Social gatherings used to make me ill. I’d rather sit for an hour in traffic than make small talk.
Yes, alcohol helped. But after college I knew I had to find a better way to deal with my introverted personality and the social anxiety that seemed to naturally come with it.
My yogi friend Sarah suggested I try meditation to help ease my feelings of stress and insecurity.
“You will see a decrease in fear, loneliness and depression,” she said with a confident, soft-spoken tone. “You will view the world through a new lens.”
Shortly after, I signed up for a week-long silent meditation retreat.
My first night, I felt a peacefulness and a calm wash over me. The smell of incense, the dimmed lights and the lack of speech was like heaven. It made me wonder, though, if staying in a quiet space would help me become more comfortable in social situations. After all, my goal was to balance myself away from my introverted tendencies.
Psychologist Stephen A. Diamonds wrote about risks that introverts face while practicing meditation in his article “Why Extraverts Hate Meditation and Introverts Love It.”
“People who are too far towards the introvert side of the personality spectrum should avoid meditation because added time in your head can result in becoming pathologically detached from outer reality,” says Diamonds.
Fortunately, I am not a good case study for Diamonds’ claim. To be honest, I think he would have a hard time finding people who can prove his argument.
Within weeks I saw the benefits of meditation. I felt a slowness that I had never experienced before. When I became sad or stressed, I was able to identify it and then let it go, including my fears of judgment.
When you sit down in still silence for a designated amount of time every day (15 minutes is suggested for beginners), you train yourself to become aware of your thoughts. This awareness then gives you the freedom to be able to dismiss the thoughts that make you feel stressed or insecure or any other negative emotion that rises, even in everyday life.
Lesley Taylor, author of “The Dynamic Introvert,” agrees that meditation can help introverts. In a response to Diamonds’ article, she said:
“Introverts tend to think too much. We like to spend time in our heads and when this activity is combined with the excess dopamine that naturally occurs in our introverted brains we are in danger of being over stimulated. This is what saps our energy and is why we need to meditate. It helps us to calm down and function better.”
It’s been two years since I started a dedicated meditation practice and I am proud to say my face no longer turns red in casual conversations. I also don’t feel as though I need to mentally prepare before a social gathering or indulge in rest afterward. I even accepted a job as a radio talk show host, a job that would never have fit in my once small comfort zone.