The Challenge Of Learning The Hard Way

Why recharging for this introvert is not the same as replenishing.

After a few weeks of my batteries stubbornly remaining depleted, I’ve realised that recharging is not the same as replenishing for this introvert. How has it taken me this long?

As an introvert I know the importance of taking enough down-time to recharge my batteries. This is what stops me from sliding from overwhelm through hangover into introvert burnout. Even though I knew I never wanted to go back there, I sensed I was heading down that slippery slope again. I felt like I was trying to go up the down escalator much of the time, and as a result, I am exhausted!

Although I have been scheduling pre-charge and recharge time, clearly it’s not enough, or not of the right quality. As a result, these last few weeks I have been gripping on to the sides of that slope to stop myself slipping down.

I knew I was in serious trouble when my ‘critical parent’ ego state was triggered by a group of young professionals I was working with. I won’t go into details but suffice to say, I brought it to their attention and gave them a choice. As I did, I remembered part of the letter from Helene Wingens’ book Grown & Flown, about modelling adult behaviour. Once I got back into my adult ego state, I pretty much pulled off the adult behaviour too.

I was prepared for the eyerolls, the embarrassed faces and the excuses that often follows a calling out. But I also knew that I needed to give them enough time to shift into their adult state with me, so we could have an honest interaction. As a trainer and facilitator working with a broad mix of ages and across different sectors, I am used to dealing with situations like this. And know how much I need time afterwards to recharge from it.

And it was no different this time around. Even though I spent a full day doing very little, my introvert batteries didn’t fully recharge. This meant I didn’t feel my usual bright and cheerful self when I woke up the following morning. When I sat with how I felt, I realised that 3 ‘squatter’ emotions had set up camp in my head. Their names were apathy, despair and despondency. Thankfully, these 3 are strangers to me and were definitely unwelcome. There’s only one thing to do with squatters like that – evict them.

Through this experience and learning the hard way, I created my new process for replenishing.

I took the time to understand where these squatters came from, and realised that I’d basically left the front door wide open for them. They hadn’t even needed to break in. How did that happened?
During my down time, I’d only been paying attention to my physical depletion. Because I’d not focused on my mindset and emotional energy, I’d essentially given them carte blanche to crash my emotions. That’s a big lesson right there!

I got creative about their eviction and decided to take swift action. I went all Mary Poppins on them, and to use her words, tackled them Spit Spot. That’s in a hurry or no dawdling for the non-Poppins fans reading this. I don’t have time to lose here as I have stuff to make happen, introverts to enable and bias to shift. None of that will happen if I allow apathy, despair & despondency to get comfortable in my headspace.

Now, I know that the subconscious doesn’t like losing things or having gaps, so, I decided to invite 3 more welcome ‘houseguests’ to take their place and their names are Joy, Courage and Optimism. I negotiated an indefinite tenancy agreement with them as I know that their very presence will deter the previous squatters from attempting to reoccupy my precious headspace.

Even so, the space was not properly cleared yet. It’s as though the energy of the squatters remained. Is there such a thing as smudging for the subconscious? If not, there ought to be. Note to self. Anyway, this meant my new tenants had not yet taken full occupation.

Having tuned into those squatter emotions, I realised that tuning in and sitting with, has to remain part of my process. Denying my true emotions isn’t good for me even though I’m well practiced at it. Emotional denial was part of my upbringing, and for a long time I’d have classed myself as emotionally illiterate. Not any more though – I’m pretty good at identifying, naming and articulating my emotions now.

Next in my process, I checked in with my inner critic, Gladys, to see what part she was playing in my depleted state. It took me a while to get inside Gladys’s psyche, so do take the time to find out what makes yours tick. Our inner critics always think they’re keeping us safe, so the objective here is to understand safe from what? Is there any truth in their message? I’ve found there sometimes is, so you can’t just discount all messages from your inner critic as unhelpful tosh. This time, Gladys thought she was keeping my safe from potential embarrassment. She’s not sure that introverts really feel a need to step into their power and own their introversion. Gladys can be so convincing that sometimes I still trip up over her message even though we disagree.

Surrounded by so much information, I realised that I needed to reverse what I generalise, distort and delete. By unpacking and unpicking situations, I know I can get back in touch with the truth. For many years I have used Mick Cope’s fantasy ladder process for this. I know from experience that stepping from fact through to fantasy, and on into doubt often feeds Gladys. Reflecting on situations reconnected me with the reality which I relayed to Goldie, my inner advocate.

Talking of Goldie, I decided that I needed to get my Inner Advocate and my Inner Rebel on side here. So, I called in Goldie and Trixie (my Inner Rebel) so we could tackle this thing together. They are a force to be reckoned with and I am reassured knowing they’ve got my back and my headspace. I find this inner network so useful and can’t really understand why others don’t harness the power of theirs. Their support enables me to adopt the right mindset.

I was now well-resourced and in a position to shift my mindset. I shed a few tears as I let go of fantasies I’d created. That left me clear to access my growth mindset again. Interestingly, those tears had been right at the surface for some time, and this catalyst opened the flood gates beautifully. Is there anything better than cathartic tears? Yet, because of my upbringing, I’m prone to ‘hold back and hold in’ rather than let the tears flow.

I was now able to look at things through a different lens. Not rose tinted avoiding the messy stuff out there, nor dark and gloomy that would send me into a tailspin of despair. Now I could see through my crystal-clear lens so I could focus on the reality and my purpose again. Through this I can find gratitude in the small things that are going on around me and for me, as well as the big things.
Here are some of the things I’m grateful for right now.

  • I have a roof over my head, a kind husband that I love, money to pay the bills, friends & colleagues who hold me to account and who have my best interests at heart, and, clients who matter to me
  • I get to do work I love, broadly on my own terms, with many grateful clients who grow beyond where they thought possible.
  • We’re experiencing proper summer weather here in the UK right now. This means my garden is blooming, my cats are languishing outdoors in the shade for much of the day, and the scent of my sweet peas fills the air.
  • I am healthy and surrounded by people who get me and accept me for who I am, even when I disappear suddenly or decline invitations.

That’s a pretty good start I reckon.

So what’s my learning here? I know I maybe slow to catch on, but it’s that rest and real replenishment are two very different things. Rest may recharge my physical battery and even my social battery come to that, but real replenishment comes from doing things or engaging in processes that recharge my mental and emotional batteries. The irony is that replenishment takes work for me – it doesn’t just happen by slowing down or stopping. Nor does it come from lots of the things I do in the name of self-care. It’s more soulful than that, deeper and more intentional.

Now, what about you? What do you need to do to recharge and replenish so you are the best version of yourself?

Here’s to your full-on flourishing.

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