I'm an introvert.
Like, a classic full blown "I'd rather be home than hang with you, no offense" introvert.
I am able to mingle and socialize with people with ease (because of years of practice), so most people may not suspect that I'd much rather be home alone or sitting in a coffee shop with just my laptop instead of making small talk about the weather. Or that it feels like nails on a chalkboard when I'm at a gathering with more than 5 people.
And let me tell you from personal experience; life as an introvert is not an easy one.
You see - introverts exist in a world of extroverts who have managed to make introverts feel like they are "less than" because they're not out socializing or mingling all the time. Introverts carry around with them a feeling that they just don't fit in, and that they're being judged because they're not vying to be homecoming queen in their office or social circle.
When I entered the entrepreneur world as a business consultant in 2015, and was required to start posting pictures of my face (*gasp*), and videos of me speaking about business (*double gasp*), I had to force myself to climb out of my hole. And no, my hole wasn't a dark and depressing hole of social anxiety - it was simply my safe place, where I was comfortable hiding out in my own mind, with my own thoughts, and without the need to fit in with my outgoing peers.
Needless to say, putting myself out there was not easy - but because of my many years of forced professional mingling in my corporate career, I'm able to pull it off these days.
But this wasn't always the case. Like I said, it took years of practice.
Let's rewind to my first year of high school. I was on the softball team, and it came time for our first game. Because we had to travel to a different school, we were supposed to leave class early and meet up to all travel together on the activity bus. Well, I was so terrified of asking my teacher to leave (in front of my classmates) and then meeting up with my older "cool girl" teammates who I didn't know very well, that I hid in the women's bathroom until school let out and missed the game entirely.
Moving forward to my first year in a corporate job, fresh out of graduate school, I was 23 and worked in a very large office in the Human Resources department. I was the quiet girl, who didn't mingle and never spoke up in meetings. I formed a few close relationships with my immediate co-workers, but when it came to actually going to the break room and potentially having to TALK to people that I didn't know? Nope. Never happened. I had lunch out, at my desk or even in my car!
You see - all these stories (and I have millions of them), are not indicative of a socially inept person or someone who has social anxiety. In fact, 50% of the population are introverts who (quietly) share these same experiences.
Being an introvert is not a handicap. Being an introvert is not a condition to be treated.
Being an introvert means that we process information differently than our extroverted counterparts. It means that social interactions, especially with large groups of people, leave us drained - and in order to recharge, we have to withdraw and have alone time in order to process it all and recover from the experience.
This is not a bad thing. And it took me a lifetime (all 37 of my years) to realize that. (And to finally, not beat myself up over it.)
I've leaned to accept my own introverted nature, and to HONOR it. When friends ask me to meet them at a bar or hang out for a girls' night - I no longer say "yes" to appease them, only to cancel last minute. I simply say "no" upfront, although I do struggle with coming up with an excuse. I know myself better now, and am more comfortable with my natural state of being. The way I was born, the way I was created - and I honor that I'm created perfectly as I am. I have no need to TRY to fit in.
Being an entrepreneur and an introvert poses its own unique challenges. I don't ever attend in-person networking meetings or events. I have zero desire to host or participate in a mastermind group. In fact, the very thought of these things fills me with dread. Not a dread that stems from FEAR, but a dread that I would be forcing myself to participate in something that doesn't fill my soul.
So, I find ways to network and mingle with my peers and clients in ways that DO fill my soul - while making up for the fact that I simply do not want to engage with large groups of people.
The internet and social media are a perfect place for an introvert to get his/her fill of social and professional interaction - without having to get in a car and go somewhere! It's really been a life saver for me. I no longer have to attend Christmas parties, conferences, galas or ice breakers. Instead, I can run a business that's designed to make me happy, operate in a way that fills me with joy, while helping other women do the exact thing.
I'm proud to be an introvert.
And I'm proud of the work that I've done to be able to be a chameleon as well, when I am in the spotlight. Or God forbid, have the answer the telephone.
So no, I'm not a hermit. I'm not a weirdo. I'm not a recluse. I'm not a loner. I'm not anything more than a perfectly formed human being, who lives in a sea of not only extroverts - but a sea of other introverts just like me (and YOU) who just want to feel comfortable in their own shoes.
If you're navigating a business as an introvert, you might have actually found solace in the simple, people-free lifestyle. For me it's been pretty great, because it also gives me the chance to be a present parent to my children as well. I've been able to create a lifestyle that makes me happy, and fits my own unique nature. Hooray for that amazing freedom, both to do what I love and to be the person I was built to be.
I'd love to hear your stories of managing your introverted nature against the social norms that extroverts have laid out before us. Have you struggle with introversion as an entrepreneur, or even in your corporate job?
Share your story in the comments below!
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