People just aren’t everyone’s cup of tea — maybe they’re more like a cup of pure caffeine: they get you jittery, you hit the upswing when you say something mildly profound, and then spend the rest of the day feeling like a wasp’s hollowed you out to be an egg-laying receptacle. 

But sometimes, people are great. Sometimes, they’re necessary to our own greatness — even if they do still have all the properties of a caffeine overdose. Surrounding ourselves with a community of people who motivate us to be better and do more can be transformative. Finding our place in a community may not only be the first step to making real the quiet desires we keep in our heads at night, but also can be the cane we prop ourselves up with when all the steps after the first one start to add up.

Understanding the power of community is one thing, but actually going from introverted isolation to community member extraordinaire is its own beast to conquer. Every journey is, of course, individualized, but often have the same general flight path. While considering your personal journey, here are three general steps to shape your process:

Understand your own boundaries. At what point does talking with people start to feel like pulling teeth? Why do group settings feel different from one-on-one conversation? What exactly is it about people, either strangers or friends, that makes them so unapproachable when you need help? Many more questions are floating out in the social ether, and mindfulness is one way to figure out both the questions to ask yourself and how to answer them. HNC blogger Marlene Smith goes further into the concept here, but the basic application is that we have the power to be aware of our reactions to our surroundings. This awareness is necessary to understand reactions to situations and what boundaries you need to keep yourself comfortable. And once you have figured out your boundaries, you can assert them with others to keep social interactions manageable. HNC blogger Yu-Pei Ho writes about how setting boundaries keeps living with a housemate manageable here, and her points about boundaries stand with wider applications to the people in your community you engage with. 

Determine what to pursue. Dreaming is such a broad action: you really can do literally whatever in your brain. As such, determining which dreams to pursue and how to actually pursue them can take a bit of effort. HNC Virtual Coach of Her Mindful Bliss Nida Jawed writes here about locating fulfillment factors beyond the pursuit of materialistic accomplishment. So ask yourself what you want and need; once you have articulated your dream, break it down into smaller parts and determine what you can do yourself and what you need help with. HNC Virtual Coach of Her Own Business Jan Barlow focuses on identifying tasks that require help in a business setting here. These tasks are where community comes in

Find a community to support you as you make your dream a reality. This community can be related to the dream you are pursuing, but it doesn’t have to be. For some, this community may be a motivational support structure, while for others community engagement might be itself an end to your goal. As HNC blogger Cheron Griffin writes here using your talents to engage with the people of your community may itself be the fulfillment you’ve been dreaming of. Finding a new group of people to engage with as a community can be as simple as googling groups in your area that focus on an interest of yours. Your community of choice doesn’t have to be specific or new, however: your coworkers might hold untapped potential once you engage with them beyond the work day, or your neighbors could provide a local support structure once you really get to know them. Even people you are already friends with may act as the supportive community that helps you make your dreams a reality; establishing boundaries and areas of support you need will transform a friend group into a supportive community.

Learning about yourself and then actually applying that knowledge to work with those around you takes time and effort. Be kind to yourself and your efforts — it’s hard work applying yourself to socializing when it doesn’t come naturally! Once you have begun to walk the road to your dreams, hand in hand with those who support you, remember to treat those supporting you as friends and not just support. When the time comes that they need support, perhaps you can grow together through mutual support.

Do you have any related experiences to share? Thoughts on how introversion affects your personal dreams and goals? Please feel free to comment below and share!

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The Future of Connection for Women

Corrin McCullough

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