Oct 29, 2012

Being an introvert in an extroverted society


“Introversion is an inward orientation to life, and extroversion is an outward orientation. Though you probably use both introversion and extroversion, one of these orientations usually feels more like home – more comfortable, more interesting and more energizing – than the other. Introverts prefer introversion; we tend to gain energy by reflecting and expend energy when interacting. Extroverts have the opposite preference; they tend to gain energy by interacting and expend energy while reflecting.” 
-- ‘Introvert Power’ (by Laurie Helgoe)

A bias towards extroversion

Have you noticed how western society has a bias towards extroversion? In our society it is ‘normal’ and ‘desirable’:
- To have a wide social network;
- To have many friends;
- To engage in group activities for pleasure and fun, particularly night outs with drinking and dancing and a considerable amount of loudness;
- To socialize in big groups of people (and not so much on one-on-one);
- To be connected 24/7.

On the other hand, introversion is generally regarded as ‘weird’, selfish, or sometimes just plain unhealthy.

I believe almost everyone is convinced that there are much more extroverts in this World than introverts. Well, at least I was, until I read this book: ‘Introvert Power’ (by Laurie Helgoe). In fact, studies indicate that there are approximately as much introverts as extroverts.

Before I continue, it is important to remember that there is a continuum between a highly introverted nature and a highly extroverted nature, with people lying along that continuum. And people (generally) tend to drift towards the middle point along their lives.

But back to the surprising equilibrium between the percentages of both tendencies. Why does it seem that there are more extroverts? First, extroverted people are louder and more effusive, while introverts are generally quiet and go much more unnoticed, and second because, in a society that values extroversion, many introverts tend to adapt and force themselves to behave more ‘extrovertedly’. So, in an extroverted society there are very likely many introverts that, for example, are staying at late night parties while secretly wishing to go home and curl up in a blanket with a good book, and participating in the loudness when they actually prefer quietness. And there are certainly many introverts secretly feeling defective… 

My introversion: from acceptance to rejection, and back to acceptance

As a child I always had two or three (very) close friends, and not more. I’ve always found contentment in individual activities that allowed me to dwell in my inner world – like reading. I remember my first intense contact with books. I was just 5 and went with my older brother to a mobile library that stopped in our small village. I immediately gathered several books to take home, only to find out I was too young to register at the library. So my brother kindly took some books for me. And... Oh, the wonder! It was the beginning of a fascination (and almost addiction) that lasts until today. I would lose myself for hours with my books in a quiet place. My grandmother used to say something like “You read so much that you’ll end up crazy!” Well, perhaps I did (just a little bit) :P

I think that maybe the most important thing to note is that as a child I felt that my introversion was ok. But later, particularly in adolescence and university, many of my tendencies, in contrast with what society transmitted me - sometimes in a very direct and tactless way -, began to feel wrong. Of course, this sense of wrongness highly increased with my (unhealthy) social phobia. Yes, the social phobia was unhealthy, but not my natural tendency toward introversion. But I began to regard it all as wrong. And I let this sense of being defective/wrong tear me down (too) many times throughout my life. I could only see the bad things about my introverted nature, and overlooked the good things. In fact, my introversion gives me:
- The capacity to fully and deeply concentrate;
- The capacity to easily play with abstract concepts;
- The tendency to analyze (and thus – hopefully – comprehend) stuff deeply;
- The capacity to escape to my own elaborate fantasy world :P
- Etc.

I only began to acknowledge and value my introversion when I read ‘Introvert Power’ (and then other useful information written about this topic). Now I recognize and accept as normal some of the introvert features that used to bother me, like for example:
- Tiredness while in a loud energetic group of people;
- Strong intensity of thoughts and emotions after (seemingly) harmless events;
- The desire for time alone to digest and recuperate from experiences;  
- Total involvement in what I’m doing and the apparent oblivion of the world around me.

So, the simple conclusion is that accepting and valuing my introversion tendencies contributed to a much happier me :P

A final word

Of course, I must note that both extroversion and introversion are ok. Extroversion has many wonderful advantages, and so does introversion. The problem lies in a society that highly praises one tendency while discouraging the other. 

In the future I will be writing more about introversion, and I hope that this first peek at this thematic may have been of value to some of you. And I would love to hear about your experience with introversion in the comments section :)

Oct 27, 2012

Oct 25, 2012

The hurdles and benefits of decluttering: my personal experience

As I’ve shared in a previous post, I’ve been decluttering my personal space. I started about a month ago, and I’ve been doing it little by little.

How I’m doing it

I started with no established plan. Since my life is already full of activities (writing the thesis, tutoring math, sewing for my shop, writing in the blog...) I figured I had to keep it really simple. So I was just aiming to put away at least one thing per day (but generally I would get rid of much more than one thing per day!). Each object would go to recycle, trash, or would be donated. Then I joined The Reverse 100 Thing Challenge, and started to collect at least 5 items per day to donate.

The hurdles

In general it’s difficult for me to trash anything that can’t be donated or recycled. The idea of polluting the environment with my stuff is not a pleasant one. And this encourages me to be much more mindful about the stuff I buy and bring into my space. But if something is broken and can’t be recycled (or adapted to serve another function), I guess I have no other option than trash it.

It has been difficult to deal with ‘emotional stuff’. It’s interesting how seemingly trivial stuff can trigger strong emotions. I find something I hadn’t seen in years, and it suddenly brings back old memories that were almost forgotten. I’ve decided that (at least for now) I can’t just throw it all away. I’m keeping one (or two) shoe boxes of emotional stuff. This implies I’ll have to be very selective, since I have a huge amount of such stuff! And I’m also photographing what I decide to throw away but don't wish to forget about.

Sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish between what’s important, and what’s not important. This is particularly true for paperwork. But I believe I’m getting better at this. Generally in case of doubt, I just get rid of it. And so I'm recycling a considerable percentage of my paperwork – and, I admit, it feels great!

The benefits

Even though I am currently all for simplicity, I was living in a very cluttered environment. As I’ve said before, I’m a keeper. When I was a child, my family lived on a very tight budget. We used donated clothes and I would ‘inherit’ almost all of my older brother clothes (and yes, I’m a girl). Christmas gifts were few, and buying a book was something that we just didn’t do, even though I am an avid reader since an early age – instead I was a regular at the local library. So I guess I learned to cherish and keep EVERYTHING. And really, I’m 29 and I think I had never decluttered a thing. I have all my school books since my first year of school, I have (well, had) all magazines I ever bought, almost all my clothing since baby, all my agendas, journals and notebooks, etc. Phew…

So, this decluttering thing is new to me. And one of the first things I noticed is that I was living in the middle of a lot of garbage! Ok, many things aren't garbage, but others (clearly) are. And before starting the decluttering process, I was convinced that everything was necessary, and that I just needed more storage space and better organizing skills. So it’s been a breeze to see all that stuff disappear and to see my space miraculously getting wider!

Another thing I’ve been learning is that I have much more than I need. If you would ask me months ago if I had enough clothing, I would say: “Absolutely not! If only I had more money to buy all the clothes I need in order to feel good/beautiful/stylish… But one day I will!” Yes, this is frivolous, but this is how I thought, perhaps on a semi-conscious level. Somehow, I never seemed to have enough. And now… Well, I realized I have many good clothing I’m not even wearing, and that, indeed, what I have is enough. And this takes away the anxiety of picking clothes each morning, and also takes away that nagging sense of never being well enough dressed.

While picking stuff to donate I’m filled with a sense of joy. Sharing is a great antidepressant! I think of all the stuff that was just sitting around, and it’s really great to give it to someone who’ll actually give it some use.

A final word

It’s wonderful to be starting this new path towards simplicity. I believe this is a profound journey. A journey that may begin with simplifying material possessions, but which certainly evolves at the soul level…

Oct 23, 2012

Pictures of a long walk

This is a quick post to call your attention to the new tabs on my blog, especially dedicated to My habit no. 1 and to The Reverse 100 Thing Challenge. I'll be reporting my progress on these new pages!

This Sunday I took a long walk with my boyfriend through Aveiro's natural spaces, and I'm posting some pictures I took.  Hope you enjoy them :)


See you soon!

Oct 21, 2012

My habit no. 1: a regular (and healthier) sleeping schedule

As I referred in another post, I’m a night owl. Yes, I go to bed and wake up pretty late! I can do this because I work from home, and I don’t have imposed schedules.

I read, in different places, about the wonderful benefits of early rising. I read about the positive experiences of those who do it, and I recently read an article saying that going to bed and waking up early (sleeping about 8 hours per night) is the healthiest thing to the body. But I also read something which contradicts this last article, by a well known Portuguese neurologist. In her book “Good sleep, good life” (which, sadly, I believe is only available in Portuguese), Professor Teresa Paiva explains a lot of things about sleep, and healthy sleeping. One of the things she says is that there isn’t a universal recommendation about what the best time to go to bed is and what the right amount of sleep is – because this varies from person to person. There are people who need to sleep less, and there are those who need to sleep more. Those who need to sleep less have a more effective sleep. And there are people who feel sleepy earlier and are energized by waking up earlier, and there are those who actually feel better at later hours and have a hard time waking up early. This is related with each person’s sleep phase.

After reading this book I was less concerned with my sleeping habits. Indeed, I’m highly energized at night, and mornings are my personal ordeal. I’m the most peaceful person in the World, until someone tries to wake me up in the morning. Ouch!

Even so, there is something I would like to change about my sleeping habits. My sleeping habits are very irregular, and I rarely manage to wake up at the time I want. I ALWAYS wake up at the last possible minute. Which means that if I can sleep just until lunch, that’s what I’ll do. Yes, shame on me. And I always wake up feeling tired and depressed...

So I think that if I could create more regular sleeping habits, and if I managed to wake up at the time I choose to, I would feel better, in the long run.

So… I want to create the habit of having a regular sleeping schedule. I will be calling this my ‘habit no. 1’ - because after this one, hopefully, I’ll be developing other great habits :P

Habit no.1:


Having a regular sleeping schedule.

And these are my ‘rules’: I want to go to bed between 1a.m. and 2a.m., and to wake up between 10 a.m. and 11a.m 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. I need to sleep a lot to feel rested, and hence the 9 hour interval. But I’ll adjust this along the way. Probably, with the ‘regularity’ I won’t need to sleep so much. (Please don’t judge me for my late waking up hours o.O)

These are not strict rules, because I will allow some flexibility. Flexibility is good!


I want to establish this new habit during the next month (so… from 22 October to 22 November) - starting tomorrow.

How will I motivate myself?

This is very simple. I’ll be adding a chart to the blog where I plot my sleeping hours. Oh yes! Accountability at its best :P Let’s see if this will help me!

Before I go, and to all of you who understand Portuguese, I highly recommend the book ‘Good sleep, good life’ (‘Bom sono, boa vida’). It’s very informative.

Now… Good sleep to you all! And see you soon :)

Oct 19, 2012

The Reverse 100 Thing Challenge - I'm in!

Courtney Carver’s blog, ‘Be more with less’, is one of my dearest blogs on simple and meaningful living. And today Courtney created The Reverse 100 Thing Challenge, which consists of collecting and donating 100 items until December 15th. And - without hesitation - I’m in!

I've actually been doing this for about a month (getting rid of stuff – 3 or more items per day), so it will be a lot of fun to participate in this challenge. And I must say that this decluttering process has been very energizing and uplifting. I realized how I rarely purge things out of my life. I just keep, keep, keep. And I guess I thought that all the stuff around me was important and necessary. But now that I’ve been looking through it, I found out that only a very small percentage is actually necessary. And for the first time I can easily pick my clothes each morning, without having to submerge myself in a chaotic amalgam of clothing ;P

But back to the challenge. To be honest, I’m not sure if I’ll find 100 items in good condition to donate. Perhaps some of the items will go to recycling. But still I’ll try my best! I’m planning on gathering 5 or 10 items per day, and to photograph them in group. Then I’ll add all the pictures together in a collage.

And today I gathered my first group of 10 items: 8 books (which I’ll be donating to the local library), and two pieces of clothing that are in great condition, but which I never wear. Here's the picture:

And now I invite you to join this challenge. Come on, it will be fun! ;)

Oct 16, 2012

Procrastination tip: mindful work

I've found that working mindfully helps me procrastinate less. This is how I do it:

1 - I start working and try to be present with the task at hand.
2 - Eventually my mind wanders. My mind wanders for various different reasons, like for example: I remember something that I really want to check on the internet; I remember some other thing that I really want/need to do; I just fantasize about random stuff; I get caught up in anxious/depressive thoughts about the task at hand.
3 - I catch myself wandering. I don't blame myself for it, I just acknowledge it.
4 - If I was wandering about something important that actually needs to be done, I write it down, so that I can remember to do it later.
5 - I take a deep breath and gently bring my attention back to the task. I continue working and try to be present with what I’m doing.
6 - And the cycle repeats itself :P

To me, the anxious/depressive thoughts (and consequent emotions) are the most disruptive. These can take different forms, like for example: “This is too difficult, I can’t do it!”; “I’m so far behind… I’ll never finish it!”; “This is so boring… I can’t take it another minute!” It has been very important to realize that I can continue working, in spite of the negative thoughts and feelings, if continuing working is what I choose to do. I can acknowledge and accommodate these feelings. I can be with them, and I don’t have to react to them. This is one of the most effective strategies to help me keep going with the thesis writing. Eventually I realize that I can handle the difficult tasks and that I can even be interested in what I’m doing if I don’t allow myself to give up when the disruptive thoughts appear...

I really hope this strategy can be useful to you too :)

Oct 14, 2012

My Etsy shop!

Today I’m presenting my small Etsy shop.

As I explain in the shop I’ve had a fascination with sewing since I was a little girl. I used to watch this woman that worked for my grandmother sew, and I loved everything about it. I remember that when grownups asked me about what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would say: “Seamstress!” (“costureira”, in Portuguese).

However, I kind of let this dream fall asleep, and only began learning to sew very recently. I love it – especially when I am creating something new :)

All the items in my shop are covers for ebook readers, and tablets. Since I love reading I like to keep my kindle keyboard comfy in a beautiful case ;) But I am planning on adding other types of items – like wallets and handbags…

I would love to hear your feedback about my shop in the comments section :)

Oct 12, 2012

The precious gift

My moods can be highly variable, even throughout the same day. The moments when I seem to fall into a dark well of desperation are scary. The other day, after an episode at the university that reminded me of how much I dislike what I’m studying and how far behind I am from finishing it, I momentarily fell into that well. It’s hard to be rational in moments like these, and my usual strategy is to think: “It’s ok. These strong negative emotions will pass, and tomorrow I’ll feel better.”

This time, I tried to focus on the present moment. I asked myself: “What is good about this moment?” “Where, in this moment, can I find some inner peace?” This really helped. Suddenly I could see it. I could see the small good and peaceful things around and within me. And I felt the desperation and anxiety fading away.

I don’t know how other people feel about stuff, but sometimes I think I was cursed with a hyper sensitive core. I really don’t know if this is all innate or also a result of a protective upbringing. But I know I need to keep reassuring and nurturing myself to avoid falling (or staying for too long) inside of that well.

Learning about and practicing mindfulness has been a wonderful gift. In fact, this moment is all that we really have…

“We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand… and melting like a snowflake.” Marie Beynon Ray

Oct 7, 2012

Miscellany: Math, Writing and Sewing!

It’s more than time to report my progress on objective no. 1, isn’t it?

Well, here are some of my accomplishments:

- I already have one student for private math tutoring! Yey! She will need intensive tutoring, and we’ve already worked 4h together this week. At the beginning I was a little nervous, but now I am actually enjoying the sessions. I like the challenge of teaching math to someone who claims to be terrible at it :P

- Remember the tiny job to write about my experience with counseling? Well, I got it! I was so happy about it, and tried to give my best. The feedback was good, and I’ll be applying to other writing jobs.

- My Etsy shop has been kind of quiet in the last months but in the last week, out of the blue, I received two orders. Of course, I was also really happy about it. The only problem is that I take a huge amount of time to create each piece, and it does not compensate, monetarily speaking. But still, it’s great to release my creativity and to relax my mind.

I’m showing the pictures of the 2 (simple) creations that I just sold:

I hope you like them! These covers have an unconventional function, very related to reading ;) Hmmm…  

And now what? Well, I’ll probably search for another student, and I believe two students will be enough. I’ll be able to pay for my current small expenses. And talking about frugality – I’ve been living at my most frugal ever. Not having a regular income has been a new and big challenge for me. I began paying much more attention to where my money is going. I don’t buy a piece of clothing for so long that I can’t remember when the last time was (excluding the dress for my brother’s wedding :P). The funny thing is that the other day I was decluttering and inventorying my clothes for autumn/winter, and I realized I already have much more than I need.

Finally, my thesis writing has suffered with all these new activities but I hope I'll be able to get back on track next week…

See you soon! :) And be well...

Oct 1, 2012

A wonderful week

I’m back from the conference! And today also happens to be my birthday :P Yep, 29 years old already.

Do you remember I was highly anxious about my week at the conference? Well, it happened to be a wonderful experience. Not so much for scientific reasons, but much more for social reasons.

First day at the conference was the toughest, because I was going to be co-chair of a session in the morning and make an oral presentation in the afternoon. My anticipatory anxiety reached new levels of insanity! But as I sat next to my chair colleague, in the morning, I suddenly felt much calmer. It was as if I finally realized that reality was much simpler and less frightening than all the terror movies my mind is so keen on. Yes, my mind has the special ability to create elaborated horror scenarios.

Next days were pretty much calmer and I could enjoy both the conference and my friends/colleagues company. I actually enjoyed my friends company a lot. I felt something that I think I hadn't felt (at least not like this) since before the event that triggered my social phobia, at the age of 12. I felt an eagerness to actually be there, and with them.

I remember, when I was a child, and in my early adolescence, loving to be with my friends, and wanting to be as much time as I could with them. With social anxiety, all eagerness to be with people vanished, and was replaced by fear…

I could also observe my mood throughout the day. I realized that my ease in social situations was related to my general levels of energy. In the morning I would be all social and energetic, and in the evenings much more quiet and insecure. I believe this can be related to the HSP trait. In the evenings, my nervous system is highly stimulated from an entire day of social interaction, and resting is perhaps the better option. It has been helpful to analyze my reactions/mood/energy in the light of the HSP trait. Things seem to make more sense this way.

I also have some news on the working area, but I’ll be writing about this later in the week.

To end, and if you've identified with the HSP trait, I invite you to observe your inner world and reactions in the light of the trait. Do some of your inner reactions seem to make more sense now?

See you soon... :)