The world is made up of introverts and extroverts. So which one are you?
Let’s take a quick quiz:
- Does the thought of going to a party and engaging in chit-chat with strangers (or even friends) make your stomach turn?
- Is your idea of a perfect Saturday night sitting alone in your room and curled up on the couch with a good book?
- Does the idea of speaking in front of you peers terrify you?
- Are you your favorite person to spend time with?
If you answered yes to any or all of these, chances are you’re an introvert. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. According to Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, at least a third of the world’s population is made up of introverts. So, as much as you may prefer to be by yourself, you’re certainly not alone.
I actually consider myself an introvert (although my friends and family would probably disagree). Sure, I can be talkative and outgoing at times. But, honestly, most of the time I’d rather be a fly on the wall.
In today’s world of social media, viral videos, and instant fame, we tend to celebrate those who are loud and proud while we scratch our heads at anyone who actually prefers to remain quiet and in the background. What you may not know is that some of the most influential people in history were introverts: Albert Einstein, J.K. Rowling, Mahatma Gandhi, Bill Gates, Tom Hanks, Vincent van Gogh, David Letterman, Abraham Lincoln—yep, all introverts.
The problem is, when you head out in the world to begin your career, there are going to be times when you have to be social, outgoing, engaging. You’re going to have to go on job interviews and sell yourself. Depending on your particular career, you might have to give a business presentation. You’ll probably have to attend conferences and take part in team-building exercises, too.
So how do you come out of your shell and step up to the mic, so to speak, when you’re naturally more comfortable keeping to yourself?
Embrace the Moment
Recently I attended a writers conference where I had to spend the entire day with a group of strangers. As you can imagine, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to it. That said, I knew I would only get the most out of the conference if I put on a happy face and actively engaged with others. It wasn’t easy — exhausting even — but at the end of the day I learned a lot and came away with some valuable new connections that may help me down the road.
Come Out of Hiding
I work out of my home office and really enjoy the solitude. It’s peaceful, quiet, and I don’t have to talk to anyone all day long if I don’t want to. If I want to find out what’s going on, I can just jump on social media. The problem is, solitude can actually be detrimental to your health. Numerous studies have actually shown that daily social interaction is vital to your overall well-being and can actually lesson your risks of things like cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, and depression. So even if you prefer to spend your days alone, make an effort every day to get out and engage with others, even if just for a little while. Take a walk around campus. Meet with a friend for coffee. If you do, you’ll be healthier and happier.
As introverts, we can get comfortable with our routines and habits and not want to try anything new or different. But in order to grow both in your career and on a personal level, you have to be willing to stretch your boundaries and step out of your comfort zone. After all, growth and change go hand in hand. Make a point of it to try new things and face your fears. Maybe try volunteering. Sign up for a class outside of your normal field of study. Take on a leadership role in a club or another student organization. Doing these types of things, uncomfortable as they may seem, will pay huge dividends as you continue to grow and discover all that you’re truly capable of. ~