I’m a really introverted person. When I was a kid, I tossed and turned between extreme introversion at school and unabashed loudness otherwise. Even in my loudness, I was shy. I still am. What has changed is that with time, life became messy. Slowly but surely, that unchecked mess makes for an unruly image. And it isn’t just about what we start to look like to everyone around us: it’s a lot more about what we start to look like to ourselves and how that starts to affect our confidence and performance.

It would take me years to learn that in whatever part of your life, things that are uncommunicable and unpleasant create clutter.

It makes sense.

There are so many things that get in the way of a perfect, micro-managed image. Things like health complications, financial crises, personal circumstance, schooling and exhaustion can steal years worth of social credit in moments. A faux-pas isn’t the end of the world in the eyes of everyone else; I’m referring to self-crippling feelings of shame and guilt for not meeting a deadline or fulfilling a request. While it’s important to be considerate of others’ time, it’s essential to listen to your body and turn down an opportunity to please someone if it means avoiding self-sacrifice in the long term (just make sure to make it up as soon as you can).

This is where introversion comes into play. I thrive in aloneness. I love teamwork and friendships because I enjoy being in the company of others, but I love that I have time to do so much on my own. The downside is that I have never been good at letting others know what I need. I would rather put up with it myself. Which just isn’t how the world works.

If you’re working in a team or in any relationship, what you do has the capacity of touching everyone around you. You are a moving part in a larger machine. It took me a really hard time to swallow that pill, and I am still getting into the habit of acting on it. For every struggle you don’t communicate, you run the risk of having it blow up in your face. It’s our responsibility to act on due diligence if we can help it. And we can most times. I can let you know that I am unable to see you because my energy is low. I can let you know that I am taking space from you to work out my own problems. I might even tell you that my priorities have shifted. You, on the other hand, can understand that or decline to consider. Both are valid responses, but it’s where so much compassion is lost. I say this from (acute) personal experience.

While we aren’t responsible for what other people are going through, it’s courteous to offer understanding. It’s human. Sometimes it takes getting out of your head to see where another person stands not only in relation to yourself, but in relations to their life and experiences.

Rewarding interactions are transformative, not transactional.  A transformative interaction is an opportunity rather than a gain, whereas a transactional interaction leads to a closed-ended and measurable outcome. We need both in our lives. I am by no means an expert, but a transformative approach would take unpleasant situations and turning them into learning lessons, no matter the outcome. It’s how we grow and thrive, and how we learn to be considerate of where others are coming from. Being sidetracked by misunderstandings is unavoidable, but how we move forward and make amends changes and defines us.

There is always an opportunity to make things right so long as we are alive, and I think the greatest lesson to be learned from these awkward run-ins is moving forward with tact and withholding excessive self-judgement. The worst thing you can do for yourself is create your own rut and perpetuate it day in and day out. The need to put yourself down often has to do with accountability and feeling that you need to right your wrong. Everyone and every situation deserve their own form of making things right. It could mean coffee with a colleague, a sincere apology and peace offer made to a friend, or maybe doing better the next time around.

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