If you identify as an introvert, it’s likely that you’ve personally experienced the misconceptions of introversion and have been fighting these assumptions for much of your life. You know them well: introverts are reclusive, stuck in their heads, and—let’s not forget—shy.
Because we live in an extroverted culture, these traits are often deemed as negative. If you’re spending a lot of time alone, lost in thought, or are uninterested in engaging with anyone, something must be wrong, right?
But to us, these introverted traits are essential parts of our makeup. We need time alone to recharge our batteries; we process our experiences internally; and we prefer to stand at an arm’s length rather than jump right in. When we become aware of these tendencies, they become not simply traits—but acts—of self-care. Seeking out alone time becomes a practice of solitude; internal processing becomes a vehicle for self-discovery; and standing on the outskirts makes us keen observers.
As introverts, we know that the practices of solitude, self-discovery, and paying attention are part of our daily lives, and when we pursue them with the intention of connecting with the transcendent, they can become spiritual practices as well. Here’s how you can turn three acts of self-care you’re already pursuing into spiritual practices:
One of the most common ways to determine whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert is by how you replenish your energy: do you relax in the presence of others or need time alone to recharge? If you know you’re an introvert (and how you answer the question above will certainly give you an indication), then it’s likely you know the importance of alone time for your well-being.
The practice of solitude, however, is not only of value to introverts. Solitude has long been considered a spiritual practice. It’s a way to separate oneself from external influences to come to a place of inner stillness and dwell in the presence of the Divine. In the most extreme cases, those devoted to the spiritual practice of solitude become hermits, choosing to live in isolation in order to live a life of consciousness and prayer.
While the idea of escaping to a cabin perched on the edge of a cliff might seem tempting, you don’t need to be a devout hermit to turn your time of solitude into a spiritual practice. If you want to infuse your alone time with more meaning, choose activities that draw you closer to your true self rather than habits that allow you to disassociate and serve as a distraction (yes, binge-watching—I’m talking about you). What helps your mind and your body feel still and centered: reading a book, walking, journal writing, or spending time in your garden?
Whatever it is, make your practice a deliberate part of your day. Consciously choose an activity that brings you life and moves you closer to the Source of Life. After all, isn’t recharging your batteries all about being filled with life again? I thought so.
Because introverts are more inward-oriented, they typically have an active inner world. Not only do they process things internally, but they also do it as if it were a sport. They’re always eager to learn more and are processing their observations non-stop—about others, about the world, and, most of all, about themselves. This makes the field of self-discovery the introvert’s playground. (Wait a minute—a playground of self-discovery rather than a playground you have to play on with everyone else during recess? Sounds like heaven.)
It’s true. As introverts, we’re wired to be inquisitive. In fact, it’s probably your interest in self-discovery that led you to realize that you’re an introvert in the first place. (Admit it—you’re a personality quiz geek.) But while we might consider our interest in self-discovery to be merely a hobby, our pursuits can also be considered a spiritual practice: if we believe (or even suspect!) that we bear the image of God, then the more we discover about our true selves, the closer we come to the Divine.
When you begin to consider your pursuit of self-discovery in this light, what once was a hobby suddenly takes on a new meaning, becoming a spiritual practice revealing not only who you are, but who you were meant to be. Your desire to learn more about yourself is no longer simply a personal search—it becomes a spiritual one. And spiritual searches, by the way, are always personal.
If you’re looking for a playground of self-discovery, check out the Enneagram, an ancient tool that outlines nine personality types and offers wisdom for personal growth and integration.
Unlike extroverts, introverts don’t necessarily seek to be the stars of the show. They’d rather observe, standing at the outskirts as they take it all in. This doesn’t mean they’re not engaged. In fact, it’s often the opposite—they’re just processing things in their own time.
Although being an introvert is not the same as being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), introverts and HSPs are both significantly impacted by external stimulation. This means they notice tiny details that extroverts might often miss. This can often be overwhelming, yes, but in terms of spiritual practice, it can also be considered a gift.
Because introverts are keen observers, they often notice the presence of God where others might not. Whether they are awestruck by a new blossom discovered on a solitary walk in the forest or notice the tenderness of a deep conversation shared with a close friend, their proclivity for paying attention offers an invitation to return to the present moment and remember the God they seek. This returning and remembering is the purpose of spiritual practice to begin with.
To be more deliberate in your practice, keep a journal, noting the Divine stirrings you experience each day. If you’re not the journaling type, you could take pictures of your discoveries and share them on social media, using your gift of observation to invite others to become more aware of the signs of the Sacred hidden within everyday life.
Of course, the practices of solitude, self-discovery, and paying attention are only the beginning. The only requirement for a spiritual practice is that it helps you return to the present moment, where the Divine dwells, and remember the sacred search that guides you. Anything can become a spiritual practice with a little intention, and it can be as unique as you are.
In what other ways do you think your introversion contributes to your spiritual journey?