The older I get, the more comfortable I feel in my own skin and with who I am as a person. I guess you could say that the older I get, the more Big Dick Energy (BDE) I have. (If you are unaware of what that is, I highly suggest you look it up.)
COMING OUT OF THE (INTROVERT) CLOSET
One of the things that I’ve embraced as I’ve gotten older is my introversion. Surprisingly, I didn’t realize that I was an introvert until after I graduated college. I was interning at a small PR firm in Lansing and my first day on the job they asked me to take the Myers-Briggs personality test. Somehow, despite the fact that I studied communication in college, I had never taken the test—and I had essentially no knowledge of what it meant to be either an introvert or an extrovert.
After completing the test—which takes, like, maybe 10 minutes of your time— I discovered that I am a INFP-T and, at the risk of sounding dramatic, it felt like everything in my life made sense. It was so validating to learn that there are other people in the world who are like me—who love people, but also need alone time to recharge.
A NEW APPROACH
I know that some people think that the introvert/extrovert stuff is totally bullshit, and that’s fine (just know that you’re wrong and I hate you). As communicators, we’re often told that we need to, “know our audience,” and this is a perfect example. It makes sense that in order to best communicate with someone, you need to know what makes them tick (and how they prefer to be communicated with).
Most importantly, learning that I was an introvert also helped me to better understand myself and changed how I approach many things. I’m now acutely aware of my strengths and limitations— and I both acknowledge and respect them.
I’ve spent a lot of time feeling inadequate or inferior because I can’t command a room the way that some of my friends or colleagues can, or because I get irritable and exhausted after spending too much time around crowds of people. I’ve spent a lot of time pretending that I enjoy things when I secretly just want to go home and binge watch Friends for the billionth time with my cat.
Learning that I wasn’t alone in that changed my life. Instead of wasting my time and energy forcing myself to do things that I don’t enjoy and that leave me feeling socially hungover, I now only budget my time for things that I actually want to do and I don’t feel guilty about it.
LIGHTING THE WAY
I would be totally lying if I said that I took a personality test and all of a sudden immediately and unapologetically embraced my introversion. It changed my perspective, validated my feelings and paved the way for a transformation of my mindset but I still do occasionally struggle with feeling inadequate about being “the quiet one.” One thing that has helped me is being surrounded by *gasp* other introverts! (There are more of us than you think! Yes, even in PR).
The two people who recognized my introversion (and helped me recognize it in myself) were Rose Tantraphol and Scott Swanson, owners and principals of Moonsail North—and both introverts. I often think about the summer I spent interning with them and how transformative those few short months were for me. Both amazing in their own respective ways, they allowed me to flourish, both personally and professionally, in a supportive environment and that’s something I will always be grateful for.
Another person who has helped me own my introverted ways is my Martin Waymire coworker and friend, Andrea Kerbuski of Blonde Bedhead. Queen of the Irish exit, this bitch has taught me that it’s okay to say no to things, and even if I do attend an event, I can leave whenever the hell I want to— and I don’t have to feel bad about doing either.
In addition to support from my network of friends, another thing that helped me was reading the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain (her TED Talk is amazing, too). It further reinforced the things that my friends had already taught me: my feelings are valid, introversion isn’t a handicap and I can be as successful, both personally and professionally, as anyone else.
WE’RE NOT (ALL) SOCIAL MUTANTS
Introversion is having a ~moment~ and with that comes a lot of misinformation. There is a huge misconception that every introvert is a shy, awkward, antisocial curmudgeon who dislikes social interaction and for whom leaving the house is a painful ordeal. While I’m sure that’s true for some, it isn’t true for all.
When I say I’m an introvert, people assume that means I hate people—and that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I love people. I love connecting with people and hearing their stories and what makes them tick. I’m (almost) always down for hitting up a local brewery to shoot the shit over a cold beer, grabbing a coffee at a local coffee shop or catching up with a friend while we meander through a greenhouse. In fact, when I was in college, you could find me at Crunchy’s every Thursday drinking long island mugs and
judging listening to karaoke with my friend Thomas (and even very occasionally singing karaoke myself!).
Say it with me: introversion is not the same as shyness.
Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking says that shyness is the fear of being judged in social situations, while introversion is simply about preferring quiet, minimally stimulating environments—and it’s true. Introverts don’t hate people, they just prefer to spend time with people they actually have a connection with and need time alone to recharge their batteries.
So, it’s true. I do love doing all those things—but my preference is to do them with people that I care about. If you asked me if I wanted to go out to dinner with Wajid, grab a beer with Katie, stop by Harry’s with Jess, or hit up a coffee shop with Kerbuski I would jump at the chance. If you asked me if I wanted to do any of those things with someone I don’t know very well, the answer is a hard no—and I don’t feel bad about that one bit.
THE POWER OF INTROVERTS
Don’t buy into the narrative that being charismatic, gregarious and outgoing are required to successful or likable—because that simply isn’t true. You don’t have to pretend to enjoy things you don’t and you don’t have to “fix” yourself. As Susan Cain says, “some of the most transformative leaders in history — Eleanor Roosevelt, Ghandi, Rosa Parks — were introverts. Each of those described themselves as quiet, soft-spoken, or shy. That quietness had a special, extraordinary power of it’s own.”
The key to being happy and successful isn’t found in being one personality type or the other. It’s found by maximizing your talent by putting yourself in the zone of stimulation that works best for you.
The world needs introverts just as much as it needs extroverts. Believe it or not, there is room for more than one type of personality in this world 😉
Introvert isn’t a four letter word and one personality type isn’t better than the other. I’ve learned to embrace my introversion thanks to my friends and colleagues and live my life in a way that makes me happy and gives me the best chance at being successful.