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The Expressive Introvert, Susannah Conway, Talks With Us… @susannahconway

Home / Confidence / The Expressive Introvert, Susannah Conway, Talks With Us… @susannahconway

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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.

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From Tamisha:

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…

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SusannahConwaybyXantheBerkeley

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!

Buy This I Know: Notes on Unraveling the Heart  

Buy Instant Love: How to Make Magic & Memories with Polaroids

Connect with Susannah

Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Instagram

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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.

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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,

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Comments(11)

  • April 14, 2014, 2:28 pm  Reply

    It’s an honour to be here — introverts and HSPs unite! 😉

    • April 14, 2014, 4:46 pm

      Indeed, Susannah. Kindred spirits! 🙂

  • April 19, 2014, 12:38 am  Reply

    I also love Susannahs site and work. I’m also an introvert and HSP and wish I had known this much earlier in life! I always felt wrong about these qualities (I’m too thin skinned! I don’t like to be around people that much! All the criticism we give ourselves and others give us!) but now I know I’m not the only one and it’s nothing to feel bad about…what a relief! Great interview.

    • April 20, 2014, 9:06 pm

      Thank you, Sheila. SO glad Susannah’s words resonate with you and helped you feel a little less alone.

  • April 19, 2014, 7:37 am  Reply

    The words you write are like a balm, the realisation that its ok to withdraw, and its a valid need not a quirky failure. The fear of being the odd one, the outsider….always there. The soothing outbreath of sheer relief when alone at last…to write, to think. To regenerate.
    Thankyou Susannah.

  • kathleen rose
    April 20, 2014, 9:01 pm  Reply

    great interview. I am also a HSP and an introvert. I found this out in college — my therapist recc’d me Elaine Aron’s book. But it didn’t sink in then. I viewed my introversion and sensitivity as more of a defect, something to overcome, instead of something to honor. I went into teaching after college, and preschool no less, and as you know a room full of preschoolers can be a challenge for anyone. For a HSP introvert like me, it was over-stimulating and exhausting. I quit teaching after 3 years. I’m in my mid-20s and getting another degree to lead me towards a more introvert-friendly field and ideally self-employment as well (Graphic design – all day on my computer, what a great concept!).

    As years pass I am honoring my introversion more and more. I don’t like to party! So what? I can have friends who understand that about me. Just as Susannah says, there is nothing wrong with me and it’s vital to honor what you need.

    • April 20, 2014, 9:12 pm

      Ah, Kathleen. Yes, I DO know how you feel in a room full of little ones. I myself am a former teacher. Mine were Kindergartners, so not too much difference yet in development, but some. It’s exhausting. I still think teachers are next to Mom’s in having the toughest jobs in the universe.

      Like you, I also pursued another degree, in hopes of finding a career that soothed and stimulated.

      What you’re describing reminds me of a client of mine for The Introvert Effect – wish you two could connect – she’s also in graphic design.

      Please check out my pinterest boards – there’s some great stuff in there for graphic design in the “Expressions: Design” board. http://pinterest.com/tamishaford

      I’m also glad to hear you’re honoring your introversion more. My favorite thing you said is this: I can have friends who understand that about me.

      If there is ONE thing I’d love introverted women & HSP’s alike to know, it’s that there ARE people out there who will wholly and completely and utterly LOVE who you are – you just might have to find them & make some tiny compromises along the way toward growth. It’s unbelievably satisfying to have those few valuable friendships and connections.

      Thank you for being here.

      • kathleen rose
        April 21, 2014, 12:34 pm

        Yes! Early Childhood Education is a very difficult field and teachers of young children across the board are grossly underpaid (but that’s a rant for another day!). I worked with some teachers who were amazing, and it’s a true gift to be able to do that, as for most it’s a struggle.

        Love your last paragraph! I’ve had those kinds of friendships and often they are with an extravert – who can pull me out of my shell but also understands when I need time alone. I really cherish those friendships.

        Thanks, I’m glad to be here too. I followed you on Pinterest because I happen to be addicted to it. 🙂

        • April 21, 2014, 9:28 pm

          Haha! Gotta LOVE it, right? It’s one of my favorite platforms right now.

  • April 21, 2014, 1:34 am  Reply

    Thank you for this interview. I have taken every Susannah Conway course, most twice. She is a thoughtful, intuitive person, as well as an amazing teacher, but I digress. I learned that I was an HSP over 25 years ago when I sought the help of a therapist because I was too sensitive. (When I was about 9 years old, my mother took me to the doctor because I was too ‘nervous.’ He actually gave me anti-anxiety drugs which I took for a brief time before I stopped, because they did nothing for my over-sensitivity.) I thought that something was wrong with me because I was too sensitive. I felt like a freak over, among other things, my tendency to become upset over a simple news article depicting some, mostly, tragic event. (I would also weep with happiness over a heartwarming story.) I found that I would very easily assume the role of the aggrieved party and it was as if the event happened to me, I could literally feel their pain. After telling her why I was there and answering humorous questions, she stood up, walked across the room to her bookcase and pulled out the book “The Highly Sensitive Person,” handed it to me and asked me to read it before our next session. I did and within one chapter, I was crying tears of happiness. In fact, I was not damaged or a freak! There were others just like me from all walks of life and I was not alone. I had a gift that allowed me to truly empathize with others. I went to a few more visits and both of us agreed that there was no reason for me to return. She helped me to unmask myself and come to terms with who I was.

    I am also introverted and I find it most curious how many introverted people are mistaken as extroverts.

    This post contained so much with which I could identify. Thank you for the interview. Blessings, Lydia

    • April 21, 2014, 9:32 pm

      Lydia – your story is so heartwarming and so raw & vulnerable – thank you for sharing it here.

      I think some introverts (like myself) are often mistaken for extroverts because of our assertiveness and social behavior. What people often don’t realize is introverts usually only socialize in the circles or with people they truly trust, enjoy, and with relationships from which they derive great value. When I’m in those realms, I’m a hoot. Completely myself -unguarded and TONS of fun. It can be mistaken as “extroversion” when really….I’m choosing who to give lots of energy away to – and I’m happy to do so.

      I’m SO glad you enjoyed the interview.

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