Thriving As An Introvert: Tesa Saulmon of Root to Bloom Therapy On How Introverts Can Thrive &…

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Thriving As An Introvert: Tesa Saulmon of Root to Bloom Therapy On How Introverts Can Thrive & Succeed In A Society That Seems To Favor Extroverts

Finding a creative outlet can also be beneficial for introverts. Whether writing, painting, or playing a musical instrument, engaging in creative activities can help us express ourselves and find solace in our thoughts. It’s a great way to channel our introspective nature into something productive and fulfilling.

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 Tesa Saulmon.

Tesa is a licensed psychotherapist in Florida and owns a private practice, Root to Therapy. She helps individuals, couples, and families heal from their trauma wounds and reclaim their strength. Her services are offered through tele-health and locally in Jacksonville, FL. She started her career in addiction and mental health, which eventually led her to open her own private practice. She aimed to turn her pain into purpose by walking alongside others and guiding them through their trauma healing. Tesa is Certified in EMDR, a Registered Yoga Teacher, and a CSAT-C.

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?

Everyone believes they grew up like everyone else until they realize, oh wait, this isn’t “normal.” I grew up in the Central Valley of California with a single father who was a recovering drug addict. My grandmother and grandfather helped raise us. Although we had a roof over our heads and food on the table, I still suffered from emotional and sexual abuse. The thing about addiction is you can be sober but still have “dry drunk behavior,” which took my dad decades to learn. Sexual abuse was at the hands of family “friends” and high school boys. The abuse led me to start therapy at a young age. I grew up with a mixture of love, comfort, and emotional abuse. The one constant I have always had is my grandmother, and I believe that her stability and strength allowed me to find the confidence to be the person I am today.

Can you tell us a bit about what you do professionally, and what brought you to this specific career path?

I have always been externally bubbly, outgoing, and social. Little do people know I am truly an introvert. I have always gained energy by spending time alone and engaging in introspection. I enjoy social interactions but prefer them to be smaller, intimate gatherings, which makes wanting to be a therapist a breeze. I am a licensed psychotherapist in the State of Florida. I knew I wanted to be a psychotherapist for most of my life. I owe that to my father, a drug and alcohol specialist and an addictions counselor for juvenile group homes. My father had a gift of relating to people, and his presence was magnetic. When I noticed he helped so many people change for the better by allowing those people to have a space to share with no judgment and endless empathy, I knew I wanted to help people change, too. It all came to light when I was in my early 20s after sharing with my therapist how I could relate to a girl in a group home I was a behavioral tech for, and being able to relate to her allowed the girl to find hope in healing. My therapist said to me, “Isn’t it funny how all your trauma may have led you to help this one girl.”

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?

Being an introvert means I gain energy from spending time alone and often feel drained by excessive social interaction. I find solace in solitary activities and introspection, and I tend to prefer smaller, more intimate gatherings or one-on-one conversations. Small talk is draining and is my worst nightmare. I can be described as an observer and a good listener. While I can still enjoy socializing, I value deep connections and meaningful relationships over an extensive network of acquaintances.

Can you help articulate a few of the challenges that come with being an introvert?

One of the challenges is navigating social situations that are more extrovert-oriented. For example, attending large parties or networking events can be overwhelming and draining. It’s not that I don’t enjoy socializing, but the constant stimulation and need to engage with new people can be exhausting. Sometimes, I find it difficult to assert myself and make my voice heard in such settings, which can be viewed as rude, shy, unhappy, or annoyed.

Another challenge is the pressure to conform to societal expectations of being outgoing and sociable. There’s often this misconception that introverts are shy or lacking social skills, which is invalid. I often must explain that I need time alone to recharge rather than constantly seeking external stimulation.

Additionally, finding a balance between socializing and solitude can be a challenge. While I value my alone time and find it rejuvenating, I also recognize the importance of maintaining relationships and connections. It can sometimes be a struggle to find the right balance and ensure I nurture my relationships without sacrificing my need for solitude.

I’m sure that being an introvert also gives you certain advantages. Can you tell us a few advantages that introverts have?

My favorite advantage is our listening and observational skills (which makes a great therapist *wink). Introverts are often attentive listeners and can pick up on subtle cues and details. This enables us to understand others more deeply and build meaningful connections. We tend to be thoughtful conversationalists, taking the time to choose our words and contribute meaningful insights carefully. Introverts are known for their ability to think before they speak. We take the time to process our thoughts internally, which can lead to more thoughtful and well-articulated responses. This can be particularly advantageous in professional settings, where careful consideration and strategic thinking are highly valued.

Introverts also tend to be independent and self-sufficient. We are comfortable with our own company and can thrive in solitude. This is very handy as a military spouse, and there are times when being alone is not a choice, and I am happy that I am comfortable in that environment.

Introverts also have self-reliance, which allows us to pursue our passions and goals with focus and determination. We often have rich inner worlds and a strong sense of self, which can be a great source of strength and resilience.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being an introvert? Can you explain what you mean?

Myth-busting is one of my favorite things to do!

Firstly, being introverted does not mean being shy or socially inept. It’s a common misconception that introverts are always quiet, timid, or lacking social skills. In reality, introversion is simply a preference for solitude and a need to recharge through alone time. I can be just as confident and capable in social situations as extroverts, but I may need to balance it with periods of quiet reflection.

Another myth is that introverts don’t enjoy socializing at all. While we may not seek constant social stimulation, introverts value meaningful connections and enjoy engaging in deep conversations. We often prefer smaller, more intimate gatherings or one-on-one interactions where we can connect on a deeper level. It’s not about avoiding people but seeking quality over quantity in social interactions.

Also, introversion is not a flaw or something that needs fixing. Society often idealizes extroversion as the norm, and introverts can feel pressured to become more outgoing or friendly. However, introversion is a valid and valuable personality trait. It brings unique strengths such as introspection, deep thinking, and empathy. It’s important to celebrate and embrace our introverted nature rather than trying to conform to societal expectations.

Lastly, introverts are not always anti-social or unfriendly. We may need more time to warm up to new people or more extensive social settings, but once we feel comfortable, we can be warm, engaging, and supportive friends. It’s just a matter of finding the right balance between socializing and alone time that allows us to thrive.

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?

Do I have any Harry Potter fans? The author, J.K. Rowling, is a self-proclaimed introvert, and who doesn’t look up to her? Absolute genius. Another person is my colleague Dr. Michelle Powell. She is a brilliant clinician, and I am happy to call her my role model, she has never told me she is an introvert- but I think I know her well enough to know that it fits.

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 . First and foremost, introverts should focus on self-awareness and self-acceptance. Understanding and accepting oneself as an introvert is the foundation for success. Recognize that introversion is not something that needs to be fixed or changed but rather a valuable asset that can be leveraged. Embrace your ability to think deeply and reflect, as it can lead to innovative ideas and solutions. To this day, this can be a struggle for me because my husband is a social butterfly. I put pressure on myself to be as

social as him at times, and I have to remind myself that it is okay for me to want solitude. It’s genuinely about balance.

2 . Introverts should also prioritize self-care and recharge regularly. Unlike extroverts who gain energy from social interactions, introverts need alone time to recharge their batteries. Find ways to create a peaceful and quiet environment to reflect and recharge. This may include setting boundaries, scheduling alone time, or finding a hobby that allows for introspection. I do this by setting realistic expectations on my ability to be social before I burn out and need to recharge. This goes back into the comparison trap and allows me grace and space to say to my husband, “Hey, I need to head home; feel free to stay out. Just let me know when you plan on being home.”

3 . Networking and building relationships may seem daunting for introverts, but it is essential for success. Instead of trying to emulate extroverted networking styles, focus on quality over quantity. Cultivate deep and meaningful connections with a few individuals with similar interests and values. Attend smaller and more intimate events where you can engage in deeper conversations. Introverts excel at listening and empathy, so use these skills to build strong connections. Over time, I have learned how to find “my people.” I don’t hide that I enjoy alone time and set realistic expectations with my close friends that sometimes that is what I need. My close friends also dislike small talk, which has become something we bond over. Deep conversations do not have to be emotionally heavy; it is not plausible to only have those discussions in personal relationships (save that for therapy *wink). Deep conversations have content and meaning behind the words rather than filling space.

4 . In social and professional settings, introverts can utilize their ability to listen and observe to their advantage. Take the time to understand the dynamics of a situation before jumping in. Use your observational skills to identify opportunities or challenges that others may overlook. When it comes to public speaking or presentations, preparation is key. Practice and rehearse beforehand to build confidence and ensure a smooth delivery. This has been HUGE in my career. As a therapist, I talk for a living; although these skills are somewhat natural for an introvert, applying these skills in a professional versus a personal setting is different. My default is observation and listening, which is helpful in conflict resolution, mindfulness, and emotional regulation.

5 . Which brings me to my last point: introverts should advocate for their needs and preferences. Although we give space for others often, don’t be afraid to communicate your preferred working style or request accommodations that will enable you to thrive. Professionally and in your personal life, voicing your needs is a valuable skill for success in a world that seems to favor extroverts.

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?

My immediate thought is to prepare yourself mentally. When you know that you are going to give a certain amount of energy at a particular time or place, it takes less pressure off the situation. Being introverted doesn’t mean you’re bad at socializing; it just means you recharge by being alone. Then, focus on your mindset and expectations.

When it comes to social relationships, quality over quantity is critical. Instead of trying to juggle a large group of friends, focus on building deeper connections with a select few individuals. Find people with similar interests or values and invest your time and energy in nurturing those relationships. It’s incredible how much more fulfilling and meaningful these connections can be.

Regarding networking, it helps to approach it from a different perspective. Rather than thinking of it as a large-scale event where you have to make small talk with strangers, think of it as an opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals who share your professional interests. Seek out smaller, more intimate networking events where you can have genuine conversations and establish meaningful connections.

Most importantly, taking breaks and recharging during social events is okay. Excuse yourself for a few minutes to find a quiet spot or take a breather. Taking care of your own needs is essential, and people will understand. After all, your cup is filled with being alone.

What are some practical tips you can offer to introverts who want to succeed in the workplace, which is often geared towards extroverted behaviors?

We introverts have much to offer, like our ability to think deeply, listen attentively, and work well independently. Recognize and value these qualities within yourself and let them shine in your work. Remember, success is not limited to extroverts!

I cannot say it enough: communication, communication, communication! Communicate your needs to your colleagues and supervisors. Let them know that you work best with a bit of solitude. By advocating for yourself, you can create a work environment that supports your introverted nature and sets you up for success!

Networking can be challenging for introverts but is still essential for professional growth. One strategy that has worked for me is building meaningful one-on-one connections. Seek opportunities to have coffee or lunch with colleagues, where you can have deeper conversations and establish genuine relationships. Quality over quantity, remember?

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?

Off the back of my hand, I see that being an introvert affects mental health and well-being by self-judgment, comparison, and shame. We are our worst critics, and intrusive distorted thoughts may pop into our minds when we feel not good enough because we are different. The more we stop judging others for wanting to recluse, the more comfortable introverts will be. This can be addressed with communication, psychoeducation, and self-awareness.

As an introvert, maintaining good mental health looks like setting boundaries, self care, and having a support system that understands how your energy is gained.

Introverts need to make boundaries and communicate their needs to others. As introverts, we sometimes feel overwhelmed by constant social interactions or demands on our time. Don’t be afraid to decline invitations or politely ask for alone time when needed. It’s okay to say no and take care of yourself.

Finding a creative outlet can also be beneficial for introverts. Whether writing, painting, or playing a musical instrument, engaging in creative activities can help us express ourselves and find solace in our thoughts. It’s a great way to channel our introspective nature into something productive and fulfilling.

And lastly, make sure to cultivate a support system of understanding and like-minded individuals. Surrounding yourself with people who respect your introverted nature and appreciate your unique strengths can make a difference. Seek out friendships and relationships where you feel comfortable being yourself and your need for alone time is understood.

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?

I think societal views on introversion are changing, and I believe it’s mainly for the better. For a long time, society favored extroversion, emphasizing social interaction, networking, and being vocal. Being outgoing and expressive were desirable traits, while introversion was often misunderstood as anti-social or shy.

But in recent years, there’s been a shift. The value of introverted traits is now being recognized. People realize that introversion doesn’t mean you’re anti-social or shy, but you recharge differently, often preferring quiet contemplation and solitude to large social gatherings.

Books like “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain have played a significant role in this shift, highlighting the positive aspects of introversion and the contributions introverts can and do make to our society.

I think this shift impacts introverts positively. As society becomes more accepting and understanding, introverts have less pressure to conform to extroverted norms. This recognition allows introverts to be themselves, to work and socialize in ways that suit them best, and that can significantly improve their quality of life and mental health.

However, it’s important to note that stereotypes and misunderstandings still exist. So, while I see positive change, there’s still work to be done. But overall, I’m optimistic about the direction we’re heading in.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending” -C. S. Lewis. In my young adulthood, there were so many times when I wanted to be dealt a different deck of cards. We can accept our circumstances, set boundaries, and change the ending. So many people ask how you came out the way you are with what you experienced in life, and my answer is simple: Jesus and boundaries. This quote also illuminates that if we are stuck; we can choose between being stuck or freeing ourselves.

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. 🙂

I’ve considered this topic if I were to start a movement dedicated to addressing childhood sexual trauma in men. This topic is often shrouded in silence and stigma.

The movement would aim to disrupt societal norms that discourage men from speaking out about their experiences with sexual abuse. It is a deeply ingrained but harmful misconception that men cannot be victims, and this belief often forces male survivors into silence, preventing them from seeking the help they need.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Readers can connect with me through my Instagram @talkingwithtesa and my practice, where I share insight, psychoeducation, and thoughts on trauma.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

Thriving As An Introvert: Tesa Saulmon of Root to Bloom Therapy On How Introverts Can Thrive &… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.