Thriving As An Introvert: Elissa Trask On How Introverts Can Thrive & Succeed In A Society That Seems To Favor Extroverts
Create connections one person at a time. You don’t need to force yourself to meet all the people all at once or go to all the work events. Connections with people take time and there is no rush to do so just because your extrovert counterparts are doing so.
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 Elissa Trask.
Elissa Trask enjoys blogging about introversion and currently resides in Sarasota, Florida. She graduated from the University of South Florida in 2013 with a degree in Human Behavior. Elissa is married to her husband Sean Trask and has two beautiful dogs named Marley and Bentley. The last five years of Elissa’s life has been dedicated to learning, growing, and evolving through spirituality. She is an INFJ and enjoys the simple things life has to offer.
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?
The best way I can explain my “Origin Story” is through themes of my life.
Theme one, moving taught me life and social skills.
I was born in Germany and moved with my parents to Kansas, Florida, and Arizona. My father was in the military and my mother is German native. I believe without moving around, I would be more introverted. Moving allowed me to adapt and gain social skills but also life experience. I also went to three different high schools. Ever since I can remember, I have been thrown into situations and able to navigate and adapt through them. All while being an introvert.
Theme two, I have over seventeen years of work experience
I started my career working at a restaurant with my grandmother at the age of fifteen. Since then, I have had a lot of work experience. Work allowed me to gain independence and grow different skills. The biggest skill I have learned is reading people and communication. I believe working from a young age has grown my confidence and self-awareness. Work allowed me to overcome shyness and step into a social introvert.
Theme three, learning from different cultures.
Since I am German myself, different cultures have intrigued me. Not only has moving around allowed me to gain a different perspective but also meet different types of people. I tend to have more of an open mind when it comes to different cultures. Rather than judgment I am always just curious.
All three of these themes have allowed me to be who I am today. Without moving around my social and life skills would be completely different. Who knows if I would even be here today writing this article about being an introvert thriving in society. Without seventeen years of work experience, I would be clueless in giving anyone advice on how to thrive in their work environment. Lastly, learning from cultures has given me the ability to be open minded. I believe all three of these themes have merged to create the women I am today.
Can you tell us a bit about what you do professionally, and what brought you to this specific career path?
I am an entrepreneur because and labeled as one profession doesn’t resonate with me. To be honest, I am ever evolving and have had lots of “jobs”. I am currently focusing on writing and creating content for my blog, The Introvert Living. What has brought me to this stage in my life is I enjoy collecting research and adding my own thoughts. It brings me great pleasure to also help others along the way. I have had various jobs in my life ranging from a parole officer, service industry, banking, retail, personal trainer and holistic nutritionist. I enjoy the flexibility of making money differently and using my brain to obtain it. Being completely transparent, authority and rules have never been my strong suite nor an 8–5 job. I now focus my energy and efforts on writing and making money, when need be, in the service industry.
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?
An introvert simply means someone who looks internally rather than externally for their understanding of the world. Because of this, introverts need time alone to recharge and refuel their energy. Anytime an introvert goes into a public setting, their energy starts to decrease because of everything that’s happening in their environment. Since introverts have less dopamine receptors than extroverts, the world becomes more stimulating and due to this is very draining of an introvert’s energy. To be clear, there are different types of introverts, eight to be exact. So the more clear one becomes about finding which introvert personality type they are, the more their personality will begin to click and make sense. I used to think that oh I am an introvert, life makes sense, but after learning I am an INFJ, life then really started to make sense. Being an introvert, especially an INFJ means that I am not alone, and someone else thinks and behaves similarly to me.
Can you help articulate a few of the challenges that come with being an introvert?
- When people ask me questions and then it takes a bit of time for me to respond. Unlike extroverts, introverts like to think before speaking. I love to rehearse in my mind what I will say, before just blurting out whatever comes out. Sometimes when you are thinking of a response, that person might have already moved on from the conversation or lost interest.
- I must be mindful of alone time, or I will experience burnout. I plan my days around how my energy will fluctuate through the day. If I see a friend, I also put in recharging time afterwards. I am not able to do spontaneous things all the time because I know how my energy might get affected from it.
- Being selective at big events or social gatherings because it drains my energy rapidly.
- I love traveling but I have had to decline some travel trips with my husband. It takes me double the amount of time to recover than he does.
- Getting overwhelmed when too many people are speaking. I will check out when people talk over top of each other because I can’t hear myself think.
I’m sure that being an introvert also gives you certain advantages. Can you tell us a few advantages that introverts have?
The biggest advantage of an introvert is having advanced listening abilities. When I am listening to a conversation, I remember the fine details people speak about. It shocks people when I ask them how their mother is doing after finding out she’s unwell or checking in on a colleague when their kid starts a new sport. People always feel they are seen and have space when they are around me.
Another advantage is having a great relationship with myself which spills into others having a great relationship with themselves. I have learned that being an introvert the more I connect with myself the happier I am. For example, perception of the world. If you are in an awful mood most days, the world seems bleak and daunting. However, if you can shift your mindset the world can look like rainbows and butterflies. All about perception and how connected you are with yourself.
Lastly, I think before I speak which I think is a great advantage! People often say that my responses have depth. I have also heard others tell me they feel seen and heard when I respond because I listen deeply and respond with a thoughtful response.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being an introvert? Can you explain what you mean?
All introverts are shy. Being shy is a personality trait, not someone’s whole personality. There are also 8 different types of introverts, depending on where someone lands on that spectrum makes a difference too. Two people can be introverted, but one might be shy and the other one might be more sociable. Putting all introverts into one category is outdated.
Introverts aren’t outgoing. I prove this myth to be wrong constantly. Introverts need time to recharge but this doesn’t mean they are anti-social. I love connecting and having deep meaningful conversations but need time to reflect and be alone afterwards. Nothing fills my soul more than connecting with someone on a deeper level.
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?
The biggest introvert role model that comes to my mind is Albert Einstein. I love this quote of his, “why is it that nobody understands me, yet everybody likes me?”. He was never embarrassed by the fact he was an introvert and didn’t try to be someone he wasn’t. The same could be said about Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Warren Buffet. They always stayed true to who they were. I have learned from these role models that you get to create whatever you want; you just must believe in yourself first.
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 . Boundaries, boundaries and oh and some more boundaries.
I was working at a job when I was around twenty-four. At this time, I was making the most money I’ve ever made in my life. Unfortunately, this job had a very toxic work environment. I never had a disconnect from work and home, ever. All my friends I also worked with. So, if you can guess, all we did was talk about work. On top of that, I never had work boundaries. For example, taking time off for the holidays to spend with family or wanting Sundays off to spend with my husband. I was burnt out and extremely tired. I had no boundaries and walked all over. If someone called out, I would always be the one willing to step in no matter what.
Now that I have faced a toxic work environment and left, I notice red flags or address situations head on. I have realized with boundaries for example, not working Sundays or not answering my phone after work hours has changed my relationship with work. Rather than being burnt to a crisp, I now have a healthy work ethics and boundaries. I used to struggle to convey my boundaries, so I started with writing emails that expressed them. After emails, I started to request one on one meetings. It was a gradual process which has allowed me to fully be present at work and at home. Without boundaries, I would probably be in the same vicious cycle of work, no boundaries, burn out and then quit. Now, I feel like I have some control and have a healthy relationship with work.
2 . You have to ask uncomfortable questions at times, when you would rather brush things off.
Being an introvert, I stow thoughts in my mind. Like a hamster on a wheel, spinning from thought to thought at times. My mind can really create situations that aren’t entirely true. For example, the other week I noticed my hours at work had been reduced. I started to internalize what the manager was thinking of me, judging myself and playing the comparison game. I got really worked up to the point I had a hard time sleeping that night. In past work situations, I would let this eat at me until it dissolved by itself but being a mature 33-year-old with over 17 years of work experience, I decided to address the schedule with management.
I emailed my manager and asked her politely to hold five or ten minutes to speak to me privately about the month of October with me. The start of the conversation started with everything that I loved about the job and then followed with the work hours. Instead of pointing a finger, I was coming from a place of curiosity. In my mind I was losing hours because I wasn’t good enough, but the reality was, she said making a schedule at times is daunting. She said she was glad we had the conversation and that I was able to address the schedule with her.
Have the hard conversation you have been brushing off. I am finding that the longer I hold on to emotions or a reality I created, the more disconnected I am with the work culture. If you work somewhere that a manager would blow up or act defensive, I have learned, that’s not somewhere you want to work at to begin with.
3 . Having routines and rituals.
I cannot express enough how important it is as an introvert to have routines and rituals. Every day after work, I go and take a shower and reset into home life. It’s like a trigger that allows me to wash the day off of me and be present at home. With that, I do not allow myself to jump into any work-related task, unless previously scheduled. I believe you find something that fills your soul but also allows you to decompress from the day.
Another example is that I walk my dogs every single morning and listen to inspirational talks first thing in the morning. It’s become so routine; my dog looks at me at 7am every morning and by 7:30am starts to whine at me. Your rituals and routine are your time, and you get to control every component of them. How you treat yourself will be the standard for how others treat you.
4 . Stop explaining yourself. Say no, and that’s it.
You probably get invited to all these work functions, marketing, and networking events. The feeling that I have to go in order to be professional with work is always a thought in the back of your mind. Being introverted can drain the life out of you if you do too much. I have learned that when you say no that’s all you have to say. I remember one day at work; I was saying no and then going into a full story. My coworker simply stated, saying no is enough, you don’t really owe someone a reason. This got me thinking, I really don’t. I mean you don’t have to say no and walk away. But rather than going into every single reason why, just say no but thank you for thinking of me or no I unfortunately will not be able to attend.
I am intentional about the time I give to work-related functions, especially back to work. Introverts need to gauge their energy daily because it shifts due to social interactions. I would also like to say, when the date gets closer, I will let you know, or it depends how my energy is that day. That way if my energy is in a good place I will go or if I need time to reset, I will rest. If someone can’t take no as an answer, do you really want them in your space?
5. Have a passion project unrelated to work.
Having a passion project is for you. My passion projects over the last few years have been investing in my mental health and personal development. I have become obsessed with reading Self Help books. I started to study the teachings of Abraham Hicks, Dr. Joe Dispenza, Debbie Ford, James Allen, and Gabrielle Berstein. I didn’t want to be a victim anymore and I wanted to heal and to connect to myself. I was able to transform my mindset and shift from anxiety towards optimism. I continue to bring awareness, heal from past wounds, and show up as my full potential.
Moving into the current space, I now have decided to learn more about my introverted self and create content that is curated for just that. I want to help others like me navigate through being an introvert. My advice for my fellow introverts, find something that lights you up. When you talk about it a spark is ignited inside of you and you just feel on top of the world. I have tried a lot of different types of passion projects and it’s okay if you start something and hate it, at least you tried. Keep trying to find something that fits you.
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?
I must be mindful and selective of those who I surround myself around. Anytime I am social, I always ask myself afterwards, how did this person make me feel? Being introverted, my energy is my most precious commodity. I believe people should be very selective of who gets your energy. Always be mindful of who you surround yourself around. Creating boundaries is an introverted best friend, I promise you that. If you meet a friend for coffee and say you can only stay until 12PM and then leave honor that. Schedule phone calls with friends or be honest that your energy is depleted for the day. People respect honesty.
In the past, I was a networking junkie who was crispy like a burnt piece of toast because I had no boundaries. I thought I had to meet everyone at the events and felt it was not genuine. What I have learned now is to also be selective on what networking events I attend. I am very intentional about meeting people. Instead of going to every networking event, I go to one every few months. I make sure the networking event is aligned with my goals. Instead of meeting everyone in the event, I focus on connecting with one person personally. Since slowing down, I have created stronger relationships. I also never give out my personal number, just strictly email (learned from past situations).
What are some practical tips you can offer to introverts who want to succeed in the workplace, which is often geared towards extroverted behaviors?
A few tips I have for introverts to be successful are the following:
- Create connections one person at a time. You don’t need to force yourself to meet all the people all at once or go to all the work events. Connections with people take time and there is no rush to do so just because your extrovert counterparts are doing so.
- Have solid boundaries when it comes to work. Set an away message from your email after hours, turn your work phone off or when you are done at 5 everyday you leave.
- Quality over quantity.
- Find your voice when it comes to communication. If you get nervous about talking, email or text. Being an introvert, we think about different scenarios and possibilities that extroverts might not. This can lead us to not speaking the truth or missing promotions.
- Use a calendar to track your energy. If you are on the verge of burnout weekly, start tracking what you do. There is nothing wrong with delegating tasks to others or saying “no” more often.
- Be clear on your goals for the next six months, year or even five years. What you might have as a goal will be completely different from someone else’s. This will keep you on track at work rather than scramble all over the place.
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?
I am an introvert who constantly must check in with myself or I can easily drown my thoughts with anxieties. I believe mental health looks and is different for everyone. Since introverts make meaning of life internally, they might hold more emotions than an extrovert. I won’t go too deep into my own personal experience with mental health, but it is something I have to work on every single day of my life. Here are some tips I have for my fellow introverts that are experiencing anxiety:
- I ask myself when I started to have anxiety, “will this matter a month from now?”
- Address the emotions. I like to speak to the person who is making me feel a certain way and get their perspective. If that sounds daunting, get a journal out and write how you feel. If you keep pushing off your emotions, they will come out one way or another. At work, I like to email my manager to set some time aside to speak. I do not like blind siding with anyone and will usually express the topic in the message. I also start most conversations with positive aspects and then go into what is causing my anxiety and gain clarification. Sometimes our minds create a situation that’s not even real at times.
- I tell my thoughts when they get overwhelming to stop. I give myself set “worry” times, for example 10 minutes daily. After the 10 minutes, if my mind tries to spiral, I remind myself the 10 minutes is up for today and will keep doing so for the rest of the day. Creating boundaries and rituals has honestly changed my life.
- Debbie Ford’s Dark Side of the Light Chasers is a book that changed my life, and if you experience anxiety, I recommend you read this book to help you navigate through it. Lots of writing exercises and doing the work!
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?
When I speak to the public about introversion, a lot of people are surprised that I am one. Most people believe that introverts are shy and quiet but that isn’t the full spectrum of introversion at all. You can be social, friendly, and outgoing and also an introvert. I find the more educated the public is becoming about introversion is creating a positive shift in society. There are layers to being an introvert, eight different introverted personality types to be exact (check out Myers-Briggs Assessment). There is no longer this “one size” fits all in correlation to introversion.
Speaking from my personal experience, I openly talk about introversion and about my personality. I have little pockets of time, where I am bubbly and able to be social. After that bubble of time, I need to recharge, or I become a not so fun person to be around. The more people speak about their personality, the more people will understand them. As more people connect internally with themselves, the more of a shift is happening in society.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” — Carl Gustav Jung
This Carl Jung’s quote is relevant to my life because I was always seeking external validation. My 20’s I lost myself and yet towards the end found myself again. I learned about being an introvert, honoring my energy, finding my spirituality but also reconnecting with myself. I stopped seeking external validations and began to accept internally. Shifting the narrative of my life story and creating a fresh beginning.
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. 🙂
My movement’s theme is to be okay with where you are currently. To slow down and to enjoy a moment of time. When you find acceptance within yourself, you stop seeking validation from others. Sometimes all we need to do or be is to exist. When you find worth and value within yourself, others will also see that within themselves. The best relationship of your life will be the relationship with you. We get distracted by the next shiny object that’s dangled in front of us so that we forget the journey to achieve it. Instead of allowing the next new or cool thing to give you a dopamine hit, grow the relationship with yourself. Most of my adult life, I have been rushing to this ultimate finish line. Constantly pushing myself, being hard on myself or feeling “not enough”. I was finding self-validation through others, and this was creating a fabricated allusion of myself.
I believe the purpose of being human is to experience life, in the moment and without the need or want of more. Living in the United States has shown me the many sides of capitalism and comparison. After connecting with my inner self over the past years, I have learned I am enough. I also have everything I need at this moment, and I work towards goals rather than letting my goals define who I am.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
To go to www.theintrovertliving.com to check out all my published articles all about introverts.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!
Thriving As An Introvert: Elissa Trask On How Introverts Can Thrive & Succeed In A Society That… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.