Category Archives: Introvert

Thoughts on Running from the DiversityNerd, Part II “The Good”

First and foremost, in my opinion, the best thing about me running on a regular basis is being more fit. Mind you, my level of fitness as an adult has never been horrible because my hobbies are all very active.  I love dancing hula and paddling outriggers and both of those activities keep me in fairly good shape.  The team bonding over food and drinks doesn’t necessarily help me stay slim, but hula and paddling definitely keep me fit.  Running, especially on a regular training schedule, has actually changed the way my body looks and feels.  I have only lost about five pounds this year, in December 2014 the scale read 149 pounds.  Right now, I weigh 144 lbs. and the lowest the pounds dipped this summer was 141 lbs.  Logically, I realize that the scale should not be an indicator of health and fitness but I would love to be less than 140 lbs. again.  Losing weight through stress doesn’t stick so I am back at 144 lbs.  And I am not worrying about it.  Since I’ve cut back on sugar and alcohol, I don’t worry about what I am eating between now and the race.

From a fitness perspective, I enjoy feeling healthy and sleeping well. I have to attribute these two changes to running on a regular basis.  Karate leaves me exhausted but when we have class in the evenings, I have a very hard time unwinding from the adrenaline so falling asleep is not easy.  Thinking about training and preparing for a big challenge forced me to consider nutrition in a new way.  I cut back on my red wine and brown whiskey in mid-August and just lost a taste for both.  Not drinking also helps my sleep and alleviated the mindless munching that goes along with experiencing a buzzed state of existence.  Eating clean and not drinking has really impacted my fitness but I am still not a runner.  I run to prepare for a race, I don’t enjoy running.

And I have to be honest, it kills me to admit this but I like the way I look (not a very humble Asian thing to admit).  My body is lean and still very strong because of running and karate.  After my emergency surgery in 2001, I found myself on bed rest and couldn’t exercise for months.  During that time, I gained a lot of softness in my thighs.  That softness turned to thickness and fat.  From 2001 until now, I hated showing my thighs and stopped wearing shorts or skirts above the knee.  Body image issues consumed my thought.  The shame I felt at appearance of my thighs paralyzed me.  It was completely not healthy and I am sure it was quite unnecessary for me to hide myself in any way.  However, capris became my go to attire for paddling and hula gear.  Two weeks ago, I put on some shorts with my Toms wedges to run errands with the crew.  He told me, “I see all these people looking at you and then staring at your legs.  I mean staring at them.  You look really good.”  When I admitted that I felt embarrassed of my thighs, he couldn’t believe it.  We had a long, honest talk about it and I shared how unattractive I felt my thighs are.  It was good to finally say the words out loud and to hear feedback.  I still won’t be rocking the Daisy Duke butt-huggers during workouts but at least now I see myself a little differently.  Body-shame is a bitch.

One other good thing about running is being accountable to the training schedule. That accountability gives me an honest sense of accomplishment.  It never dawned on me how far I could run in just 30 minutes or how effective such a short workout feels, when done on a consistent basis.  Seeing the light at the end of the training tunnel and reading all the posts from other excited competitors on Facebook really keeps me motivated.  I did miss my 14 mile run on Sunday because life got out of hand with work, my daughter’s homecoming, and other stuff.  However, I walked/jogged/ran my miles on both Saturday and Sunday.  And I felt proud of myself.

Time alone on a run provides an opportunity to breathe and ponder and be the introvert that I am at my core. My day to day work life is filled with meetings and questions and problems to solve.  And my personal time is consumed, as well.  The good thing is, I love my life.  My daughter is continuing to work hard and I see her maturing every day.  Karate and hula surround me with so much love and people who are dedicated to learning and growing.  They are my ohana, if not by blood, then definitely by sweat.  But being alone is a luxury now.  And I need that time to rejuvenate myself.  Sometimes I create alone time by not smiling and being quiet and people freak the fuck out around me.  If I go off in my own world for a few minutes they ask if I am ok or what’s wrong or am I mad and I come back to look at them and say, “Huh?  I am fine.”  So goes the life of an introvert who is surrounded by so many extroverts.  I know I am blessed to have so many people who care and for that, I remain grateful.

Structure is important when life becomes frenetic. All of the craziness at work and the incredible amount of change takes a toll on my colleagues and on me.  This training program became an anchor or a constant in my ever-changing schedule in late summer and early Fall.  The time change occurred this past Sunday and now the evenings grow dark much earlier.  I am hopeful that preparation for my belt test in December will keep me motivated to run three times a week. In fact, I need to outline a schedule to follow between November 21 and December 6 to get me to my belt test and then find another program to get me to the Surf City Half Marathon on SuperBowl Sunday 2016.  After that, all bets are off for me running another race, since I am not a runner.

A third “good” that I associate with running is not about fitness or alone time or a sense of accomplishment. I have really enjoyed shopping for running clothes.  That may seem shallow and superficial but running does require special gear.  Sports bras that I wear for hula do not provide enough support to the tatas for running.  So then I had to research which styles and brands work best for my cup size and buy them and try them.  Lesson learned, spend the money to protect the tatas.  Gravity is not friendly to a forty something year old woman running four times a week, even with lower case C cup sized breasts.

Another critical piece of equipment is the shoes one wears. For the last three years, I wore Brooks Adrenaline running shoes.  This style is very stable for fake runners who need the extra support.  My most recent running analysis put me in neutral shoes with level five cushioning.  I moved from needing stability to being neutral, I wonder if that applies to more than just my feet?  These shoes feel like heaven for my runs over 5 miles and not I am thinking that I want to get a different pair for runs that are 4 miles or less.  Am I turning into an actual runner?  No way, that wouldn’t be good, would it?

Brain Drain and Pain – Why Inclusion Matters

When a human being is born, their brain weighs one pound. If you are reading this blog, your brain probably weighs about three pounds. Through normal human development and physical growth starting as a swaddled infant to toddling around as a toddler to tip-toeing through life as a tween/teen and eventually, achieving adult status, your brain gained two more pounds. Every life experience, jump rope jumped, schoolbook read and to a lesser extent, television show watched, has contributed to your brain’s development and weight gain. Every human being is unique because no one has had exactly the same life experiences. Even identical twins bring diversity to a conversation because genetic make-up aside, they are not exactly the same person.

That was the gist of the first two minutes of a presentation I heard this week by a woman who is a UCLA professor in the Psychology Department and the Anderson School of Management. Because my career has been focused on creating work environments where people can bring their full selves to work and contribute freely in a safe environment, I became intrigued with every word Dr. Iris Firstenberg spoke. Diversity is so much more than race and gender, that I understood and tried to communicate in all of my presentations and interactions at work. But to learn about how neuroscience creates diversity in each and every human being was truly a “mind blown’ moment. And I do not find myself shocked or surprised by much at this stage of my career. Pi’ilani’s mind went kaboom.

Here is what I learned about the brain.

 

 

Near the center of the brain exists the Limbic System. According to Wikipedia: “The limbic system was originally defined by Paul Broca as a series of cortical structures surrounding the limit between the cerebral hemispheres and the brainstem: the border, or limbus, of the brain. These structures were known together as the limbic lobe. Further studies began to associate these areas with emotional and motivational processes and linked them to subcortical components that were grouped into the limbic system. The existence of such a system as an isolated entity responsible for the neurological regulation of emotion has gone into disuse and currently it is considered as one of the many parts of the brain that regulate visceral, autonomic processes.”

So, what does that actually mean? The limbic system is responsible for both emotions and memory. Consider an experience from your life that was highly emotional, maybe you were PISSED at your best friend for borrowing your favorite sweater or perhaps your favorite pet passed away unexpectedly and you cried for days, aren’t those memories burned into your mind? In your brain (and every other human being’s brain), the emotional center is right next to the memory center. That means that highly emotional experiences are highly memorable experiences. Much to my delight, I also learned that food and alcohol directly impact the limbic system. That satisfaction and gratification can elicit an emotional reaction and create lasting memories. For an Asian Pacific Islander like me, every social gathering must revolve around food and drink. For example, holiday get-togethers in my family consist of multiple rounds of food starting with loads of appetizers, followed by a hearty meal with both ethnic and American dishes , ending with delightful desserts and all accompanied by fine wine, hand-crafted cocktails or fancy sodas for the kids and/or teetotalers.

Another thing to consider is that people need to constantly stimulate their brains. Because your brain is constantly sculpting itself and growing and changing through experiences such as traveling, reading, dancing or playing music. This sort of on-going learning stimulates growth in your brain and can help stave off Alzheimer’s, even if you have a genetic disposition for the disease. So encourage your elderly family and friends to read, do crosswords, play cards, exercise and stay social to keep that brain sculpting going.

But what about when people are experiencing stress? They are being driven by their emotional brain – fear, danger, nerves, anxiety. When there are lots of connections going up to that area and not enough connections coming down to placate that brain, the emotional brain is overwhelmed.  Emotion trumps logic every time. Human beings absolutely need to calm that brain down to think logically. Think about when you’re arguing with your partner or sibling or child and you’re both so sure that your point of view is the right answer. As you build your argument and elevate your voices and blood pressure, it becomes harder and harder to truly hear the other person’s point of view. If you are trying to end the argument or calm the situation down, remember this little tip. Louder is not better. The limbic system hears in a nonverbal manner. So take a breath and sit next to the person, not across from one another, to make it easier to calm them down. Feel free to give them a drink or some food. Because a sense of touch is calming, it may be appropriate for you to gently touch the other person, place a hand softly on their shoulder, or hold their hand in yours. This can all help calm down the limbic system and allow the disagreement to begin to dissipate.

So how does this relate to one’s work environment? You risk charges of sexual harassment if you place your hand on a work colleague. And it is rare that a disagreement would escalate to a yelling match at the office. But what happens when you don’t include people at work. Maybe you walk around and look at your shoes or your phone because you’re a bit of an introvert like me. Or perhaps you really are so busy that you forget to say Hello to someone in the hall or people who sit near your desk. Exclusion, even when it is not done with any intention of hurting someone, can directly impact morale and productivity. In fact, neuroscience has proven that being excluded or rejected can be as painful as being socked in the stomach, people elicit the exact same brainwave patterns in each case. Whether it is a person who never gets invited to lunch or a person who just got dumped by the love of their life, it all hurts the same in their brainwaves.

Consider a time when you felt social rejection as a tween or teenager. We all have stories of being rejected or excluded and we probably all remember how much it hurt, despite our well-intended parents telling us that “you’ll get over it” or “this too shall pass”. These rejections stay with us as adults and definitely impact our decision making and socialization.

I grew up in a fantastic neighborhood where I could walk to my elementary school and all of our neighbors were very friendly. I was lucky to have kids across the street who were close to my age, who cares if they were mostly boys, I learned how to throw a tight spiral in 5th grade. Around the corner, my best friends lived and we roller skated and played together all the time. But one thing was missing, there were no other Filipino kids in my neighborhood. My besties were also children of Asian immigrant parents but none were Pinoy. At around 12 years of age, I wanted to learn more about Filipino culture and asked if my mom would take me someplace so I could learn Filipino folk dancing.

The national dance of the Philippines is called the Tinikling, which pays homage to the movements of a much-loved bird, and is a graceful and athletic challenge of dancing and jumping in between bamboo poles that are being struck together to keep rhythm. It looks similar to playing jump rope, except that the dancers perform the steps around and between the bamboo poles, and the dance becomes faster until someone makes a mistake and the next set of dancers takes a turn. It looked like fun and I really wanted to connect with my culture so my mother took me to the Filipino Community Club across town so I could join their youth group.

I walked in wearing my Izod polo shirt, jeans, and Birkenstocks. The other kids from this neighborhood were in baggies, MaryJanes and Chucks. All of girls wore lipstick and used hairspray and looked so much more feminine than me. They were polite to me when the supervisor walked me around to let them know I was going to join their dance classes. However, as soon as we were left alone, one of the girls stage whispered to her friend, “What IS she wearing? Hippie shoes, ugh, gross.” At that moment, I decided that I wouldn’t come back and I never told my mom why. It became really hard for me to make friends with other Pinay girls after that because I thought they would all reject me in that way. Thankfully I had awesome cousins who were like my best friends so I did get large doses of my culture that way. But unfortunately, I never learned about Filipino folk dancing until college.

Inclusion is fundamental to all human interaction. When you include people and treat them with respect, they feel engaged and trusted. People need to be welcoming and honest to build friendships. Leaders have to be vulnerable for employees feel trusted. When someone feels excluded, the brain reacts to it in the same way as when the body is kicked in the stomach. Do your best to behave inclusively in all of your relationships. And keep in mind that logic cannot be achieved if emotions are running high.

“Just Because I’m Quiet” Can an Introvert Really Blog Once A Week?

One discovery I have made in exploring this topic is that my Introversion actually hinders my ability to blog on a weekly basis.  Living in my Introversion does not lend itself to being a very effective baby blogger.  (“Baby” means “new” not that I am blogging about babies.)

“Reality TV! Social Media! Big-and-bold leaders! Sometimes it seems life today is tailor-made for extroverts. But given that as many as half of Americans are introverts, how can quieter types succeed amidst so much noise?”  This concept of being big and loud in the US has plagued me for most of my life.  My parents are Asian immigrants who whispered covert coaching tips in my ears.  If I wanted success:  keeping quiet, staying humble and working hard would reap rewards and recognition.  Unfortunately, what I realized when I hit the workforce was that life is more “the squeaky wheels gets the grease” and a lot less “the nail that stands up gets hammered down.”  My parents and I didn’t define “rewards and recognition” in the same context.  They thought that lifelong employment and a pension were crucial to living the American Dream.  However, I longed for a work environment where I was constantly challenging the status quo and developing new ideas to create space for innovative thinking and creativity to thrive.  Compound my conflicted Asian upbringing with being an Introvert and my instinctive nature to want to make others great and that is a recipe for folding in the complex card game of corporate America.  Thankfully, my chosen career is based on the concept of creating a new culture that leverages diversity and builds an inclusive work environment.  After studying Generational Diversity as a concept to help me be successful in my company, Introvert/Extrovert personality styles is my new frontier to explore.

Many books have been written on this topic.  Susan Cain is one of the most recognized names in this field.  She recently announced “The Quiet Revolution” in her TED talk in the Spring of 2014.  Her book, “Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” has garnered attention from critics, business leaders and parents alike.  Ms. Cain was a keynote speaker at a diversity conference that I attended in Atlanta this past May 2014.  For me, I was tickled to hear someone addressing this topic in a keynote address.  One other author who I have read is Laure A. Helgoe, who penned, “Introvert Power:  Why Your Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength.”  Ms. Helgoe released a second edition where she works to deconstruct the cultural bias that links extraversion to happiness, which means that introverts must be less happy.   Both authors approach this topic differently but with a great deal of introspection and care.  One guess whether they are each introverts or extroverts.

One discovery I have made in exploring this topic is that my Introversion actually hinders my ability to blog on a weekly basis.  I’ve spent weeks mulling this concept and thinking about how to position this in a blog topic and once I worked it out in my head, I didn’t feel the need to post my thoughts.  I had Introverted the topic so thoroughly in my own mind to resolution and moved on without even typing a word.  Living in my Introversion does not lend itself to being a very effective baby blogger.  (“Baby” means “new” not that I am blogging about babies.)  Another aspect of this concept that interferes with my blogging is my extremely extroverted (with a capital EX) daughter.  She just walked in and said, “Hey mom, are you ready to go?”  I replied, “Just give me about 30 minutes to finish this blog draft and I will be ready to go, please go pack what you need for the day.  Daughter exits and returns in two minutes with her change of clothes and a big smile, as she deposits the pile of clothes on my bed and begins to chat me up incessantly.  “Here is my stuff, what’s your blog about?, my friend can’t come today..”  I have to cut her off and say quietly, “30 minutes of quiet.  Go or this is going to take even longer.”  She smiles and hops out of my room and calls out behind her,  “I love you, Mom!”  That is also an example of why it is so hard for me to find a moment of privacy to FaceTime with my boyfriend or to do pretty much anything else.  My offspring is an Extrovert and I love her with all my heart, there are just times when she sucks every ounce of my energy out of my every pore.  A single parent needs support and a break from time to time, I believe that a single Introverted parent whose child is an Extrovert with ADHD deserves a lifetime pass to a day spa or campsite or whatever moment of silence and solitude she or he craves.

All of this led to me to create a diversity workshop on Introverts and Extroverts for the annual women’s professional development conference at my corporation.  The corporation has US affiliates in manufacturing, sales and marketing and financial services.  Our parent company is from an industry that is traditionally male-dominated.  We live and work in a U.S. society that is clearly biased towards extroverts, I wanted to explore how that plays out at each of our workplaces and impacts career growth for women.  Admittedly, it had the potential to be more than a 90 minute workshop but I wanted to plant a seed on the topic to see what might germinate from it.

The description of the workshop:  Conference participants will observe an exercise to introduce “Introversion & Extroversion” and go through a guided discussion and to discuss this topic as it relates to working at our corporation.  This worshop competed against a discussion on Sheryl Sanberg’s “Lean In” amongst others yet we had standing room only crowds for each session.  That indicated a certain level of interest.  Executives and managers alike told me they appreciated the discussion and a new way to frame diversity in the workplace.

This all makes me think about how personality style impacts interpersonal relationships.  My colleague kicks off many of his workshops on diversity with this statement: “People make 90% of their judgments about you based on the 10% of what they see.”   With that said, strangers will make an assessment about who they think I am based on my clothing, hair style and color, height, weight, shape of my eyes, curve of my ass, and anything else they see. Because I am an Introvert, an INFJ to be exact, I may not seem as interested in meeting this stranger. If they come on too strong I will, at least subconsciously, recoil away from him or her.  However, the second part of that kick-off statement is that “90% of who we are cannot be seen.”  People are like icebergs, the surface doesn’t reveal what is beneath the surface and Introverts have an invisible forcefield that blocks people from getting to know that 90% of who they really are.

 

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I’ve read a variety of different numbers when it comes to the percentage of the population who are INFJ, like me. Most of the data I have seen says we are less than 4% (and sometimes the data is reported as low as less than 1%) of the population, making my type the most rare of all.

Profile of an INFJ Personality, according to Typefinder. http://www.typefinder.com/infj

“INFJ in a Nutshell

INFJs are creative nurturers with a strong sense of personal integrity and a drive to help others realize their potential. Creative and dedicated, they have a talent for helping others with original solutions to their personal challenges.

The Counselor has a unique ability to intuit others’ emotions and motivations, and will often know how someone else is feeling before that person knows it himself. They trust their insights about others and have strong faith in their ability to read people. Although they are sensitive, they are also reserved; the INFJ is a private sort, and is selective about sharing intimate thoughts and feelings.

What Makes the INFJ Tick

INFJs are guided by a deeply considered set of personal values. They are intensely idealistic, and can clearly imagine a happier and more perfect future. They can become discouraged by the harsh realities of the present, but they are typically motivated and persistent in taking positive action nonetheless. The INFJ feels an intrinsic drive to do what they can to make the world a better place.

INFJs want a meaningful life and deep connections with other people. They do not tend to share themselves freely but appreciate emotional intimacy with a select, committed few. Although their rich inner life can sometimes make them seem mysterious or private to others, they profoundly value authentic connections with people they trust.”

Luckily, I am a type of Introvert who really likes people and is blessed with a large social circle of friends and colleagues. Usually, I present as an Extrovert to the outside world. People who see me speak at conferences will swarm me and reach out to connect with questions and comments. What they don’t realize is that it takes all my energy to speak in front of a large conference room and I need time to recharge in solitude.

This is not the last time I will think about being an Introvert. Hopefully it isn’t the last time I blog about it.

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