Understanding who you are and what makes you happy is the key to contentment.

I am an introvert.

I say that with great pride and not an ounce of shame or guilt. I only recently realized it and even more recently gave myself permission to be one. (And, I write this piece on January 2nd, which, without my knowing it, has been deemed World Introvert Day. Who knew there was a day designated to celebrate me and my peeps?)

The word introvert often has a negative connotation because most people associate an introvert with someone who is shy, retiring and lacking confidence. I don’t believe that is true for the majority of us.

It’s not that I am antisocial. In fact, I have quite a public job, one where I am talking with people by phone and in person all day long. And I love my job. But, here’s what I’ve come to know is true about being an introvert: I would prefer to listen than talk, to be quiet than loud, or to read a good book or snuggle with my husband at home than do just about anything else. I much prefer interacting with people one-on-one over being in a big group where I feel I need to shout to be heard or compete for airtime. I love being real with my friends and family, and connecting on a deep level with them. I hate small talk, and nothing makes me feel more whole than sharing my true self with someone who is able to do the same with me.

Here’s the thing: The world validates and embraces extroverts – the life of all parties, the centers of attention, and the organizers of big groups – and it often makes people like me feel as though I’m not quite “good enough”. I have often felt that there is something wrong with me for not being excited to go to a party or wanting to go out with a big group of people. And Facebook and Instagram are filled with pictures of people in groups having a grand old time (because who would post a picture of themselves having a bad one?), further enforcing the message that those of us that prefer to have dinner at home, or be in a small group, or best of all with our children, are just a little bit off.

Somehow finding a label that fits – such as “introvert” – makes me feel so much better. I feel accepted, part of a group and not so alone. I realize now that I have spent the majority of my life trying to be someone I’m not (that is, an extrovert). But trying to be someone other than the ME that I was created and meant to be is a futile effort that leaves me feeling unsatisfied and depleted. I would have saved myself a lot of angst had I figured this out sooner because I wasted a whole lot of years running to keep up with others and judging myself for not wanting to do what it looked like everyone else in the world was doing.

Those of you who know me might be a bit surprised that I consider myself an introvert. I do wind up enjoying most social gatherings, although I often feel some angst beforehand. I’ve found that a good strategy is to connect with a few interesting people, getting quickly past the small talk. The funny thing is that I talk for a living! But the talking I do in my professional life is not small talk at all. It’s deep and meaningful, and allows me to be real, honest and objective with people that seek my counsel. And, in return, they are real with me. Trust me, I see that as the greatest gift of my career.

So, fellow introverts, while you curl up next to a loved one or with a favorite book – enjoying your time in a more “peaceful” way – consider your new badge of honor. It’s one that indicates we belong to a group of introspective individuals who are happy – and quite content – to leave being “the life of the party” to another more suitable, extroverted individual.

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Originally published at bestbusinesslife.com