Ask any of my primary school classmates, and they’ll tell you: I was shy.
Like, couldn’t-make-eye-contact-with-extended-family kind of shy.
I spent my early life in the safe space of a library. Always reading, always writing, rarely speaking.
But there was a slight problem…
I had big, all-consuming, contraditory goals: I wanted to travel, lead teams and, ultimately, have an AMAZING career. But how exactly? I didn’t have a goddamn clue.
Here’s the thing: Nobody tells you that, as an introvert, you can have a big life.
Nobody says “hey, I know that you may not have a lot of confidence, but that means you have so many other awesome traits!” Nobody helps you see that, actually, being introverted comes with MANY perks. (Like creativity, reliability, commitment… I could go on).
“Instead, if you’re introverted, you’re made to feel like the big, exciting parts of life aren’t for you. Sorry, darling. Lean in, they say, or lean the fuck out of the game. Network, they say, or have a low net worth for life.”
And while there’s some truth to those statements, I want to shed light on the other side of the coin. My side of the coin.
That introvert I mentioned earlier? The one who couldn’t look her own extended family members in the eye without feeling shy? Well, things have changed a little since then…
I’ve been on panels and spoken in front of rooms filled with people, I’ve networked at 10 Downing St, travelled the world on business, led talented teams, presented to big shot businesspeople, landed dream jobs and actually ENJOYED myself in the process.
“How? By showing up. By staying for five minutes. Then ten minutes. Then, eventually, an hour. By making an effort to ask people questions, even when it feels overwhelming. Especially when it feels overwhelming. By realising that nobody’s looking that closely at my crimson cheeks. By smiling and making eye contact. By viewing things as opportunities rather than obstacles. ”
By trying. Always trying.
If you’re introverted, I want you to know that you can be successful BECAUSE of, not in spite of, your nature. Know that you bring a ton of skills to the table, like the ability to think first, speak second. Know that you are needed and valued, arguably more than ever. Know that researchers have found that having an extroverted personality “provides no advantage in performance on the job”.
Sure, your shyness may never fully go away, but who says you have to change? Who says you need to be defined by your past experiences?
“We tell ourselves stories, based upon our earliest memories. Stories that say we’re shy, unconfident, introverted. Only you can decide whether you’ll allow those stories to keep defining you or not.”
I’m still, in many ways, an introvert. I need alone time (and lots of it). I rarely drink as I hate the lack of control. And honestly? I think a small part of me will forever dread social events. But the point is, I show up anyway. I show up, insecurity and introvertness and all, and I use my voice.
This confidence thing? It’s like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it becomes.