Introverts are easily some of the most misunderstood beings on earth.
I had no idea that I was introverted until I was in my mid-20’s, when I took the Myers-Brigg’s personality test at work. My results were that I was 52% introverted. My first reaction was that “I don’t think of myself as shy”. And there is a great example of how introverts are misunderstood. I didn’t even understand myself!
Introvert, as defined by Websters: 1. in·tro·vert transitive verb \ˈin-trə-ˌvərt : to turn inward or in upon itself: as a : to concentrate or direct upon oneself
Introvert, as defined by dictionary.com: in·tro·vert [n., adj. in-truh-vurt; v. in-truh-vurt] noun 1. a shy person. Dictionary.com’s definion of Introvert is way off, and Webster’s isn’t quite on point either. But why?
Ugh. These textbook definitions are so off base it makes me cringe. They are just totally wrong. While the surface symptom of introversion in many cases is that a person appears shy, that person’s personality could be quite the opposite. The uncomfortable environments, inability to process everything that’s going on, and being in large groups of people you don’t know will most definitely show you a person that looks shy on the outside. But on the inside, it’s just an issue processing so much going on at the same time that a time out is necessary. My problem is a processing problem. Give me too much stimulus, especially that which is unfamiliar, and I don’t have a great experience. I feel the need to leave, the desire to end whatever experience is happening, and go home to peace and quiet. The root cause of this is because my brain and self have a need to take in information, process it, and adjust to it. Throw me in a crowded bar where I know one, maybe two people, and I’ll be counting the minutes until we can finally leave. But, give me speaking content that I have a few days or weeks to study, tell me about my audience, and I’ll be able to get up in front of the group, deliver a killer presentation, and nobody would ever know about my discomfort and concerns. Sound a bit like you? Then you and I are meant to be friends.
So why do introverts get mistaken (and misdefined) as shy?
Because I wanted to leave that bar the second I showed up. Extroverted people, who feed off of the energy in exciting social settings, see me clamming up, getting uncomfortable, and as a result I appear shy. Or withdrawn. Or disinterested. Sadly, that’s not exactly the case.
You have no idea how much I wish I could make myself an extrovert, specifically so that I would be more comfortable with new people, places and things. When you’re a sole proprietor like me, it’s practically an essential trait. Networking and social interaction (face to face, NOT online) is the core of success in our business.
Introversion is a complex personality type. So complex that it caused communication and relationship issues between me and my father growing up. I was nearly finished with college by the time he read The 5 Love Languages (http://www.5lovelanguages.com). He was looking for help communicating with one of my siblings, and in turn, figured out how to communicate with me. His discovery happened at about the same time that my Myers Briggs test told me I was introverted. But I still didn’t get why.
A couple years later, now that I have an understanding about what introversion really is, I understand myself better, have started to leverage my strengths as an introvert, and have (painfully) started to figure out how to deal with settings that extroverts (i.e. not me) thrive in.
In that same couple of years, I have developed a career as a wedding photographer and in my hunger to grow my career better and faster, I started to dwell on the fact that my introversion slows me down.
I consciously became aware of the fact that I don’t seek out new social settings. i.e. I don’t seek out new contacts, clients, and referrals. I’m uncomfortable in groups of new people. i.e. I am scarred to death about going to the yearly Seattle photographers’ Christmas Party because I don’t KNOW anyone. And I’m equally as unnerved about the idea of hosting a booth at a big time wedding show.
I need time to process and adjust. This is in direct opposition to skills necessary to further a career which depends almost entirely on you getting your name out there. People won’t just find me. I have to find THEM. An introvert’s worst nightmare.
Until you decide to make it a dream. :-)
This blog is all about my discoveries as and thoughts about being an introvert, how it guides my business decisions and goals, and how I can use my knowledge of self to create a more fulfilling life and career. Along the way, I’ll talk about my real-life small victories, business projects and new undertakings, give you the honest report on success and feedback from friends and clients, and once in a while provide a pep talk here that I undoubtedly also gave to myself.
I hope you’ll follow along on this experiment. As getting this even started was an exercise in freeing myself from introversion.
Not sure if you’re an introvert? Read this article at Huffingtonpost.com. I found it to be pretty spot on. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/20/introverts-signs-am-i-introverted_n_3721431.html
Not an introvert, but still trying to make this make sense? Check out this infographic. I found the analogies fun, but also super helpful. http://dailyinfographic.com/guide-to-understanding-the-introverted-infographic
For more on the Myers Briggs personality test, introversion and extroversion, check out this link: http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/extraversion-or-introversion.asp