Sunday, January 11, 2015

Putting yourself out there when you are an Introvert

One thing I've noticed from so many of the bright and shiny people I know is that a good number of them classify themselves as Introverted. 

I am one of them. 

This doesn't mean that I'm shy (although I can be, especially when I'm in situations or in a frame of mind that trends towards feeling shaky or insecure) but it does mean that social interactions with groups larger than 2 or 3 cost me something in terms of my personal energy. It means that every time I put myself out there and have to be heard above the maddening crowd I am spending from my personal reserves. Those reserves have to be replenished which I do by spending time alone doing my favorite things (reading, writing, art projects, taking long walks, meditating) or spending time with one or two close friends.
I can't see you so you can't see me!

When you fall into the Introvert camp there is a huge temptation to exclude yourself from highly visible, energy expending activities such as leading teams, public speaking or anything that puts you in contact with lots of people.

The thing is, being with people is where its at. 

If you are a writer, artist, teacher or anyone who creates, connecting your work to an audience is one of the most important things you can learn to do.

I had a meeting with my mentor this last week and I asked her about her first year as a coach and mentor and what was one of the things that helped her get over the hump (from spinning her wheels to an active, growing business) and she said it was being comfortable talking to others about herself.

I caught my breath for a moment. The idea of "talking about myself" pushed a big button.

One of the virtues we are taught as children (especially females) is to think of others first and not be so talky about ourselves. I mean, how can you serve others if all you are doing is blah-di-blahing about yourself? 

Well, my mentor isn't known for blah-di-blahing.

The kind of "talking about yourself" she was describing wasn't about ego, over-sharing or thumping your chest. Its about connecting--finding the intersection between you and the person sitting across from you. And to do that, you have to risk sharing yourself.

For introverts this is important to remember. Genuine connection can energize but to get to the energy you have to risk putting yourself out there. You do that by sharing about yourself. 

I took some public speaking classes a couple years ago and I was dead certain these would be a horrible waste of time. I just hated the idea of getting in front of a group of people (and it was on a Saturday AND my boss was making me go!!!). But I discovered I was actually pretty good at telling a story in front of an audience when I connected with the individual people in the room instead of talking "at" the group. 

I actually remember going home after the class feeling pretty chipper despite having interacted with a group all day--a much better outcome than what I expected (which included lots of Anime on Netflix and Smartfood...not a brilliant recharge but I wasn't exactly anticipating an evening of meditation after that).

Bottom line, I had to learn that I could manage my energy in these group (or even crowd) settings. Also, the more bitter pill, was that I had to own that I was using my introversion as an excuse to not share things that are important to me. There is a big difference between the manageable concern of dealing with your energy in a crowd and more garden variety concern of the fear of being judged. 

Fear of putting yourself out there is usually married to garbagey thoughts such as "its egotistical to talk about myself", "who am I to go on like this", "those people will think I'm (uniformed, untalented, annoying, dumb, a lightweight, unhinged, over-reaching etc)". 

Well, some people may or may not be thinking trash thoughts about what you are offering--SO WHAT. 

In any given crowd there are going to be some people thinking shit thoughts about whatever they experience "out there". The trick is to not get caught up in it. Whatever "they" are thinking, has little to do with you--you just happened to be the one that started up a negative thought loop they already were nursing. Focusing on them will separate you from the people in that very same crowd who need to experience your art. Be brave for those people and go put yourself out there anyway. 

So, my fellow introverted artists, writers, dreamers and change makers, I hope you will challenge yourself to connecting with the people who need your good stuff. Find the connection, let the haters hate and bring your magic to the world.

If you want to see me put myself out there in a very public way sign up for my web class on Getting Agile with your Life. Free and there will be a Q&A to cover how this relates to your goals.


  1. I just read your book and am using the principles to work toward my own goals. I am a software product manager and have used agile and sprints in my daily work but not as much in reaching my personal goals. Now I've found your blog and feel I have found a kindred spirit (I'm an introvert as well). I just wanted to leave this note to let you know you are being read and to encourage you to keep going!

    1. Hi Tamra! Thanks for the note! One of my good friends is NOT a fan of agile as practiced in software development--I guess much of it depends on how its adopted. I'm so glad you gave it a chance. Let me know about your progress. cheers, sasha