How I Thrived As an Introvert in an Extroverted Work Environment

I became tired of wishing my work was easier. Tired of pretending to be someone I wasn't. Tired of going home grumpy and heading straight to bed because I was so exhausted. To love my work as an introvert, I knew I had to make some changes. Changes that would allow me to thrive as an introvert in an extroverted work environment.
01/27/2016 07:56 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

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So your job leaves you feeling like you've been in a marathon you didn't sign up for, eh?

I've been there, and well ... it sucks. No simpler way to put it. And you start to wonder if you'll ever get better at it. You wonder if you'll ever learn to thrive as an introvert in an extroverted work environment. Meanwhile, you feel a pang of envy whenever you see extroverts fitting in with ease -- you feel left out like you're not one of them.

And worst of all, you're tired of faking it to fit in.

I know, I did that more than I can count.

When I was in my twenties, I couldn't pick a career that suited my personality. I could only choose a career approved by the government. That's how it worked where I lived in Kenya. And so, I had to become a teacher. The thought of it terrified me.

As an introvert, I preferred to listen rather than talk. I always felt awkward speaking in public. But I thought three years of training would prepare me to stand in front of people and be the voice. And I looked forward to connecting with the students and the teachers.

So I jumped in full force. I figured to be the best teacher I could be. I had to collaborate with other teachers when planning my lessons, eat lunch every day in the staff lounge, and attend all the student functions.

Before I knew it, I was burned out.

I'm an introvert, and I just couldn't maintain that pace. I tried changing the age group I taught, but that made no difference. I continued to struggle.
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I was forcing myself to act like someone I wasn't. At the end of each day, I had "OMG don't talk to me, leave me alone" written all over my face. The noise and chaos in schools that's necessary for the learning process wiped me out, and all I wanted was to withdraw into my own world.

I became tired of wishing my work was easier. Tired of pretending to be someone I wasn't. Tired of going home grumpy and heading straight to bed because I was so exhausted. To love my work as an introvert, I knew I had to make some changes. Changes that would allow me to thrive as an introvert in an extroverted work environment.

How to move from surviving to thriving at work as an introvert

1. Grab opportunities

As an introvert, you need time to recharge. But finding that time is not always easy.

Take advantage of lunch time or breaks to be quiet. I refrained from going to the lounge every day for lunch. Instead, I stayed in class to have some quiet time.

You might be thinking, "I don't have a place to escape to."

Take books to work, draw, read or craft, or dive into what gives you energy even if you don't have personal space, or retreat to the bathroom because five minutes of quiet time in there is refreshing too. Grab opportunities wherever you can find them.

2. Schedule your needs

Stick to a routine pattern. Plan your days so that you can be mentally prepared for work.

Get plenty of sleep, start your day with quiet time, commute to work in silence, and decompress when you get home -- take a nap or go to bed early.

Some days, it wasn't possible to have quiet space alone, like parents day and sports days, so I scheduled my needs ahead of time to make sure I would be mentally prepared.

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3. Reveal Yourself

Sometimes extroverts made comments that I perceived as hurtful, such as, "You're so boring," but then I realized people were concerned and curious about me, which helped me feel confident explaining my personality to them. And by explaining my needs to them, life became easier.

Have you had hurtful remarks thrown at you?

Take it easy; they don't mean to hurt you.

One boy asked me if I was sad or thinking. When I asked him why he thought I was sad, his response was priceless. He said if I was sad, he was going to be sad too, and if I wanted time to think, he would let me think because his mom likes quiet time to think too.

Don't run from revealing yourself as an introvert -- be proud of it.

4. Selectively Socialize

When I socialized too much after school, it wore me out, but when I stopped doing it completely, it made me feel detached from my colleague. I realized I needed to create a careful balance, so once a week, I hang out with friends from work.

Being an introvert does not mean you can never socialize. Plan when to socialize ahead of time so that you don't get overwhelmed and decide to skip it.

It's okay to meet friends after work or Invite them home for dinner if you'd rather stay in.

5. Consider Your Options

I stopped getting involved in every student function, except the mandated after-school activities. I choose arts and crafts because it was an activity that involved independent thinking, which gave me the space I needed, even when I was working alongside others.

Are you required to participate in projects after work? Go for those choices that will cater to your personality and require independent thinking, such as writing, cleaning, teaching painting, designing. Consider projects that leave you refreshed.

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You've got to work with what you have to make yourself thrive

Faking to be someone else is slowly killing you.

Accept yourself as you are.

Slowly and consistently, you'll become a winner.

You'll survive and thrive the extrovert-filled environment.

Ann Davis is on a mission to help people succeed at fulfilling their dreams. Click over to get the free cheat-sheet, 11 Short Questions to help you identify your talent and make money using it