Although there have been times when I’ve felt like one!
Before I knew I was an introvert I used to wonder why I was different? Why did I feel like I just didn’t fit? Why did I encounter so many awkward silences? Why was conversation so difficult?
So many times I would ruminate on the events of the day and undoubtedly the moments that would echo around my head would be the awkward moments from the day, the week, the month or even the year! Yes, I can remember the strangest situations that ordinarily would be lost on other people.
The feeling was most apparent when I became embedded in a large corporate organisation.I was hugely proud to represent them and found myself become ambitious for progression, but something was making promotion extremely difficult and it took me a while to figure it out.
In the meantime I wrestled with it daily. Being a leader of people was at times rewarding but it also felt like I was trapped in a spiders web made of chewing gum.
Being focused, methodical, accurate and resourceful came naturally to me but when it came to the soft skills, I was measured against my colleagues and according to others, I didn’t measure up. You know those loud, chatty types? They’re all jazz hands and braggy. So when people looked at me and looked at them, they just didn’t see me as the leader type.
Being an introvert can be lonely at times. People don’t realise how self- aware and conscious of ourselves we are. They don’t realise that the most insignificant moments can become major events for us. And they don’t realise that we analyse everything and replay these events in our heads, over and over again.
In some cases it also seems being an introvert is an invitation for bad behaviour.
I’ve had men square up to me at conferences after one too many drinks in an attempt to intimidate me. I’ve had men think they can make inappropriate advances towards me because I’m the quiet one and they think they can. And I’ve had one very bitter ex-team member write to our CEO and copy in everyone of influence telling them how weird and socially inept I am. This was after he lost his job as a result of performance issues.
That last one really hurt because it hit a nerve and he made that pain very public.
But I’m grateful. Because it was those experiences that pushed me to figuring out that I’m not a weirdo. I’m an introvert and I’m really proud of the traits that come with that personality type.
Yes I’m quiet but there’s a lot going on behind my eyes. I see and hear everything. I can walk into a room and figure out the dynamics between people within seconds. I’m considerate. I allow others to be themselves and give them space to be creative. I’m a true empath. Feeling peoples emotions and responding to them in a way they need at any given moment, without getting into emotional overload. I see the potential in people and will nurture that potential, never giving up. I’m interested in people and love to see them succeed.
Once I figured out that what I thought were my failings, were actually my strengths my career took off. But not only that, the self-consciousness that I felt started to melt away. My self-esteem and confidence grew and I slotted into being unapologetically me.
It might not feel like it at times but there’s space and a need for everyone, particularly in the workplace. The trick is to figure out what your unique strengths and characteristics are, and leverage them.
Know your strengths, own them and play to them.