This spring I’ve been focused on working on the outside of my house. There are maintenance issues inside as well, but the big projects are happening outside. I had the deck re-stained. I’m having the shake re-painted and we’re cleaning up the landscaping. This outside works runs parallel with my new views on living and loving. I now see that to have healthy self-esteem, the outside world has to be cared for as much as the inner.
I’ve spent the last few years working on accepting myself and justifying solitude. I thought I was bolstering my self-esteem by gaining self-awareness and validating my sensitive nature. I gained understanding and knowledge, but my self-esteem didn’t truly rise until I applied that understanding to relationships and meaningful work — both entities outside of my heavily analyzed and prized inner realm.
Introvert strives to feel competent in the outside world
Psychotherapist, Nathaniel Branden (in 1969) defined self-esteem as “the experience of being competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and being worthy of happiness.”
As a sensitive introvert it takes real effort (courage?) to push myself into the external world but when I do, I feel truly alive and fulfilled. Dealing with the outside world is a basic challenge of life for an introvert.
Our inner world feels so safe and the outer world bombards us with stimuli and emotional energy. I help clients gain personal power to balance the two kinds of energy and the two worlds — inner and outer. I’ll explain how in a future post.
Nurturing relationships help with confidence
As relationship coach, Bruce Muzik, says in his post, Fuck Self Love, we build lasting self-esteem by cultivating nurturing relationships with supportive people. The truth in this has become clear to me over the years. My self-worth plummeted when I wasn’t in a nurturing relationship.
For a while, I only had a few people who offered supportive and nurturing companionships. That was when I went deeply internal and studied myself. I don’t think this was a bad move, I learned so much, but in the end it left things unbalanced. I focused intently on my own feelings without applying them to anything. Even when I started writing, the self-expression was heavenly but still missing that fortifying real interaction with the environment and people.
I needed a more hands on way to contribute to the community. The outside world called me.
Once I reached out with coaching, I not only felt validated, I felt more confident. I truly felt like I added value and was worthy of love and happiness. The act of using my skills, made me feel competent and purposeful. By being a secure and non-judgmental relationship for my clients, I believe I help them feel confident and competent as well. A win/win.
This is the second result to show that we respond more to positive than negative stimuli, helping to explain our “differential susceptibility”–that we do worse in poor environments, true, but better than others in good ones, apparently because we pick up on and process more of the positive experiences in our life.
—Dr. Elaine Aron
No matter how much I love myself through self-awareness, self-care and self-soothing, I am still going to crave connection. We aren’t meant to be in isolation. Even introverts need interaction to grow and thrive.
Introverts (and extroverts but not as deeply) consciously and subconsciously absorb feedback from people in our environment. This affects our confidence. It makes sense that we’d want positive people in our environment to foster our growth. Of course, this needs to be a two-way street. We need to offer support and responsiveness as well.
I’m not so idealistic (but I’m pretty idealistic) to believe we can only have positive feedback in our world. We need constructive feedback too. Those into nurturing will give criticism with diplomacy while offering steps toward a rich life.
Hard to say you need someone
I’ve written a lot about loving yourself first before you can love another. I’ve encouraged being your own amazing boyfriend and love affairs with solitude. I’ve felt embarrassed to say I wanted or needed someone. I still have attachments to those ideas but more and more I see the power of growing through relationships. It’s OK to depend on someone. It’s OK to ask for help. I’ve learned to admit I can’t do it all. I can’t find all the answers within myself.
I strive for interdependence; that lovely existence where individual integrity ebbs and flows with dependency.
I’m not in a hurry to get into another long-term relationship but I’m not avoiding one either. I just need to establish boundaries that create win/win outcomes and reduce the number of people in my life that don’t foster such outcomes.
How to know if you are developing as a human
I consider personal development, particularly for an intuitive introvert, the transformation from a superficially focused being -> to one willing to explore their complete inner world -> to one interested in reaching out and creating nurturing and supportive relationships. In the end, internal and external worlds unite and form a mature being who meets their own needs and those of others.
As an introvert, it’s oh so easy to retreat into my shell. I will always need solitude and downtime but the real growth and power comes from sticking my neck out or at least sticking my hand out to help or ask for help.
Anyone want to help maintain my house? 😉
How much do you interact with the outside world? How is your spirit when you do? When you don’t? Do you have enough nurturing relationships?