Many of us love the idea of living in eco-community. To find a like-minded group of people who share values, common interests, and ways of life is very appealing! From maximizing the use of resources to working together towards common goals, there are many benefits to living in communities. However, communal living also involves lots of group processes, personal interactions, and social commitments that introverts may find off-putting, even when they share the ideals of the group.

Surprisingly, living in community can be an amazing environment for introverts, as they often have talents that benefit communities hugely. In healthy communities, each person brings their own unique gifts to the table, and is encouraged to thrive. So how does an introvert balance their needs with the needs of the community? Here are a few tips:

1. Set boundaries.  Establish time and space for yourself, and be realistic about how involved you truly would like to be. There are lots of ways to engage without feeling overwhelmed. Don’t like the idea of doing yoga with a group every morning? Ask a friend to give you some one-on-one instruction. Have ideas that you don’t want to announce to the whole group? Create an online submission form that facilitators can draw from when setting agendas.

2. Take care of your energy needs. Does the weekly group dinner leave you drained? Instead, find one or two people to share meals with occasionally. When participation is necessary, make sure to take some time for yourself afterward — go for a walk, take a bath, or read a book to recharge. Learn how to schedule this into your day, and communicate to others what you need. Taking care of yourself is the best gift you can give to any community.

3. Find your niche. Don’t push yourself to volunteer for every committee, and don’t opt out all together. Your unique ideas are valuable! Find one or two projects that spark your interest and get involved. This can be a great way to forge strong bonds with others and feel more connected to your community. You may even find your personality makes you a great leader.

4. The problem is the solution. Do you prefer to work on tasks alone? Are you more motivated when you know you can work at your own pace? Communities are often in need of people to do bookkeeping, website maintenance, organizing the communal kitchen, and other jobs that require the focus and autonomy that introverts excel at. Ask around, you may find a unique way to plug in that you hadn’t considered!

5. Be yourself! Healthy communities embrace all kinds of people. Don’t feel like you have to change yourself to fit in. Be honest and clear when you communicate with people about your needs and you may find more support than you expected. You are a valuable part of any community!

Living in community, even for short periods, can be a great way to expand and grow as a person, and to share your gifts with the world in your own way. For more information on community living, here are 10 Steps to Get Ready for the Global Eco Village Movement!