Thriving As An Introvert: Bryan Davis of Mentally39 On How Introverts Can Thrive & Succeed In A Society That Seems To Favor Extroverts
Find your calling — it may take some time to discover, but find something that makes you want to get up in the morning. When I help a student who has struggled for years with learning a topic and I am the one who discovers what everyone else has missed, that’s fun!
In a world that often rewards outspokenness and social networking, introverts can sometimes feel sidelined or overlooked. The workplace, educational institutions, and even social settings can often seem engineered to suit the strengths of extroverts, leaving introverts searching for a space to flourish.
However, introversion comes with its own set of unique strengths — deep thinking, the ability to focus, empathy, and keen observational skills — that are invaluable but often underestimated. The question then becomes: how can introverts not only survive but also thrive and succeed in environments that seem skewed towards extroversion? In this interview series, we are talking to introverts, business leaders, psychologists, authors, career coaches, organizational leaders, and other experts in the field who can talk about “How Introverts Can Thrive & Succeed In A Society That Seems To Favor Extroverts”. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Bryan Davis.
Bryan Davis is a Special Education Teacher in Texas. He works with kids who have learning difficulties or behavioral problems. Bryan holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Agriculture from Stephen F. Austin State University.
He is certified to teach at all levels of Special Education and Business.
He is also a National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Nutrition Coach and a Master Certified Life Coach specializing in Mindset and Motivation.
Besides teaching, he started Mentally39.com, writing articles on fitness, nutrition, mindset, and motivation.
Bryan often contributes to articles in his fields of specialization.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us your “Origin Story”? Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I did not attend college to become a teacher; I studied agriculture. I had planned on going into golf course maintenance and design. When careers were slim, or the pay was minimal, I began work in the metal building industry, leading me into sales, eventually landing in Houston, Texas. I was unhappy in my career then and kept seeing ads for alternative teaching certifications. My only experience with teaching of any sort was in giving golf lessons, which I enjoyed, so I began to look into becoming a teacher.
I began an 18-month program to become a certified teacher; during that time, I worked as a substitute and a para-professional. I followed a track to become certified in all levels of special education. I have been working in middle schools for 19 of 20 years.
My main focus is supporting children struggling academically and those experiencing emotional and behavioral challenges. I have found that I have a natural ability to work effectively with children who have special needs. Often, these students are overlooked by other educators who become frustrated when progress is slow. However, I believe that these children are intelligent and may benefit from extra time or different learning methods. Seeing them succeed when given the support they need is a true joy.
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion about Thriving As An Introvert. In order to make sure that we are all on the same page, let’s begin with a simple definition. What does “Introvert” mean to you?
In my definition, an introvert spends a lot of time in deep thought. Analyzing situations before speaking, if at all. Someone who prefers quiet environments and doesn’t mind being alone. Socially preferring small groups of people in places they are comfortable.
Can you help articulate a few of the challenges that come with being an introvert?
For me, it is the socializing. I am not good at being in large crowds and making small talk. When I have to be in situations where there are large groups, you will find me near the back or close to an exit.
Other times, people say, “You are so quiet,” which is true. I don’t need to be talking for the sake of talking. I am taking in the situation, thinking on the topic, or how can I get out of this?
I’m sure that being an introvert also gives you certain advantages. Can you tell us a few advantages that introverts have?
It does have its advantages; people tell me that I am easy to talk to and to be around. People often seek me out to vent frustration at work, complain, etc., because they know I will not go around talking. My students are the same way once they get to know me. I will not tell their secrets unless I believe they will hurt themselves or someone else.
I’m low maintenance; it does not take much for me to be happy. I enjoy reading, landscape photography, cooking, and writing. I can do everything myself or with a close friend if I choose.
I’m also observant, especially when I am photographing landscapes or buildings. Being attentive also helps me help my students. I’ll notice little things others may miss that might hold a student back.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being an introvert? Can you explain what you mean?
There are several myths that people get wrong about introverts.
The first myth is that introverts can’t lead. Introverts make great leaders; introverts listen well, make thoughtful strategic decisions, and put others first. What more do you want from a leader?
Second, we are not antisocial. I have a close group of friends that I enjoy being around. I prefer smaller, intimate groups where we can have stimulating conversations. I don’t like being in a setting of 100 people, and 98 of them are talking. Give me 5 to 10 people on the back deck or front porch; that’s where the real interesting conversation is happening.
Third myth is introverts are unfriendly; we are very warm, caring, and passionate people. If you perceive us as cold, you may have come on too strong, or we sense that you are fake and are blocking you out. Or we need to be in the mood to talk.
Although there are lots of myths, I will stop at four. It’s a common misconception that introverts are dull or uninteresting individuals, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I have many passions and hobbies that keep me fully engaged and entertained. For example, I’m deeply invested in education and am always eager to learn more about ways I can improve. Staying active is important, so I prioritize exercise and physical activity in my daily routine.
Additionally, I have a good eye for photography and enjoy capturing landscapes. Lastly, I’m passionate about nutrition and how the mind works; I read and write extensively on those topics. Overall, introverts have a lot to offer and are far from boring or mundane individuals.
Do you have any role models who are also introverts? What have you learned from them that can help introverts navigate the challenges and benefits of introversion?
If I were to pick a role model, it would be the famous landscape photographer Ansel Adams. He was known to be shy and introverted. He was passionate about photography and was obsessed with the small details. He promoted landscape photography as art and the beauty of the National Parks and Western America.
A quick Google search will lead you to some of the most famous people in the world who are introverts. Abraham Lincoln was introverted.
Suppose someone took the time to research many famous decisions and the people who made them. Most took time to consider the options to make the best decision for all parties involved. That’s an introvert.
Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the “Five Things Introverts Need To Thrive & Succeed In A Society That Seems To Favor Extroverts”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.
1 . Find your calling — it may take some time to discover, but find something that makes you want to get up in the morning. When I help a student who has struggled for years with learning a topic and I am the one who discovers what everyone else has missed, that’s fun!
I had a student once who had trouble adding multiple columns of numbers; she could add them correctly but would get confused about where to put the numbers when carrying to the next column. A simple post-it note to cover the other columns until she was ready was all it took. Within minutes of doing this, limiting the number of columns she could see at one time, we solved a learning problem she had had for years. She went on to earn full academic scholarships to several colleges.
2 . Set Boundaries — protect your downtime at work and away. I purposely do not eat lunch in the break room. I need my quiet time to myself. I also do not care for the mindless chatter or office gossip. I instead read and eat my lunch in peace.
When I leave work, I make it a point to leave it there. Only rarely will I do schoolwork at home. My downtime is for me to pursue other things that make me happy.
3 . Practice self-care — I write about self-care, and this is for everyone, not just introverts. You’ve got to learn to take care of yourself and listen to your body. For years, I neglected myself with alcohol. It was a way of coping, a poor one at that. Eventually, I found writing and exercise to be positive self-care therapies. Going to the gym and eating a healthy diet may not be for everyone, but find something positive to deal with stress from everyday life. There are better ways to care for yourself than alcohol, sugary drinks, and fast food.
There are so many internet options for people with social anxiety now. Research and join online groups of people with similar interests. Take an online class; that’s how I became a nutrition coach by taking online courses.
4 . Tap into your creativity — many introverts are creative and imaginative. And unfortunately, some have never developed those skills. I love photography, particularly nature and landscapes. I don’t need someone to model for me, just me, my dog, and my camera. I’m outside walking and enjoying nature, allowing my mind to enjoy the moment.
Do the same thing; if music is your thing, learn to play. Or start a collection of music-related items.
If art, sewing, or whatever allows you to be creative, do it. Look up videos online and read books at your local library. The point is to be creative and let you escape into your happy place.
I’m currently taking a writing class online; I can work on it when I have time. There is no deadline, so missing a week or two is okay.
5 . Embrace your talents- use your talents to your advantage. Most introverts are excellent listeners and very empathetic. These are sought-after skills in many companies.
Listening is a skill many people neglect; they may hear the words someone is speaking, but they are not processing what is being said or why. Paying attention helps me be a better teacher. I listen carefully to what my students are telling me. I let them take their time, use their words, and truly listen.
How should an introvert navigate social relationships and networking, activities that are often touted as extroverts’ forte? Do you have any advice for introverts in these areas?
Today, a lot of socializing and networking happens online, which is valuable for introverts. Whether it’s making business connections or trying online dating, there are many opportunities online.
But if it is a situation where you need to be physically present. Don’t worry about working an entire room; concentrate on one-on-one connections. Watch the room for a bit, narrow your targets down, and do your best to try and connect with them. If you have time, research the people you want to meet, gather some background information, and go prepared.
And be very mindful of your body language; you want to project a positive vibe. Having your head down with slouched shoulders differs from what you want to project. You can be out of your comfort zone for a couple of hours, then take the time needed to recover.
What are some practical tips you can offer to introverts who want to succeed in the workplace, which is often geared towards extroverted behaviors?
Be selective about who you work for and whether their beliefs align with yours. Working for a company that you have a clash of emotions with will not benefit you or them. I have left school districts for this exact reason. Don’t sit and waste your talents in a place where you are miserable.
Next is playing to your strengths, which is the quality of the work rather than quantity. Being in my specialized field, I deal with a lot of paperwork concerning students and their education plans. I will take my time getting that work done correctly. It has to be for it to be legal.
And be prepared; if you have a meeting coming up, list possible topics and things that you might be called upon to answer. What questions might you ask or be asked? How might you handle this situation or that one, etc….
Have you noticed any specific ways that being an introvert affects mental health or overall well-being? Any tips for introverts to maintain good mental health?
Mental health is an important topic for me. I’ve dealt with depression since my early teen years. Introverts are more prone to mental health issues, especially if they do not get their alone time to practice self-care fully.
For me, in particular, is when I have to be in a social setting with many people, and I do not know anyone. Just the thought will stress me out for weeks because I know what is coming. However, I am much better if I have something to do while there. If it is a gathering at someone’s house with lots of people, you will find me in the kitchen helping out. When I drank, I would often become the de-facto bartender.
My advice is not to start drinking alcohol.
Suppose it is a situation causing you undue anxiety. Then it may be a good idea for you not to go.
Introverts want to be invited and included; sometimes, it’s hard for us. And being excluded can be very painful for anyone.
I have cooked for parties before, taken my food over, and then left as soon as I became uncomfortable. That was a win-win situation; I got to participate to my level of comfort, contributed something everyone could enjoy, and my host was happy to see me.
In your opinion, are societal views on introversion changing? If so, how do you think this impacts introverts positively or negatively? Can you please explain what you mean?
Society is becoming more accepting of all people. And this benefits everyone, not just introverts; this is a good thing. A good leader will see that you have talent and will do what they can so you are comfortable in the workplace. That could be decorating your cubicle differently than everyone else, moving to a different location, and adjusting your schedule to maximize your talents.
The shutdown and work-from-home most definitely favored introverts. We were content at home and didn’t have to face uncomfortable situations. Being unbothered by meetings that didn’t need to happen, just at home doing our jobs.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite quote is from Marcus Aurelius — “You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”
I have often repeated this to myself when dealing with a stressful event. I can only control my thoughts and actions; I can not control outside events.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
We need more compassion and understanding in the world, especially when it comes to mental health. Mental health is just as important as physical health. The mind can do wonders, but only up to a point. Don’t be afraid to get help or talk to a therapist.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!
Thriving As An Introvert: Bryan Davis of Mentally39 On How Introverts Can Thrive & Succeed In A… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.