I’m a Type A person.
I think I’ve only lost three things in my entire life. I keep track of everything from major grad school deadlines to the night This Is Us comes on in my planner, and I’m no stranger to a challenge or competition. It’s both a blessing and a curse.
I enjoy the thrill that comes with difficult tasks and that crazy, satisfying feeling that follows. My fascination with challenges has gotten me places, and those “places” birthed my unwillingness to quit.
I’m not a quitter.
I strategize and I execute. No matter how challenging something may be, if I said I’m going to do it, then I’m going to do it.
But this challenge is different. Very different.
The struggle for balance
My “strategize and execute” thing doesn’t work with this one. It’s a constant battle, one that I’ve sometimes (a lot of times) wanted to quit. I’m almost always on one end of the spectrum or the other—rarely in the middle. I’m either overextending myself, or I’m not even thinking about extending myself at all. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized the importance and difficulty of balancing selfishness and selflessness, AND I’m an introvert to boot. Can you say struggle?
In high school, “balance” was a thing, but I didn’t think much about it because it was already mapped out for me (mentally and on a neatly organized and decorated calendar because would I be me if I didn’t?).
- School, dance practice, and clubs on weekdays.
- Homework when I can find time to do it.
- Dance at football and basketball games on the weekend.
- Homework and me time on Saturday, church on Sunday (how my introversion didn’t abort this mission is still beyond me).
Getting the hang of everything was hectic initially, but I wasn’t going to quit. I was going to do everything I wanted to do if it killed me.
In college, life was completely different. I had new-found autonomy and control over my class schedule and my social life, and if I was going to do everything I said I was going to do, I had to have some sort of balance. I often say that the whole experience was a constant juggling game of the three S’s: school, social life, and sleep. It took a little while for me to get the hang of it, and I didn’t always get it right (sleep won by a landslide many times). But I eventually got it.
How to Find Balance—Caring for Yourself While Caring for Others
How to Find Balance—Caring for Yourself While Caring for Others Click To Tweet
Shortly after graduating, I was hit with some of the struggles of “adulting” and once again, I had to re-learn the balancing act. I should probably also mention that I’m an INTJ, which makes this balance all the more complicated and to be completely honest, I still don’t have it quite yet. I prefer a more structured lifestyle so when life throws curve balls, I’m rarely prepared.
Especially when those curve balls require some kind of action that poses a threat to my energy. Dealing with those curveballs has really challenged my way of thinking and functioning.
I felt like my whole life had been somewhat strategized for success up until this point, because that’s what I do. I strategize, I execute. And I was good at balancing things in my personal life because everything was about me. But when you become an adult, life becomes way bigger than you and life has no sympathy. Introvert or extrovert, naturally selfless or selfish. Ready or not, here they come, and I’m not talking about the Lauryn or the Fugees.
I’m talking about challenges. Things aren’t always convenient, and they can’t always be done alone, and doing some stuff alone is like paradise for my little introverted self.
You’re telling me that now there are times when I actually have to put my introversion to the side for the greater good?
I have to forego my beloved self-checkout line and actually engage in human interaction to buy Advil because headaches have no patience for lines?
I have to leave my bed to rescue you because you got a flat? You sure you can’t just wait the 2 hours for AAA?
Your boo said “bring a friend for my homie” and you had to choose me?!
All the little things that pop up and require any kind of small talk, over-stimulation, extra exertion of energy, invasion of my personal space, or disruption of my schedule gives me major anxiety. And then on top of that, if I’m the least bit hesitant, you might have the nerve to think I’m selfish?! *eye roll*
Honey, you don’t even know the half of it.
But seriously all attitude aside, my immediate thought was: Are they right? Am I inherently selfish? I figured out that the answer to that question, simply put, is no. It’s not that I don’t want to help, it’s just that I sometimes get stuck inside myself. As introverts, we naturally like to invest our time and energy in our inner worlds of self and ideas as opposed to the outer world of people and things, and no, that predisposition does not make us inherently selfish.
What does balance look like for an introvert?
We know when we’ve reached our social limit and need to be alone to recharge. We’re good at maintaining a few solid friendships as opposed to several because our energy for socializing is precious. We’re really good at meeting our needs. Sometimes it’s just a little harder for us to figure out how to meet the needs of others, and how we can serve them while still maintaining our energy. The key is not just finding the balance, but figuring out what that balance looks like for me within my introversion.
Maybe you’re the person who notices the little ways that you can help and quietly puts that help into action, preferring not to be noticed or even thanked because for 1) us introverts don’t really get down with attention like that and 2) news flash: selflessness doesn’t have to be some act of grandeur. It’s okay to be the person who quietly pays for the food of the person behind them as opposed to the person who goes to dinner with friends as the wing woman. It’s okay to answer the phone when you have the energy for your friend’s boy problems, and it’s okay not to answer sometimes when you don’t.
Being selfless does not mean being drained. Acknowledging our introversion within selflessness makes finding the balance a little easier.
Being selfless does not mean being drained. Click To Tweet
But don’t be fooled. I know and understand how the balance can wok but here I am, still trying to find it because having the key to success doesn’t mean knowing exactly how to turn that lock. Trying not to be a “yes woman” because that leaves me with an empty cup, but also trying not to be a “no woman” because the world is bigger than me.
While I don’t have the balancing part just yet, I have figured out what these things look like:
Selflessness is not: self-neglect or self-sacrifice, always materialistic, always monetary, or rigid.
Selfishness is not: inherently negative, egotistical, or self-seeking.
Hear me loud and clear: they are not black and white, and there are times and spaces for both.
Setting goals for balance
As I prepare to enter this new year, I want to set a few goals to help me stay on track and keep doing purposeful work surrounding self-care, and this whole selfishness and selflessness thing is definitely on the list.
Being selfless does not mean being drained. Acknowledging our introversion within selflessness makes finding the balance a little easier. Click To Tweet
One of my strategies is to turn track changes on.
That time when I ran an errand for a family member, despite being exhausted from a long day at work? I’m writing that down.
How about that time when I really needed to go to my Erykah Badu, make-you-put-your-phone-down zone, and actually did it without feeling guilty? Yep, writing that one down, too.
By no means do I have to “arrive” by the end of 2018—I just want to make sure I’m moving forward. I strongly believe that if more people worked towards finding that balance between caring for ourselves and caring for others, the world would be a completely different place. I encourage you, my fellow introvert, to think about the past year, or even the past month or week. Write down the moments in which you killed this balancing game, and jot down a couple moments in which you could’ve done things a little differently to better serve yourself and others.
Shout out to you for all of your success, growth, and progress in 2017, and let’s work towards balancing selflessness and selfishness so that we can make 2018 even more poppin’.
Finding Balance in 2018—Finding That Sweet Spot in the Middle of Holding Space for Yourself + Others Click To Tweet
Read more about self care:
- 6 Ways to Make Self Care a Priority
- How to Give Yourself Grace as a Twenty-Something Woman
- 14 Ways to Practice Self Care at Work
- Self Care for Millennial Women
- 5 Mindset Shifts to Stop Comparison
- Why Are We So Afraid to Be Vulnerable?
Do you struggle with maintaining the balance between selfishness and selflessness as an introvert? What are some strategies that have helped (or might help) you find that sweet spot in the middle of holding space for yourself and others?
Kayla is a regular millennial who’s trying to live consciously in an auto-pilot, fast-paced world. Over at her blog, ALLURE by Kay, she promotes beauty, wellness, and conscious living from the inside out. You’ll find things like natural hair tips and tricks, skincare advice, and pieces on mental and emotional health. Her ultimate goal is to help you maximize your health potential, one positive change at a time.