I still remember when I was 12-years-old and we were taught about personality psychology in school. By the end of the class, I had deduced what I was, an introvert! Despite the self-imposed social boundaries, I tried not to let my introversion get in my way. The keyword being tried. I think I have been successful to a certain extent though; I try to talk to everyone even though I wish that they would just ignore me so that I can pretend that they don’t exist. But how many times has it worked? I will give you a hint; you can count the number on one hand. Simple, enough? But, you know what, World? You judge introverts, who is to say that you don’t judge all the introverted entrepreneurs out there? I haven’t been there, so I don’t know, but I guess, I will know that pretty soon.
We live in a world where networks are important; we live in a country where business happens through relationships and networks. But that is the world of extroverts, what about us introverts? How do introverted entrepreneurs thrive in a world designed by extroverts? How do we learn to speak in a world that has never been quiet? Tough questions, but important nonetheless!
In ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that can’t stop talking‘, Susan Cain very eloquently said,
“Introversion—along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness—is now a second class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology. Extroversion, on the other hand, is an enormously appealing personality style, but we’ve turned it into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform.”
And this is the reality, according to many pieces of research; talkative people are smarter, better-looking, more interesting, more desirable as friends, and more competent.
But how right are we in accepting the Extrovert Ideal so easily? We tend to forget Van Gogh’s sunflowers, Einstein’s theory of Relativity, Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Jordan’s basketball, MJ’s music, haven’t they kept you on your toes? They were all introverts. Surprised? The list hasn’t ended yet. Bill Gates, Freddie Mercury, Isaac Newton, Kurt Cobain, Warren Buffet, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, David Bowie, Mark Zuckerberg, and I can go on and on. There are so many introverted entrepreneurs out there, and they are as successful as the extroverted ones.
The fact is, success in business requires the ability to make decisions and solve problems. It isn’t written anywhere that only particularly gregarious and outgoing people can take better decisions or solve problems.
I know, World, what you are thinking right now, “How can these shy, reticent, and anti-social beings even thrive in this fast-paced and aggressive business world?” To figure out the answer to this question, you will have to keep reading!
The fact is, World, introversion isn’t the same as shyness, being reticent and anti-social. We are not shy all the time; there are times when our confidence shines brightly than the Sun. We aren’t reticent all the time either, yes, we don’t talk to just anyone, but we talk about everything to someone, and that someone is all that matters. We aren’t anti-social, nah, I prefer selectively-social, note the difference.
Beth L. Buelow, Author of the amazing book, ‘The Introvert Entrepreneur: Amplify your strengths and create success in your terms‘, says in her book,
“Understanding the true definition of an introvert can be extraordinarily empowering and liberating…The reality is that introversion inherently has nothing to do with social skills and everything to do with how a person gains or drains energy, processes information, and relates to the world.”
There are introverts who love to network, go through sales processes and make speeches without preparation and then avoid the world. Then there are others who run away from these activities but can successfully develop those skills when needed. Whichever the case is with introverts, there will be times when introversion will be the strength for them and there will be times when their personality will be their biggest challenge.
But you know what, World? The power does not lie in being perfect all the time, the real power lies in the awareness that you are not perfect and the degree to which you act on that awareness.
How do introverted entrepreneurs make a go?
Introverted Entrepreneurs don’t need to get out of their comfort zone, nah, they need to expand it. New at it? Let’s take a detailed tour!
How many times have you been told that you need to get out of your comfort zone? I’ve been told countless times, but the question has always remained – Why do I need to get out of my comfort zone? My comfort zone is occupied by ice-creams (lots of it), books, music, mountains, stars, cat pictures and my sanctuary, my bedroom. It is a cozy, cozy place and according to people who want me out of it, I will turn into an unchallenged, indifferent creature with cobwebs replacing my hair and dust replacing my body lotion. (Jeez, I paint a scary picture!) Really though?
Asking me to step out of this zone and enter into something scary is like asking me to step on burning coals. But if I do step on coals, the first thing I will do after three microseconds is find an ocean to comfort my feet in. It doesn’t help the fact that the nearest ocean is, like, miles away. (Now, I will have to replace the ocean with a tub filled with ice which isn’t even half exciting.)
So asking me to step out of my comfort zone is just a difficult way of throttling me back into it. My comfort zone is my need and want, by asking me to come out of it; you are defying basic marketing principles.
It is a place that recharges me, comforts me and I think it is fine just the way it is, thank you so much.
There are other ways of symbolizing the fact that we are growing as Beth L. Buelow discussed in her book, it is called expanding our capacity zone.
When you are asking me to expand my capacity zone, you are acknowledging the fact that I am capable, I have skills and drive (and probably your introvert’s deteriorating self-confidence needs it). I am just not using them to my full potential, and that’s where the expansion comes in.
You do realize, World, that words matter and how you frame it makes all the difference?
How do introverted entrepreneurs expand their capacity zone?
Moving from a good place to a better place sounds rather encouraging than telling us to move to a place of expanded power from a place of weakness, right World? Right.
We have come to our solution, World. Now, the question is, how do we do that expansion? In her novel, The Introvert Entrepreneur: Amplify your strengths and create success in your terms, Beth L. Buelow has discussed exactly five ways to do that. Share it with all the future introverted entrepreneurs around you, World, huh?
Carry your serenity and safety around inside yourself
It’s okay to feel exhausted, it is completely okay to step outside, wear earphones and get lost for a while, and it’s okay to close your eyes and do just nothing. By doing these little things we can expand our capability of staying in a place that is draining us, why must all these activities be considered rude, World? These are our ways of reconnecting with our quieter selves, and when we come out of these, we are full of energy and calmness. That way, we will be able to spend the time required to spend in a party and not lose our senses too.
Stretch into asking for what you need and want
Is it time to leave? Then leave. Do you want to complement your exit with a few words? Do that too. Can’t say that directly to the host? Mix other words into those words and then say it, but say it.
Why should we give you excuses or justifications for doing something we so earnestly want to do, World? There is nothing wrong with prioritizing self-care. No one else is going to do that for us, we have to realize and then ask what we want.
Accept who you are
Don’t hide, accept who you are. You are a quiet being in a world that makes a lot of noises, and it’s okay to be that. Author Sophia Dembling says,
“When I started thinking consciously about my introversion and started working on it with intention, even difficult things became very easy, very quickly.”
Like, when Sophia decided that she is not obligated to answer calls, she could answer them easily. She didn’t do it because others expected her to, she did because she knew she had a choice.
When you know you can leave that networking event when you are ready to, it becomes easy to go there. Try this next time, you might just end up enjoying the thing.
Befriend unknown people
No, you don’t want to lift that gun and fire at me just yet, fellow introvert. I know, introverts are afraid of the unknown, we don’t like being put on the spot and we definitely like to know what we are in for. But life doesn’t work that way, does it now? There will always be some situations where you will be alone and wouldn’t know what to expect. In those moments, transfer your focus from fear to curiosity. Be curious about meeting new people, and just think about all the things that a stranger can teach you. Probably you will realize that she is as afraid as you are and you will find someone in that party who will know where you are coming from. And you won’t be so alone anymore.
Instead of getting scared, wonder. Wonder what’s going to happen, wonder what’s in store for you. And trust yourself; trust that you can deal with whatever will happen.
Take an improv workshop
I know it is difficult to trust the world, but one should be able to trust themselves. If you are one of those people who are still struggling to accept the gift that has been given to you in the form of ‘you’, then probably improv workshops are for you. It is a structured way of practising to manage the unexpected, there are rules, but there is permission to fail.
These workshops are all about acceptance, authenticity, and trust—an introvert’s way of creating personal energy and safety.
So, now you see, World, the feat that many ‘future’ introverted entrepreneurs around you have been wanting to achieve isn’t exactly as bad as it looks. Standing from here and peering in, the world of entrepreneurship looks like a world filled with adventures and challenges and failures, lots of it. But that’s what life is, isn’t it?
Hoping you would be a little more understanding next time, World.
I will see ya soon!
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Introvert Healing 101: Write it all out!
This is the second letter to the World from an Introvert, stay tuned for more.
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