As I’ve come to realize I’m an introvert, I’ve become less critical of the reasoning behind a lot of my actions. It’s something I wish I had known earlier in life; it probably would have saved me a lot of anxiety.
I now know that there’s nothing wrong with how I am. Of course, maybe I was the only one who ever thought that anyway; nevertheless, I am more comfortable with where I am today than I’ve ever been. That brings me to a concept many in the psychological world refer to as “anchors.”
I don’t want to delve too much into the definition of anchors, but as Robert Dilts, an expert in neuro-linguistic programming, writes, “In its simplest form, ‘anchoring’ involves establishing an association between an external cue or stimulus and an internal experience or state, as in the example of Pavlov ringing the bell for his dogs.” How does that relate to being an introvert? I’m glad you asked.
As I’ve grown more comfortable in my own skin, I’ve learned to use past experiences to inform my current consciousness. Now, our brains automatically do this for us, but I’m talking about harnessing past positive experiences to “retrain” my brain to a new way of thinking.
I grew up in the Midwest and didn’t leave home until I was 23 years old. I followed a girlfriend to Texas and, besides her, didn’t know a soul. We subsequently broke up, I finished college, and moved to California for a job. When I tell people the circumstances that led me to where I am today, they often say how they can’t imagine moving that far from home, especially without having family or friends around. One word that’s often repeated is “brave.”
Brave? Who, me? I never though of it as brave. I was just following a girl, and then following my dreams. It never dawned on me that I was being brave. At some point, I decided that I could use that as one of my anchors. I moved thousands of miles to a new place not once, but twice, and had to establish new friends and connections while starting from scratch. You know what? That’s not easy for anyone, much less someone who doesn’t thrive off of meeting new people.
Now, when I’m facing uncertain situations — whether a social function or an unfamiliar situation — I remind myself of what I’ve done to get myself to where I am today. I focus on the kind of person it takes to get here. Then I realize, “if I can do that, what’s so scary about walking into a room of strangers? Most people have never moved away from home and probably not to a city 100x larger. I can do this.”
Easier said than done, especially at first. But once this anchor is firmly established, I find that I no longer need to consciously remind myself of this anchor anymore. I’m not saying it works every time, and that I don’t need more anchors, but this was a pivotal moment in my life.
What kind of anchors do you use? Maybe you didn’t realize you had any until you started to think about it. If you can’t think of any anchors, don’t worry, you’ll find one eventually. When you do, take ahold of it, because it can make you immovable.
Photo: Untitled by Elemental_Adventure, on Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license