xo, The Expressive Introvert: Exclusive Behind-The-Scenes Interviews with Women Who Work, Live, & Love On Their Own Terms is an occasional interview feature here to help cultivate that bit of authentic self-expression within you we all want a little more of.
I honestly can’t remember the first time I landed on Susannah Conway’s website – it was years ago. And I remember loving her work, her writing, and her presence online. I just realized this past year one of the reasons I was drawn to her – we’re both introverts AND HSP’s (highly sensitive people).
It was suggested to me to have her as a guest in this series by one of our mutual online connections, Abby Kerr. I was like “yeah, right – like I can get HER.” Tee-hee-hee! That was one of my “I’m not enough” moments – I quickly got the heck over it and sent Susannah an email. She responded in less than 24 hours, and I was delighted she wanted to do the interview.
I thoroughly enjoy Susanna’s work and, if by some strange chance you haven’t ever heard of her, I’m happy to introduce you. Some of the things I’m learning about through her writing are grace, vulnerability, and transparency. My mantra is “everyone is my teacher.” Susannah is no exception – I learn from her in very subtle ways.
I haven’t taken any of her courses yet, but I’d recommend them regardless. I hope you enjoy this interview today! Meet Susannah Conway…
Susannah Conway is the author of This I Know: Notes on Unraveling the Heart (Globe Pequot Press).
A photographer, writer and teacher, her classes have been enjoyed by thousands of people from over 50 countries around the world.
Co-author of Instant Love: How to Make Magic and Memories with Polaroids (Chronicle Books), Susannah helps others reconnect to their true selves, using creativity as the key to open the door.
You can read more about her shenanigans on her blog at SusannahConway.com.
Registration for her latest class, The Sacred Alone, opens this week as well— class starts May 5th!
Connect with Susannah
When did you know for sure, without a doubt, you were an introvert and what does that really mean to YOU?
The realisation that I’m an introvert came about through blogging. I started my blog in April 2006 and as I spent more time online I found people who were just like me. I don’t remember the exact article or blog post I read that gave me my aha moment, but somewhere, somehow, the word INTROVERT landed in my awareness. I love that we’re talking more about it and wish someone had explained it all to me when I was younger — it would have saved a lot of stress when I was at school! [Tamisha’s Note: SO glad to know I’m not the ONLY introvert left on the planet who JUST discovered this about themselves in adulthood – seems like so many knew it from a young age.]
For me, being an introvert means I process energy in an internal way. I need plenty of time on my own to recharge and refill my energy supplies. I find being in large groups of people draining and much prefer to see friends one-on-one. I’m not particularly shy and can be out-going when I need to be, but my preference is always for the calmer, more thoughtful path. I’m more inward-facing.
Last year I read Elaine Aron’s book, The Highly Sensitive Person, and that was like looking into a mirror. The combination of being introverted AND an HSP is challenging at times but it’s nice to know I’m not completely mad. [Tamisha’s Note: Finding out we also have this in common is so awe-inspiring, Susannah. I’m preparing a course now for HSP’s and it’s definitely nice to know we’re not alone – I haven’t read the book through yet, but what I’ve read preparing content for the course is so self-identifying.]
Usually, every introvert (and extrovert alike) has qualities of both introversion and extroversion. What is one of your favorite extroverted qualities about yourself?
In small groups I can be very entertaining and most people would never guess I was an introvert. I’m quite extroverted online — I don’t mind being seen and sharing my story — though maybe that’s cheating as I don’t have to do it in person. I have bursts of energy when I can be out in the world and appear to be extroverted, but the truth is I’m probably counting the minutes till I can scurry home and collapse. It takes a lot out of me.
Can you share a situation or time where you would have done something differently, based on your current knowledge of introversion and yourself (in a job, your life in general, or a relationship)?
I would have found a way to explore self-employment sooner. This might be more to do with being an HSP than introverted, but either way, the years I worked at a national newspaper were the most exhausting years of my life. The noise, the pressure, the office politics, the energy vampirism. I barely made it out alive.
Do you have a favorite celebrity who is also an introvert? Why is he/she your favorite?
I don’t have a favourite, as such, but if I had to name someone I’d choose JK Rowling. I appreciate her talent and work ethic, and the fact that she started out as a single mum filled with determination and story to be told. I love that she’s identified herself as an introvert. I imagine there are a hell of a lot of introverted writers in the world. [Tamisha’s Note: Oh, Indeed!]
How has being introverted affected your relationships over time? (Friendships, romantic relationships, etc.)
In my 20s I lived with an extroverted boyfriend (in fact, all my big loves have been extroverts) and was convinced there was something really wrong with me. I liked to stay home, I liked time on my own, I hated it when we had to go out and socialise — once in a while was okay, but he liked to go out a LOT and I found that exhausting. I thought I was horribly anti-social, when in actual fact I was just really drained. There was never time to recharge — I had yet to understand that I needed that time. That my desire for time alone wasn’t me being a lone wolf but simply my body and mind wanting to replenish its energy reserves. I did a lot of journalling back then — it was my escape hatch from my fake extroverted life.
I’ve never been one for big groups of friends, so my closest friendships have always been one-on-one. However, over the last few years I’ve found myself in a small but treasured circle of friends — most of us are introverts so we’ll get together once a year as a group, but the rest of the time it’s back to one-on-one :)
What wisdom would you give to your younger self – either pre-introvert knowledge or before you really grew into what it meant for you?
I’ll tell her there is absolutely nothing wrong with her, even though her boyfriend makes her feel like there might be. Not everybody works in the same way, so if she prefers to stay home more than going out that’s okay. It’s important to honor HER needs as well as his!
What is your favorite (or most-used) form of self-expression?
Writing, journaling and photography, in some shape or other, every single day.
What last bit of advice would you give to an introverted woman listening/reading this right now who might be struggling in some area of her business or job, life, or relationship because of either her introversion or her need for validation in her individuality?
Get to know yourself. [Tamisha’s Note: One of our guiding principles here is “Knowing yourself is the gateway to freedom.”] Explore what being introverted really means for you and how it affects the different areas of your life. What do you really need? What could you do without? How can you truly honor your energy levels and need for solitude? Have the courage to jettison anything that doesn’t work for you — and if it’s something that can’t be immediately changed, start to investigate ways you can put systems in place to support you more. Just knowing I was an introvert and worked differently from my more outgoing colleagues would have been so helpful when I worked in an office.
As you read this…
What truly resonated with you? Please share with Susannah and me – we’d love to hear how you can use something Susannah shared to more thrive as both an introvert and a possible highly sensitive person as well.
Thank you for reading and keeping a teachable spirit – I’m humbled as always,