People who have never met me in person will probably never realise this (because I’m such a loudmouth online), but I’m actually an incredibly shy person. In fact some people who have met me may not realise this at first, because I do my best to hide it, forcing myself to start conversations and ask questions.
I’ve learnt the hard way that forcing myself out of my comfort zone is the only way I’ll ever get noticed, and before coming to university I experienced first hand the consequences of not doing so; namely loneliness, isolation and, ultimately, bullying. My university experience and my embracement of social media has truly changed my life for the better, but deep down I’m still cripplingly self-conscious.
This blog post outlines the perceived positives and negatives of my introverted nature. I’ve written this blog post partly for the purposes of personal reflection (getting things down on paper, as it were), but also for the benefits of any fellow introverts who might stumble upon it, in the hope that they may take some wisdom from my thoughts or think about themselves in a different way. The post tackles cons first and pros second, in the hope of ending on a positive note!
The negatives of being an introvert:
- I often worry that people, even my own best friends, don’t like me or don’t want to spend time with me.
- I’m reluctant to speak about my own achievements, anxious of being seen as arrogant or boastful.
- A fear of confrontation makes it difficult for me to be assertive or hold people to account. This is particularly problematic when dealing with external business partners on behalf of my company.
- My self-awareness regarding the above issues often causes me to overcompensate, to embarrassing/disastrous effect.
- I could never work in sales; I’d spend every waking moment worrying about causing my client even the slightest amount of disruption or inconvenience!
- Sometimes I will avoid doing things simply because they involve some kind of social contact.
It’s not all bad, however:
The positives of being an introvert:
- My crushing self-awareness has given me a high level of emotional intelligence: knowing what to say and how to say it, no matter what the medium or context, is something that comes naturally to me. This is an obvious blessing not only in social situations but also as a marketer.
- I consider myself fortunate to be able to do things by myself, giving myself space to think. People who spend every waking moment in the company of others are missing out on valuable thinking time, in my opinion.
- My slight tendency to avoid social contact makes me appreciate spending time with friends and family all the more.
- As a teenager, spending more time than was normal in front of a computer and not out on the streets is definitely a contributory factor to my relative success with social media and web technologies. My first and only MySpace layout, for instance, was built completely from scratch using pure CSS/HTML, made to look like iTunes, and it was how I learned to code. I would love to show you what it looked like but sadly it hasn’t been preserved in the archives 😦 Anyway, back to the point: I probably wouldn’t have the job I have today if I hadn’t been such a web nerd from an early age!
- Finally, I think social media is much easier to get right if you’re an introvert: sharing the ideas and content of others (something I’ve always done without thinking) is the best way to use this medium, and social media is a great way to have focused discussions with like-minded individuals. Perhaps the hardest bit (on a personal level) is successfully making the jump from online to offline by drawing upon the connections you make.
To summarise, I think being introverted plays a large part in shaping who I am as a person and how I think about the world. To any fellow introverts who stumble upon this post: I’d be interested to hear your thoughts in the comments section below, or via Twitter!
(Extraverts are also welcome)
James, your level of self awareness is something that you don’t find in people very often and is the key to improvement and onto greatness. I felt a little emotional reading this as I know about a (very) small part of your journey so far. You will achieve huge success – I have no doubt about that and if you were a company I would buy shares in you!!
Thanks Aimee for your kind words. I certainly take a lot of inspiration from your attitude to life and work (even if I don’t have your confidence!). I’m definitely at the start of my personal journey, but based on what I’ve acheived in recent times I’m very much looking forward to what is to come in the future 🙂
[…] People who have never met me in person will probably never realise this (because I’m such a loudmouth online), but I’m actually an incredibly shy person. In fact some people who have me… […]
Hey there – good to read. I’m an extravert, and it’s good to know how it feels from the other side, as it were. Have you come across the TED talk by Susan Cain about the power of introverts? It’s really excellent!
Hi Tanya, thanks for your comments and for recommending the TED video – will take a look when I get a chance!
I love the feeling you’ve put into this post James. I would definitely call myself an introvert too and agree with many of the points that you’ve made.
When I was growing up I was sent to counseling to try and ‘snap me out of it’ and now that I’m older I too see it as a blessing. I’m a lot more comfortable with myself and realise that I don’t need a large group of friends to live life, and the relationships that I have formed are far more meaningful because of it.
Thanks James – this is definitely the most personal post I’ve written but it’s the one I’m most proud of.
I agree that there’s a tendency to perceive introversion as a negative trait, especially in children. In my experience it’s also not common for shyness and introversion to be thought of as one and the same. This is, of course, nonsense; whilst shyness can manifest itself as finding it hard to interact with others (at best) or extreme social exclusion (at worst), introversion is simply a different (better?) way of experiencing the world around us!
Thanks for commenting 🙂