Music: How introversion keeps playing a part

Music was a big player in building my confidence and resilience as a child and a teenager, yet now as an adult I keep having this love/hate relationship with any music project I pursue.

quotes-music-lyrics

So, in the very beginning I became part of a choir with my best friend from primary school.  I was about 7 or 8 at the time I think. This taught me singing techniques and allowed me to socialise with a wide range of people. At one point we even performed in a large football stadium to hundreds, possibly thousands of people.

Along came secondary school, my friend and I left the choir after many years and our school luckily ran a project called “Rock School” which allowed teenagers to form bands of any genre and practice on a Monday night in school for 50p each a week. I found my love for drumming here and she played bass then she moved on to sing lead vocals in another band.

Now I’ll pause a moment. I know you are likely thinking “How on earth did an introverted, highly sensitive child and teenager have the guts to do this?”. Well in part I believe it is the INFJ personality type. We are stubborn and relentless in our pursuit of what makes us tick and for me it was music. My personality allowed for hours of practice alone on the drums without me giving up or becoming bored. This allowed me to be the “glue” that held these bands together and really listen to what the other members of the group had to say. I also believe the fact I was surrounded by school friends,  I was in our familiar school environment, that I was able to be a bit more comfortable and channel my nerves into this meaningful outlet.

Fast forward to university, with my now husband (who is an INTJ and plays bass guitar) and it was not long after we had settled into our new city that we felt we needed to join a band. In the end he joined one and I joined two, I drummed in one and was lead vocals in the other.

Despite not having much money, or a car, we slowly built up a collection of musical instruments and both of our bands were doing quite well. We kept this up for over a year until disaster started knocking at our door. Both bands eventually broke up, I continued doing small projects, learnt basic acoustic guitar and even learnt to play bass guitar so I could support my uncles band at a festival. I later jammed with colleagues at university once I was in my first graduate job but again that fizzled out. I’m now sat here at 24 with a full spare room of instruments and no project to allow me to play them.

There are multiple reasons why music projects and pursuits don’t work. A big one for me was the lack of money and resources as practice spaces and transportation to and from gigs all cost a lot, as well as the upfront cost and upkeep of instruments themselves.

On reflection however, I also feel being an introvert is playing a part. I suffered with some bad experiences in my musical journey from blatant sexism to being told during “band discussions” about the various flaws I apparently had. My quieter personality in a room of large egos and extroverts meant I would often get drowned out or brushed aside. I would mull over these negative comments and feelings for days, weeks even. Pulling myself apart and agonising over every single word. Sometimes I would have these strange outbursts of anger, or an outpouring of feelings, like a cork popping on a bottle. More often than not my bandmates didn’t even realise they had upset me, or an experience at a gig had upset me, until it was too late. I was most confident at written communication, so they wouldn’t understand how I could write about these things but find it hard to say it to them face to face. Texts, social media, and now blog posts too are a far clearer way of me expressing what it is I want to say.

The perks of perfectionism meant I would do my best to learn my parts off by heart and perform with precision despite my challenges (impossible to set up a drumkit and thrash around in a tiny 1 bedroom flat right?!) . I would struggle with outward expressive performance on stage though, many photos of me drumming showed such a serious expression on my face as I concentrated so heavily on getting it just right. It took a lot out of me and my nerves before gigs were bordering on crippling.

drumming serious

To be fair, I was singing and drumming at the same time for a lot of the gigs so I was having to concentrate really hard! Still, this apparent “seriousness” (which is very common for the INFJ personality type) was sometimes seen as refreshing, other times seen as a bit of a “buzz-kill” in the creative community.

The long hours and multiple commitments (two bands, plus a full time university degree and a weekend job) meant that I got the introverts “People Hangover” really often as well as genuine physical exhaustion. I wanted to retreat to be alone and sometimes this was impossible, meaning I was more likely to appear moody, distant etc without meaning to. Ever heard the term “resting bitch face”? I was the very definition of this!

When the bands ended I was caught up in securing my graduate job, then planning my wedding, then finding another job so I certainly didn’t feel sad or bored. The small projects I pursued afterwards rebuilt my lost confidence and I honestly feel my new, reflective, mature approach will stand me in good stead. I am highly aware of my flaws, I always will be, and I will always pursue anything musically with a lot of my heart and soul on my sleeve. This vulnerability will hopefully now be overshadowed by a maturity grounded in these experiences so far and make me reflect and make me a better musician and person for it.

To finish up: My musical journey so far has been amazing, I’ve met some truly talented and fantastic people. I’ve done things that push boundaries and performed to big crowds despite the nerves. I have some reservations now though as to how I move forward. My financial situation has yet to improve (but it will in time!) , I still don’t drive (but learning to!) so I won’t rush into a new project but I also won’t rule out ever playing music again in future.

Until next time,

Amie x

How one introvert has learnt to deal with multiple sudden life changes

We’ve all been there, or will be at some point, life doesn’t like to work in a linear and straightforward fashion. It likes to surprise, challenge and shock you to your core. 

My personality type, my experiences and coping strategies mean that when unplanned big changes strike I initially go into melt down. 

In part I believe it’s my INFJ-ness (and if you believe in astronomy, I’m a Capricorn) I plan, I set goals, I can conquer mountains if I set my mind to something 100%. If shifted off course, that means hard reset and it drains my emotional investment. I love being spontaneous, but my comfort levels are much higher if I know a framework/got a path to follow. As an introvert I reflect and self-critique so will be quick to blame myself if something goes wrong even if realistically I had no control over it. 

Also, as I love being here for others as a shoulder to lean on, if I wobble then it all crumbles. I adore my friends hugely but a large chunk of them offload their issues onto me or lean on me and rely on me in one way or another. This hasn’t been possible recently and it’s caused a real sense of guilt within me as others close to me are in turmoil too and I want to reach out but can’t fully.

So, what is a meltdown for me? Usually tears, lots of them, questions, rambling, even a raised voice if it’s something I’m passionate/angry about… I have to let it all out so that I can start to piece together a new plan of action. I have gotten much better over the years. Sometimes if really upset I take myself away to a quieter space and have a trusted friend/family member with me or on the phone to me and a forewarning of “let me have a melt down for 10 mins, I won’t make much sense, just nod and pass me tissues!”.
Many would see this as not coping. In what way is being a sobbing snotty mess coping? Well I beg to differ. It is important to unpack everything you feel, the good and the bad, familiarise yourself with it and don’t shy away from it. This allows you to try and accept it… then move forward. It won’t be easy but I’ve certainly found that when I bottle it in I physically and mentally suffer far far more than if I do try and unlock it all (safely and sensibly of course,  cry  and lean on others if you need to) both in the moment as well as shortly after. 

I don’t cry all that often, so when something really big happens, I make a point of checking if I need to cry and let some of the frustration out in this way. A lot of introverts struggle with this “uncorking” process but over 20 years of being on this planet and I’ve just about started to face up to it. I used to really bottle it all in but after this backfires a few times you start to question your coping methods. You cannot remain resolute like a stone statue forever, a bit of emotion is healthy and absolutely acceptable.

I am on day 3 of waterworks turned firmly on and… in a way…. it feels good.

The complexities of a modern career path

multiple jobs

We all get told time and time again that it is a big, bad world out there and competition is fierce. More and more people are taking on second jobs, zero hours contracts and additional qualifications alongside work. What sort of things should you be considering to give yourself the best chance?

I’ve written this based on my own experience, as a graduate embarking on a long-winded climb to perhaps becoming a chartered educational psychologist, or something else within that sort of area along the way.

This leads to my first point, a job or career path that takes your interest can change rapidly because of new roles, new needs, changes to funding etc so it is really important that you keep an open mind. During your 3 or 4 year degree these rapid changes can cause bumps in the road, or change your direction entirely. You also may change your mind yourself about what sort of thing you would like to do, or be limited geographically by how far you can travel to work and the area you do your job search.

My second point is making the most of a rejection. I got some incredible advice after coming second for a position from the interviewer who was currently working in the field. I urge you to use any near-misses as an opportunity to ask questions and address any gaps. I asked for their phone numbers and they agreed to have a good chat with me later in the week. I had a good cry as soon as I got home of course but then the next day phoned them up and chatted about what I should do next. This helped me immensely and meant I had specific criteria for my next job and skills to develop so I looked to secure a role that allowed me to do this.

This leads nicely onto point three – building a portfolio of skills and experience that matches the person specification of your chosen field. Every job role will have a specification listing the sorts of skills and experiences they want to see. Go on job sites and download a few to get an idea of what you need. This will take time, and usually multiple roles and qualifications to get a full enough picture for the dream job. See each move as a step closer to your end goal and don’t be put off. Do it at a pace that suits you and your current situation.

Finally, it can take ten years post-graduation or more to become a psychologist so I am under no illusions that my chosen path is a long and difficult one. I may not even end up as a psychologist and that is ok too, a lot can happen in the space of a few years. Life will throw up all sorts of challenges and change is inevitable. Lean on others when it gets tough and keep focusing on those small positive steps forward.

In short:
1. Be flexible
2.  Learn from rejection
3. Build up a set of experiences and qualifications over time to match the person spec
4. Life can throw up challenges, change is inevitable

Best of luck to anyone trying to navigate the jobs market right now, it is stressful but keep making baby steps and before you know it, that big picture will look incredibly bright.

 

Overthinking: how one introvert tries to manage it

overthinking

We’ve all been there, one thing after another seems to go wrong and it gets increasingly difficult to shrug it off. Part of stopping this spiral comes with perspective.

Here is an example using what really happened to me and one of my closest friends when I went to see her one weekend.

So, in the space of a day, I had to sink a boatload of money to fix an error I made last night when booking our girls weekend together (don’t book the wrong dates with Ryanair, they won’t refund you!) we got stuck in the rain and had forgotton our umbrellas, she got trapped in a wheelchair stairlift at Carluccios with a taxi waiting for us outside. Then to top it off she’d thoughtfully booked in to the cinemas for us to go watch a movie together then couldn’t get seats sitting together and when I got out the cinema I had a tonne of missed calls on my phone as another friend of mine had a loss in the family and needed me and I was not there. By this point my head was spinning with negative thoughts and it was taking all my strength to keep it together.

Let me tell the story another way…
I went to visit one of my closest friends and finally booked our girls weekend away together in Berlin next month which I’m super excited about. We ventured into her beautiful city of York and ended up running into Carluccios for an awesome lunch to escape the rain and catch up. She then surprised me by booking us in to the cinema to watch the new Beauty and the Beast movie as she knows how much I’ve wanted to see the modern, stronger take on Belle’s character and it was a genius idea of hers to escape the rain. Despite the days challenges, it was a reminder that having your best girl with you made things so much better.

See the difference that made? Both are true accounts of what happened but in the first I focused on all the negative events that happened and in the second I focused on how much of an incredible human being my friend Niki is and how grateful I was to have been able to go visit her in York despite the challenges along the way that day.

So, try and shift your focus. I’m a sucker for seeing the negatives and over analysing every single detail so its helpful for me if I’m in one of those negative moods or a string of bad things happen to
a) acknowledge it
b) cry/mope/sigh
c) process what has just happened, think it all through
d) go over it a second time and purposefully pick out the good stuff, use all your senses, maybe you tasted good food, smelled the rain (yes I like the smell of rain, is that weird? Probably!) and maybe you had good company to overcome these little challenges with. Ground yourself in those more positive experiences and you’ll find it starts to calm you.

Another key strength usually found with us introverted and/or super thoughtful types is we can plan and we can have a plan B… C…. D… and so on! Yes it gets exhausting but it also means that you are equipped to overcome these things. Take comfort in knowing that you’re likely far more prepared than most to deal with whatever the day brings. Allow yourself that thinking time and you’ll find this tendency to over-think actually works in your favour sometimes! You may solve a problem you’ve been having, or a friend may ask for advice and you come up with an incredibly thoughtful response that helps them immeasurably.

I also tend to keep myself incredibly busy, I work a full time job then have other jobs on the side that I juggle with too so having a social life on top of that can get interesting! Its a coping mechanism of mine though because my brain is so much more productive when it has tasks to complete and problems to solve. For me it’s another unique over-thinker strength, the quality of work and confidence I have with others seems to increase if I have goals set and tasks ahead of me. Give me a blank page and I panic, give me a huge list of things to do and I will conquer it double-speed and ask for more work. Strange but true!

That being said, it is so important to spot signs when you are doing far too much and need a time out. We all have different levels of what we can tolerate and us introverts can get a bit of a “people hangover” where we just need to shut the world out. With overthinking I regularly wish my brain would slow itself just a little, enough for me to catch up. Do not feel guilty for this! If like me the idea of completely shutting the world out sounds heavenly but also a bit scary as your mind can start to run in circles if left unattended for too long… try to build in self care on a daily and weekly basis. Spend that extra hour in bed, set aside half an hour to go meditate or draw or read that book you were meaning to start. Generate positive habits rather than generous one-offs seems to be the aim of the game here, be kind to yourself.

When over-thinkers like us find our unique ways to channel our minds and our perspective, we have the potential to be incredibly interesting and resourceful people capable of great things. I hope we all conquer this overthinking trait of ours in our own way and turn it into our strength. The world needs thinkers after all.