‘Tis The Season To Be… Present

‘Tis The Season To Be… Present

‘Tis The Season To Be… Present

Maggie is a career coach and life coach who specializes in helping people get clarity about their life’s purpose, and teach them the skills and strategies to overcome obstacles and create a life they love. She leads our Design Your Life online career and life coaching group.

How To Get a Grip On Your Phone Use.

Reading digital detox advice on your phone is a little bit like getting weight loss tips while eating ice cream.

It’s a clear case of hilarious irony colliding with cringe-worthy guilt.

But hey, we’re only human, and all of us – every single one of us (yes, even the people you think have an iron will and appear to have everything put together on the outside) succumbs to temptation and easily slides into habits that don’t serve us.

Cue Christina Perri singing Human.

This time of year, with so many actual things going on in our lives during this busy holiday season, digital over-use can become even more apparent. This is a time to connect with others and enjoy the sights, smells, activities and rituals of the holidays.

But for many of us in this modern age, things like cookie-making with the kids or tree-decorating with the family quickly devolve into hours of Pinterest scrolling on the couch, while your kids or partner drift off into their own personal digital universe. All of you together in your aloneness.

And who among us hasn’t cursed after we picked up the phone to find a cookie recipe online and then two hours later — having missed the actual window of cookie-making opportunity — looked up and thought, “What have I been doing?! That’s two hours of my life that I can’t get back.”

Then we swear we’ll cut down. And we try. And it works. For a while. Until it doesn’t.

Whatever your flavor of choice:

  • Scrolling through Facebook (I know, I know – no one’s on FB anymore, but some people sincerely still show up there – raising my hand, tentatively)
  • Video games
  • Phone games (but they’re brain teasers so I won’t get dementia later in life, right?)
  • Porn
  • Blogs (one of my friends has a handful of sites she visits regularly that she calls “interior design porn”)
  • Those silly quizzes (yes, I really did need to know that if I were a live-action princess, I’d obviously be Cinderella)
  • News sites that feed our political divisiveness
  • Insta (okay, I know it’s called The Gram now)
  • Tumblr
  • That new favorite app (one of my clients told me about Marco Polo, and I’m restraining myself. Do. Not. Need. Another. E-toy.)

I could go on and on. The fun clearly never ends. In fact, if we consciously taper of our phone use, there’s almost a stalkerish quality to how we get reeled back in. Facebook emailed me to tell me that I had 97 notifications after I went on a hiatus for a few days. When I deleted that message, I got an email that one of my good friends had posted an update – my good friend was named and there was a teaser and link. Finally, in disgust, I logged on the FB and spent far more time than was necessary changing my email settings. Stop chasing me, FB!

And the Screen Time feature on the latest iOS. Yeah, I didn’t need that, Apple. Thanks very much anyway.

Look, here’s the thing: over-the-top phone use is like any other compulsion. What starts out seemingly innocently – in fact, often with a real purpose in mind – gradually erodes into something that becomes destructive and unhealthy.

The problem is, by the time we recognize it (or someone calls us on it), we’re in deep, and we tend to react badly:

  • We might become defensive and angry and spew rationales about why it’s important and justified
  • Maybe we berate ourselves for our weaknesses, mentally lashing ourselves for our bad habits
  • Perhaps we withdraw from others because we don’t want to be witnessed doing something that isn’t in our best interest.

Or we turn to a combination of all of these possibilities.

How to Reduce Your Phone Use

The good news is, there are several mechanisms that bring us back to strong mental health and habits that serve us. Instead of white-knuckling it and making what’s been fun all of sudden forbidden or massively restricted, it’s really helpful to look at the root of our phone use.

The first step of changing any habit is to create self-awareness around what’s really going on. When you know what is motivating you to zone out, plus get clarity around how it’s actually impacting your life, then you are empowered and motivated to change. [More on this subject: “How to Stay Motivated”]

Here’s are some examples of the types of questions I ask my life coaching clients to help them crack into what’s really going on with their phone use:

  • What is enticing you to disappear into your phone, to go unconscious, to numb out?
  • What do you want your life to look like? How much phone use feels healthy to you?
  • What needs do you have that you’re attempting to fill through your phone? Connection? Stimulation? Meaning? What would your life be like if you got those met more directly?
  • What does support and useful infrastructure look like for you as you shift your habits and create ones that you want?
  • How is your phone use affecting your relationships with your partner or children?
  • What would your life be like if you felt more connected to the here and now?
  • What would you do with all the time you’d have on your hands, if you released the grip on your phone?

Those are just a few of the questions you might ask yourself to begin making changes in this area of your life. If you’d like many of our counseling and coaching clients here at Growing Self, you might find that when you scratch the surface and turn your awareness to yourself, your feelings, your needs and your desires…. You begin to expand and grow.

When you release your grip on your phone you have time and space to begin cultivating self-awareness. You may find that phone over-use has actually been a place-holder for what you really want and need out of your life. Only then will your real journey begin: Figuring out how to design the life you want.

All to the best to you and yours this holiday season.

Maggie Graham, M.Ed., LPC, CPC

The Quiet Power of Introverts

The Quiet Power of Introverts

Do You Think Being An Introvert is a Negative Thing?

If So, You Might Be Misusing the Term “Introvert”

When I was walking along the river trail near my house and I spied my neighbor, I might have whipped out my phone and pretended to be immersed in a conversation just to avoid chatting with her.

Okay, there’s no “might” about it. I definitely did that. In fact, I’ve done it multiple times with different neighbors.

Does that make me anti-social? Shy? Avoidant? Does it even matter that I made that quick decision to dodge what would probably have been a short, pleasant chat with someone I hadn’t seen in a while?

It actually doesn’t matter…Well, err…it COULD matter. It means nothing if that moment of theatrics with my phone passes like a blip on my (and my neighbor’s) day. But, if I’m haunted by self-doubt about my decision, berating myself about it later, or if it’s steering me away from things that matter deeply to me (such as stronger relationships with people like my neighbor), then it matters – in fact, it matters a great deal.

I often talk to life coaching or career coaching clients who know that I specialize in working with introverts (and that I’m an introvert myself) about their concerns about being an introvert. They worry that the term “introvert” is a judgment, a definitive condemnation and a hurdle to them reaching both personal and professional goals they’ve set for themselves.

Fortunately for them, being an introvert brings many strengths and opportunities that extroverts may not have. Learning how to appreciate the quiet power of introverts, and their unique set of “superpowers” is often key to restoring their confidence.

Introvert Personality Traits

While I completely understand these concerns about how introversion might be seen as negative, nothing could be further from the truth. Introversion is an innate personality trait, one that’s associated with our nervous system’s hard wiring – we come into the world this way –  and it’s no worse (or better) than its counterpart, extroversion. Both terms are thrown around in general conversation in ways that cloud their meaning. Essentially, introversion includes three qualities:

  • Process internally: we mull things over in our heads and generally plan and rehearse before we speak
  • Refuel alone: we can get depleted by being in large groups and to refill our tanks, we seek time by ourselves; we also get ignited by ideas, emotions, and imagination
  • Thrive on depth: we have an aversion to social chit-chat, preferring intimacy, and in general, we’re not as drawn to breadth (many people, many topics), but instead prefer to hone in on a few people and topics.

We all exist on a spectrum of extroversion and introversion, and different people and settings bring out varying dimensions of ourselves, but most people have a preference for one side of the spectrum (those in the middle are called ambiverts).

Introversion is often mistaken for other constructs such as shyness, poor social skills, lack of confidence, and hypersensitivity, and it’s helpful to distinguish these terms from one another because the approach to addressing them is different. But here’s the thing: all of these expressions can surface in tandem. They can definitely show up at the same time, so there are good reasons why these terms are used interchangeably. I’m pulling them apart in here in the same way I do with my clients so that we can explore them and decide together how to approach each of them.

Introvert Anxiety

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults in the U.S. age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.”

Anxiety, which is most of us tend to refer to as worry or stress, shows up in many forms including avoidance of triggers (such as travel or public speaking), and many people develop self-soothing behaviors in an attempt to mask their fear (eating, drinking alcohol, and smoking pot are just a few of these go-to coping mechanisms).

Anxiety can also show up in physical symptoms. For example, I tend to clench my jaw. Others might get headaches, have trouble sleeping, or find their shoulders elevate with tension.

We here at Growing Self support clients in identifying and addressing their anxiety through many mechanisms. We work with self-talk, mindfulness techniques (such as meditation), journaling, and other approaches. We’ve also learned to listen to our clients when they use other terms for anxiety such as panic, shyness, and perfectionism.

Being introverted does not mean that you need to be anxious. You can embrace your introverted self, and also feel peaceful and confident in who you are.



Introvert Social Skills

In a recent initial consultation, one of my career coaching clients was describing his result on the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory, one of the most well-known assessment tools that gauges where people fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum, and something that we often offer to career coaching clients here at Growing Self.

“My test results said that I’m an introvert,” he said, “but I don’t think of myself that way. I get along well with people, and I know how to work a room.”

We talked about introversion as a personality trait using the three characteristics listed above, and he started nodding his head with vigor. “I’m definitely an introvert,” he said. “I NEED alone time.”

Social skills are learned behaviors and often rooted in simple techniques, and I talk with my clients about them often, whether clients are introverts or extroverts, particularly when they’re in an active job search. Some of the topics we discuss include:

  • Easy conversation starters
  • The impact of eye contact (too much and too little)
  • Gracious exit strategies (soooo important at events – none of us wants to be trapped talking to someone after we’ve exhausted easy topics)
  • Smooth introductions (both of yourself and of others)

The truth is, if there’s a generalization to be made about social skills, I can defend the idea that introverts are often BETTER at social skills than extroverts because we tend to attune to others a deep level, picking up on social cues quickly, and using our listening superpower well in social situations.

Introvert Confidence

If you just read the social skills section of this article and thought, Yeah, right, maybe some introverts are good at attuning and listening, but that’s not me, that’s a great segue to the topic of self-confidence.

Whether your self-doubt shows up around traits that are associated with introversion or other parts of your life, we all get caught up in taking ourselves down a few notches. Comparison is a reflexive human behavior, one that can result in inspiration and creativity or – at the other end of the spectrum – shrinking and withdrawal.

For all of us, belief in ourselves and our capabilities, aka “self-esteem” waxes and wanes depending on the situation, the people around us, and our experience and memories. Every single one of us suffers from bouts of self-doubt. Coaching and therapy aren’t designed to make you arrogant or a superhero. Instead, we want to explore whether you undermine yourself often, especially when you’re moving closer to reaching a goal you’ve set for yourself. And if so, how to stop. [Listen to “Create Self Confidence” for more on this topic].

High Sensitivity in Introverts

High sensitivity has nothing to do with emotional drama and everything to do with the nervous system’s predisposed response to both internal and external stimuli. People who are highly sensitive are also often called empaths and tend to feel things strongly. Someone who is a highly sensitive person (HSP) may have some of the following traits:

  • React with aversion to sensory stimuli such as loud sounds, strong smells, and even tactile things (such as tags on clothing)
  • Struggle with transitions (big and small), tight deadlines, and massive inflows of data
  • Soak up others’ moods (both positive and negative) seemingly through osmosis
  • Require extra time to wind down after a period of intensity or busyness

The term HSP was popularized by Dr. Elaine Aron, and she offers a self-test for those who are curious about whether they might fall under this umbrella, but she makes it clear that both introverts and extroverts claim this identity.

The term “empath” has emerged alongside HSP in recent years. Dr. Judith Orloff speaks and writes about this term (she offers a free online assessment, too), and she says that empaths share all of the traits of HSPs with empaths having additional traits, including:

  • Strong intuition, which may include tapping into others’ energy or emotions
  • Difficulty separating others’ emotions (particularly discomfort) from our own


Introvert Personality Traits - Denver Therapist - Denver Life Coach - Online Therapist - Fort Collins Life Coach - Fort Collins Therapist - Online Therapist - Introvert Anxiety

Overlap of These Constructs = The Introvert Experience

I saw a photo on one of my social media accounts that truly made me laugh out loud. It was a picture of a party banner that – when tacked to the wall – says, “Please leave by 9.” That banner was made for me!

The banner also illustrates how an urge, an idea, or a behavior might fit into any of the categories outlined above, and until we explore its roots, we’re just left with assumptions. My love of that banner could easily be attributed to any of the constructs that I’ve outlined here. In fact, it probably stems from more than one of them at the same time. But when I can pull apart the various threads of my delight in that banner, it offers me insight into how I navigate the world and whether I’m moving towards or away from my deepest desires and values.

When you sit down with any of us here at Growing Self and explore whether and how introversion, anxiety, social skills, confidence, and high sensitivity show up in your life, it can take you closer to what you want to achieve in your life, too, whether that’s in your intimate relationships, your professional world, your health, or another part of your life where you find that you’re somehow giving up on yourself.

Even single one of these constructs (yes, even anxiety) has a benefit and a positive side in addition to places where they each trip us up. Knowing the qualities of your personality and your communication style is liberating and instructive. [For more on that, read: Using Self Awareness and Self Acceptance to Grow] Let’s talk about which of these categories feels familiar to you and how it’s showing up for you.

Your fellow traveler,

Maggie Graham, M.Ed., LPC, CPCC



P.S. Fun artwork is used here with permission from IntrovertDoodles.com — check out their books on  Amazon  and  Barnes & Noble!

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