Thriving As An Introvert: Elijah Meason of MHAPSS On How Introverts Can Thrive & Succeed In A Society That Seems To Favor Extroverts

Yitzi Weiner
Authority Magazine
Published in
11 min readSep 18, 2023

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Courage — Being an introvert can be challenging because there are times when you have to take the spotlight. Having the courage to put yourself out there is a must. There have been times in my life when I could have kept my head down and just gone with the flow of things but I would have been letting down people who counted on me. As a peer support specialist, part of my role is advocating for others. I have to have the courage to stand up and speak for those who can’t.

In a world that often rewards outspokenness and social networking, introverts can sometimes feel sidelined or overlooked. The workplace, educational institutions, and even social settings can often seem engineered to suit the strengths of extroverts, leaving introverts searching for a space to flourish.

However, introversion comes with its own set of unique strengths — deep thinking, the ability to focus, empathy, and keen observational skills — that are invaluable but often underestimated. The question then becomes: how can introverts not only survive but also thrive and succeed in environments that seem skewed towards extroversion? In this interview series, we are talking to introverts, business leaders, psychologists, authors, career coaches, organizational leaders, and other experts in the field who can talk about “How Introverts Can Thrive & Succeed In A Society That Seems To Favor Extroverts”. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing (Your name here).

Elijah is a Certified Peer Support Worker in The State of New Mexico. He is also a SMART Recovery facilitator, the founder of MHAPSS, and a long time student of meditation.

Currently, he works at a dual diagnosis treatment facility helping individuals overcome mental health and addiction challenges. In his free time, he enjoys studying and spending time with his wife Carrie. Moreover, he believes that everyone is capable of overcoming these challenges and living a better life.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us your “Origin Story”? Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

My story starts off a little chaotic. My parents separated fairly early and then I lost my mother a little while later. I grew up as kind of an outsider and had a hard time fitting in. Which in turn, led me to some less than amazing choices early on in life. I struggled with mental health and addiction for much of my earlier life.

Can you tell us a bit about what you do professionally, and what brought you to this specific career path?

I work at a dual diagnosis treatment center focusing on mental health and addiction. Mostly, I run psychoeducational groups as well as oversee our program’s credentialing process. Along with these responsibilities, I am starting an organization that focuses on the career development of peer support professionals.

As I mentioned earlier, I struggled with many of these issues during my life. Being on the other side, I have dedicated my life to helping others going through similar challenges.

However, this career choice was not what I had originally planned for myself. I spent my earlier days working in kitchens with dreams of becoming a chef.

Can you help articulate a few of the challenges that come with being an introvert?

Well, I can only speak from my own experience, but there are two big challenges when it comes to being an introvert. One, I am not super talkative and so I often feel awkward in groups. Not only that, but because I work in the mental health field, many people think that I am “analyzing” them (which couldn’t be further from the truth).

Two, its challenging to step into the spotlight, even when you deserve it. Sometimes people think I’m stuck up or “pretending” to be modest, when in reality I just don’t really care for the recognition.

I have to be honest and say that this question was actually really difficult to answer. Mostly, because I’ve never really thought about being introverted as a challenge. I’ve always felt like this is what makes me unique. More than that, it’s what has allowed me to gain as much momentum as I have.

I’m sure that being an introvert also gives you certain advantages. Can you tell us a few advantages that introverts have?

Being an introvert, the biggest advantage I see is that I can put more effort into accomplishing my goals then most. That’s not to say that others aren’t trying or that I am better than anyone, but since I’m not really motivated to go out or join in the reindeer games, my time is spent advancing my career and my goals.

Plus, I don’t get caught up in a lot of the drama that happens around me.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being an introvert? Can you explain what you mean?

Ok, the one thing I want to say for sure, is that just because someone is introverted, that doesn’t mean they don’t like people. Moreover, it doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t want to be around people. Sure, I am not as motivated to go out, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it when it does happen.

The only difference is that when I do go out, I am content to take a less active role in the whole thing. I am happy to sit and listen to others and just enjoy the experience.

In other words, just because someone is quiet, it doesn’t mean they aren’t having fun.

Do you have any role models who are also introverts? What have you learned from them that can help introverts navigate the challenges and benefits of introversion?

Honestly, the role model that comes to mind is my grandfather. Not as exciting as some celebrity, I know. Still, he taught me to be ok with myself in any situation. In fact, one thing I still remember him saying is, “Those with wisdom, speak less”.

Maybe that’s where it all started.

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the “Five Things Introverts Need To Thrive & Succeed In A Society That Seems To Favor Extroverts”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.

1 . Courage

Being an introvert can be challenging because there are times when you have to take the spotlight. Having the courage to put yourself out there is a must. There have been times in my life when I could have kept my head down and just gone with the flow of things but I would have been letting down people who counted on me. As a peer support specialist, part of my role is advocating for others. I have to have the courage to stand up and speak for those who can’t.

2 . Curiosity

I’m not going to lie, being introverted can feel lonely sometimes. Staying curious about the world around you keeps your mind moving in a positive direction. It can be easy to let feelings of loneliness turn into judgments and resentments for others. Curiosity is the gateway to understanding and empathy.

3 . A Good Friend

Being an introvert, sometimes you can get stuck in your own head. Having a good friend who is willing to call you out

Is priceless. There have been times when the world seems dark, but it was only my thinking that made it seem that way. My friend was always there to pull me out of it and bring me back to the living.

One thing he used to tell me was, “Your mind is like a bad neighborhood, you shouldn’t be there by yourself”.

4 . Connection

As human beings, we are wired for connection. Similar to having a good friend, it’s important to create healthy relationships in your life. It’s not just about having support and someone to talk to, it’s a crucial part of mental health. I learned this lesson the hard way in my earlier years. I felt like I could manage the world without the hassle of relationships and I was sorely mistaken.

Honestly, this is probably what kept me stuck for so many years.

5 . Patience

Last but not least, introverts need to have patience to be successful in society. This includes patience with one’s self, as well as with others. There have been times when I’ve beat up on myself for not being “outgoing”. I had to realize that I was letting the expectations of society shape my opinion of myself.

I know my truth, and that is what matters.

I had to learn to have patience with others as well. Many people don’t understand what it’s like being introverted. Because of this, I would always get the comments, “Are you ok?” or “Is something wrong?”.

It used to drive me crazy.

How should an introvert navigate social relationships and networking, activities that are often touted as extroverts’ forte? Do you have any advice for introverts in these areas?

My advice is to just be yourself. I know that it probably sounds so cliche so hear me out. I used to really stress about social events. I would think about how to handle it, how to find a way to talk to people, and how they would respond to my shyness. In the end, it only made things worse and I shut down even more.

Once I decided to just be my introverted self, conversations actually came more naturally. That’s not to say I was the life of the party but when they did happen I wasn’t overthinking the situation.

This is why the best thing you can do is just be yourself. If conversations happen, they happen. If they don’t, they don’t.

Alternatively, if you find yourself in a situation where you have to speak and or take the spotlight, be honest! In fact, I usually make a joke about being introverted and how awkward it feels. People laugh and it makes the situation less tense.

I always wonder if they realize how serious I am.

What are some practical tips you can offer to introverts who want to succeed in the workplace, which is often geared towards extroverted behaviors?

Similar to my last tip, I would say don’t try to force it. That’s when things get awkward and then you may feel like shutting down even more. However, this doesn’t mean you give yourself a pass to never talk to anyone. Start small with simple hello’s and work your way up to having more in depth conversations.

More importantly though, don’t back down from opportunities when you have something important to say. What has helped me is realizing that by not saying anything, not only am I hurting myself, I am robbing others of the valuable contributions I can make to the organization. In other words, think of it not simply speaking up for yourself, but doing a service for others.

Have you noticed any specific ways that being an introvert affects mental health or overall well-being? Any tips for introverts to maintain good mental health?

As I mentioned before, being an introvert can sometimes get lonely. As human beings we need healthy connection for our mental wellbeing. My advice would be to not give into the temptation to let a good relationship deteriorate because you get distracted or because you feel more comfortable on your own. I noticed a pattern in my earlier years where I would find connection, start to feel better about life, and then because I was feeling better about life go back to isolating myself. From there I would start to feel worse and the cycle would repeat itself.

Remember, relationships are a two way street. If you stop putting in the effort on your part, eventually the other person will do the same. It’s easy for me to get caught up in my own introverted world. This is why you need a good friend who will call you out from time to time.

In your opinion, are societal views on introversion changing? If so, how do you think this impacts introverts positively or negatively? Can you please explain what you mean?

I am not so sure that societal views are changing so much as societal behaviors. What I have noticed is that because of social media and the internet, people are putting themselves out there more than ever. However, people are becoming more comfortable talking through some form of technology than face to face.

So in a sense, there are more introverted individuals now than ever. Only it’s a kind of backwards way of going about it.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

It may not be famous or from any one individual, but my favorite life lesson quote is simple. “It’s not about you”.

This hold so much meaning to me in so many ways. First, when people judge or make comments about me being introverted I remember, “It’s not about you”. In other words, them being uncomfortable has more to do with their own ideas about life and insecurities than it does with me. Second, when I feel nervous about speaking up and taking the spotlight, I remember the quote. I remember that the situation is not about me and my feelings, but rather what needs to be done in that moment.

When I am feeling bad for myself, when I am angry, and all those uncomfortable situations… It’s not about you.

It reminds me that when I allow myself to get stuck in those feelings, not only am I making myself miserable, but I am limiting the positive impact that I can have on the world around me.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I love this question! It would be a movement of mindfulness. Awareness in the present moment is the only place where we can affect real change, the only place where real choice exists, and the only place where we act intentionally. 99.9%% of all our suffering comes from living outside the present moment. Whether we are worried about what will happen five minutes from now, or focusing on what happened five minutes ago, we are not living in the present moment.

Most of our mistakes come from instances where our emotions get the best of us because we weren’t truly aware of what we were doing.

Imagine how life would be if everyone was aware and present during every difficult conversation. If we all focused on what was happening now, rather than what will happen later or what happened last week. I can only guess, but I think we would all be a little more understanding and a little slower to react.

It’s not impossible, it only takes practice.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can find more about what I am doing to further peer support at mhapss.com. We are dedicated to helping those that help others and we want to change the way society looks at mental health and addiction.

Alternatively, you can read about my own experiences with mental health and addiction and streetsober.com.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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Yitzi Weiner
Authority Magazine

A “Positive” Influencer, Founder & Editor of Authority Magazine, CEO of Thought Leader Incubator