have in order just to be in the world.
From my experience people visiting and staying in my home always requires a break in my routine. There is entertaining, showing around, just more going on and the house feeling busier and more full. I don’t say this to complain, just acknowledging what the welcoming of visitors entails.
For me, as an introvert and highly sensitive person, this creates an added struggle of overstimulation and exhaustion from the constant do, do, do along with accompanying conversation and noise. To borrow from an element that surrounds the island of Maui where I live, it feels to me like constantly being hit by the ocean’s waves. Every time that I come up for air another waves breaks over me, disorientating me and sending me tumbling.
At some point I just need to call "time out".
That is where I am at now. My sister-in-law and her husband are visiting from New York. It is wonderful to have them here, to spend some quality time with them, to show them the island that is our home (we have done so much in the last week and I have visited areas that I don’t go to often, probably because they are on my doorstep), and I am exhausted. Right now I am grateful for a morning that has materialized where I can have some time to myself. I really need it.
This is a post written in installments over the course of, and just after a weekend of wedding celebrations. A weekend of activities that were just made for me… not. .. Having said that, I do wish to empathize that I am here to enjoy myself, make new friends and most importantly celebrate the commitment that a lovely couple are making to each other.
And so it begins…
I start this log on Friday evening. I am getting ready for the rehearsal dinner on the eve of the wedding of my wife’s niece - having married into the family, I’m not sure what her official relationship is to me? There will be 130 guests here tonight. Not the largest wedding that there has been, but by no means the smallest either.
I love this family. Watching the interaction between the parents and their adult children in many ways makes me yearn for a relationship with my own parents that I have never had…and probably won’t at their advanced age.
The wedding has seen me visit a part of the US that I have never been to, the Catskill Mountains, and I am always grateful for the opportunity to explore new vistas. So far the weather has been glorious, almost too hot, and it has been good to catch up with close family. We had a small, intimate dinner last night which was very pleasant, a handful of us having the hotel to ourselves.
Giving myself permission
As an introvert, an INFJ, I know that this weekend of extended activities will pose a challenge. Long periods of socializing, small talk with relatives who I recognize but do not know that well and with people who I am meeting for the first time. In the midst of this activity, I will have to find time to step back and recharge, and in doing so give myself permission to step out of the crowd when others are full into conversation and celebrations.
The permission part is important for me. When attending an event where the more extroverted guests are chatting, laughing and carrying on with seemingly endless energy, I find that I can very easily drop into feelings of inadequacy. A judging and unhelpful voice in my head telling me that I should be able to keep up with the crowd. As Aaron Caycedo-Kimur, writing under the alias INFJoe, says in his book “Text, Don’t Call,”
When we understand, accept, and appreciate our introversion, we become more at peace with ourselves. We learn how to tap into our strengths and protect our vulnerabilities.
The weekend - Friday
Friday evening went well. I had a couple of extended conversations with relatives that I had not seen for a while. Long conversations are easy for me if I get into the flow of the subject matter. I pulled myself away from the hubbub on a few occasions, just looking out from the periphery. My lack of enjoyment of small talk, and over stimulation from all the activity, did keep me away from meeting some people. I could feel an uncomfortableness creep in when I wasn’t drawn to conversation, a consciousness of my difference but I breathed into the permission that I had given myself, reminding myself that I am not less because of it. This is just an aspect of my personality….and I wondered who else amongst the guests was feeling the same way?
Saturday, the wedding day, went equally well. Breakfast, a morning walk, long preparations, driving to the venue with my mother-in-law and helping her get situated….and then just taking in the celebrations of the day. The Ceremony was beautiful, the vows between bride and groom moving. Pre-meal drinks, a beautiful dinner, speeches and much dancing (which I enjoy) to a great band. At times I lent into conversations with those who I did not know well however uncomfortable or otherwise that I felt. At other times I could feel myself pulling back and choosing not to engage. Again it was about permission. Permission to honour myself and my needs. By the end of the evening I was actually reluctant to leave.
The final hurrah was brunch on Sunday. There were conversations and reflections on the night before. Final words shared before slowly the guests started packing up and heading off on their various journeys home. Again I lent into some conversations, maybe more than the night before with the faces not being so foreign as when we first met yesterday?
And slowly it became time to leave….
There had been a long build up to the wedding and now it is over. I felt that crash of coming down from the high of a weekend of activity and fun. As is the introvert’s tendency, I spent time in my head when it was all over analyzing whether I should have reached out to people more than I did. I probably spent far too much time doing that, dropping into feelings of inadequacy or wondering what people might have thought of me as I held back.
And I remind myself that such can be this introvert’s way. I don’t see it as good or bad, it is just who I am. I always see the possibility for change in who I am as an individual. That change won’t necessarily be how other people think that I should be. I am still an INFJ. However, I can still explore and see where my limits might be. I can make a stretch, to see if I am limiting myself by who I have told myself that I am and corresponding learnt habits.
And when I do reach my limits, when I do need quiet time, when I don’t feel like socializing, that is OK. To repeat INFJoe’s quote,
When we understand, accept, and appreciate our introversion, we become more at peace with ourselves. We learn how to tap into our strengths and protect our vulnerabilities.
Tonight is the monthly meeting of the Introvert/Highly Sensitive men’s group here on Maui. I started it about 19 months ago, unsure if there would be a call for it. Now it is a fixture on the calendar.
I have just put the 2nd edition of my Meditation eBook up on my website. Although titled that it is aimed at introverts and highly sensitive people, anyone who wishes to build a meditation practice will find benefit in it.
I have finally put my book on building a Meditation practice, along with tips on how meditation can help introverts and HSPs, up onto my website.
Being introverted or highly sensitive doesn’t fit the archetypal image of a male, but some of us are just wired that way. I wanted to give men a place where they can talk about it.
A recent article about me that appeared in The Maui News.
I am not going to pretend that I can work well when I know that people are around who might call on me at any moment, because I can’t.
Loud music, disturbances, kids shouting, people talking, these distractions and others just throw me when it comes to working. Sometimes, most of the time, just people present in the room with me will intrude on my ability to focus.
Unless they are the quiet type like me, in which case no problem, I sit there anticipating the next interruption.
I can feel it in my body. There is this sense of anxiousness and of tension. I am on edge waiting for what might happen next. All of this just plays into my ability to focus and concentrate. It plays on my ability to drop into the zone and get work done. When I know that I have space around me to work. When I know that people won’t be around for a few hours, I can sit back and relax and get things done. Time will drift by unnoticed and I drop into a zone that deeply feeds me.
But too much disturbance and who knows what mood will be triggered in me - anger, frustration, dejection, just wanting to disappear. Just wanting the world to leave me alone.