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I'm An Introvert, And I'm Okay

Why being an introvert is something to embrace, and not be ashamed of.

As a child I just thought of myself as shy. I just didn't have the confidence of some of my friends, who seemed much more at ease with most things. I hated speaking in class, dreaded doing any form of presentation, struggled to converse fluently with my parents' friends or my friends' parents. Being the centre of attention was often unbearable, things like school plays were terrifying. I spent a lot of time as a kid, red and sweaty through blushing. It's not a good look.

As I got a bit older and into my teens I still labelled myself as shy, but I decided that was never going to be enough and so I added awkward and nervous to the list too. Talking to girls was alright once I knew them, but I could never approach a girl I didn't know and strike up a conversation. I tried believe me, it makes my toes curl even now thinking about some of those moments. There's a whole book I could write just in that, suitably titled 'How Not To Chat To Girls, If You Want To Get With Them'.

I was often the quietest person in any room I was in, or so it felt. The strange thing was, to the people I was closest to and trusted, I wasn't shy or awkward at all. Yes I was quieter than most people but I wasn't really short on confidence or personality. But, at times I thought I must appear to be boring because I was quiet; other times I felt people thought I was arrogant because I didn't seek out conversation or would withdraw to the safety of the corner of the room and to people I was most comfortable with.

In my twenties and thirties I gradually learnt to accept this quieter, more withdrawn aspect to my personality but more out of a sense of defiance from not being able to 'work a room' or 'network' effectively. Networking is still a concept that strikes abject fear in me. It's a skill I am still utterly devoid of. But, with a stubborn rejection of what others could do seemingly effortlessly, I dug deep and forged a way of becoming more extroverted. It was hard work but I managed to somehow create a version of myself that could function effectively in the 'real world'. As a result I worked successfully in television production for over a decade, running and managing teams. I've been the Managing Director in my family business for over 20 years, where I have had to manage, motivate and communicate with a team of up to 25 people. In fact people often commented that I seemed to have a calm demeanour - little did they know how hard I was often pedalling below the water.

In my forties I was able to justify rarely wanting to be in the company of people I didn't know well, because I was married with young kids, and it's really easy to circulate within the groups of friends you feel most comfortable with - plus kids give you a whole new array of fascinating subject matters to discuss such as sleepless nights, nappy changes and baby vomit; plus alcohol seems to be a totally acceptable means of self medication amongst the new parent brigade. I am a lot better at talking shit when I have had a few drinks.

Making small talk (when sober) has always been incredibly difficult, and as I've got older I've become less and less tolerant of it too. As an introspective person I tend to think quite deeply, and small talk often feels so forced and pointless, and even to this day I really struggle with it.

The world right now seems to reward and fawn the extroverted. We are living through the celebrity age where attention is the currency and the ability to talk to anyone about anything are considered absolute basic survival skills. Online too, you have to find your way through all the noise. To stand out often means being the loudest, in whatever form that may take.

All of the above can leave those quieter souls amongst us feeling, at the very least discouraged, but at the worst, downright isolated. There have been times I have felt both of these in large measures. I silently huffed and puffed at the way others seemed to be able to get ahead through the use of their personality and outward bluster, whilst this just wasn't an option for me.

Then a few years back I read an article, I can't even find it now unfortunately, but it changed everything about the way I thought of myself. It taught me to embrace being an introvert by focusing on the positives, and no longer dwelling on any negatives. It even argued that there weren't any negatives to being an introvert.

Introverts often enjoy, even love, their own company. Extroverts often need to be in company and struggle when they are alone.

Introverts listen more, they watch more, they see more, and perhaps sometimes adversely, they feel more.

Introverts live life at a slower pace. We are watchers.

Introverts are often extremely creative people.

Introverts ironically make great leaders, because they don't want to always be centre stage and allow others to shine.

Introverts tend to look after themselves, recharging their energy with quiet solitude after socialising.

Less is more. There's already too much noise, too much chat, too much information out there. Introverts are doing their bit to help with the pollution of the social environment. (Introverts are good for the planet.)

Mystics have been telling us for centuries that the answers are inside of us all along, and the real journey is inwards not outwards. Maybe we just know that instinctively. Introverts cut out the middle man.

I am an introvert, and I'm really proud of it now. I have learnt to love the aspects of me that I judged and condemned so harshly in my younger years. I love the person that being introverted has made me.

When you can learn to see your introversion as a superpower and not your kryptonite......the sky is the limit.

Up, up and away.

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