The first thing that absolutely must be said about introverts and gentle people of all kind is that we have a lot to offer. Many of us walk around with the nagging worry that being aggressive and flamboyantly extrovert is the way to go. That we have to change at all costs in order to be successful, noticed, appreciated and so on.

We don’t.

Gentle people can have very fulfilled lives. We find meaning and confidence in working hard at what is important to us. We crave connection with others and want to lend a helping hand. We are empaths, people who have the ability to put themselves into another person’s shoes, and thus create loving and harmonious relationships.

Most of us, in fact, have an artistic streak. I am thinking about the legions of young actors and artists who come to New York City, enduring rejection and discouragement seemingly without end, but they keep plugging away at their goals. They may not always end up becoming big movie stars. But they find the self-exploration that comes with the job rewarding and meaningful.

The sensitivity we possess may sometimes feel more like a curse than a blessing. But when employed skillfully, it enables us to create powerful relationships of mutual respect and inspiration.

Not all gentle folks are shy or socially awkward. Some of us are curious and outgoing, have lots of friends and always turn to new interests. But most of us do prefer smaller settings and one-on-one meetings to big gatherings. We crave the intimacy of a quiet tête-à-tête that enables us to focus on the deeper aspects of a conversation. We may come across as aloof, but nobody could ever accuse us of being shallow!

So no, you don’t have to become another person to enjoy life. If you are feeling bad about yourself, chronically anxiety ridden or inferior to others it’s not about trying to be different, but to become a more actualized version of yourself. To bring out the talents that lie underneath the layers of low self-esteem and depression. To take pride in the skills and experience you have to show for yourself.

What it takes is persistence. Learn about who you are. Observe yourself. Write about yourself. Take pictures of yourself. Look yourself in the mirror. Be “selfish” – not as in self-centered, but as in self-aware. As those wise old men said: To study the self is to forget the self. You have to find yourself before you can be truly useful to others. It’s an exciting journey.