When Susan Cain was asked what inspired her to write her book, ‘Quiet:The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’, she likened introverts today to “women at the dawn of the feminist movement – second class citizens with gigantic amounts of untapped talent.”
In western society it seems that extrovert traits are usually valued more than introvert ones, causing lots of introverts to believe that something is wrong with them and that they should try to ‘pass’ as extroverts – a huge waste of talent, energy, and happiness.
Susan’s TED talk made a big impression on me, and since it’s been watched over 10 million times on Youtube, I think it’s something that’s touched a lot of other people too!
How do you respond to stimulation?
Being introverted doesn’t mean you’re shy – shyness is more about fear of social judgement, and extroverts can be shy too. It’s more about how you respond to stimulation, including social stimulation. Extroverts get energised through large amounts of stimulation, whereas introverts feel most alive, switched on and capable when they’re in quiet environments, or in solitude.
If you’re a purpose-led entrepreneur you know you’re here to make a difference in the world, but if you’re a natural introvert, new to business, and/or you have some visibility issues, the thought of having to get yourself out there in the spotlight can be really stressful.
If only I could be more like them…
I used to think that to be successful you had to be out there in the spotlight, dazzling your audience from the stage and entertaining them with your wit and high energy brilliance. I would sit watching the speakers at talks and events comparing myself to these outgoing and charismatic people who were changing lives, wishing I could do that too but finding myself severely lacking.
I felt like the woman with the untapped talent, knowing I needed to get in front of people to share what was within me, but judged myself too softly spoken and gentle, highly sensitive, paralysed with shyness and visibility issues and just not extraverted ‘enough’, so it put me off wanting to go anywhere near a spotlight or a stage!
And then I went to a live audience with Eckhart Tolle, and it changed everything for me.
Interview with Eckhart Tolle
The power of presence and being yourself
In that auditorium of maybe 1500 people Eckhart walked out onto the stage, sat down, closed his eyes and didn’t say a word for at least a minute. It was as if the whole audience was holding its breath waiting for him to speak. The air was thick and you could hear a pin drop! And when he did start speaking he was quietly spoken, often pausing with eyes closed before speaking to gather his thoughts, yet he held us enthralled, hanging on his every word. There is such presence and power in his gentleness!
What an inspiration! Here was someone whose teachings had changed my life, whose books I’d read over and over again – he was reaching millions, making a huge difference – and he was a soft-spoken introvert, like me.
That discovery was the start of my public speaking journey and it’s been one of the biggest, but most rewarding challenges I’ve ever undertaken.
Impossible to… I’m possible!
Not long ago you’d have found me shaking like a leaf at the thought of even just having to stand up at a networking meeting to do my 60 second introduction to promote myself, never mind standing on a stage. But three years on and I got to run my Brand from the Heart LIVE event solo in central London, sharing my gifts, feeling I was in the right place and fully mic-ed up ‘Madonna-style’ to a room full of people!
The day went brilliantly and the energy in the room was electric! Everyone left with clarity, insight, action steps and a feeling of a day well spent, which made me feel like I was really aligned with my purpose.
I felt like I’d climbed a mountain!
And the feedback that touched me the most was that people appreciated my authenticity, my depth and gentle style because it inspired them to believe that it was possible for them to share their brilliance from the stage too, despite their fears.
It’s thought that one third to one half the population can be found on the introverted end of the introvert-extrovert continuum, and to attract your ideal clients you have to be yourself or people will feel the incongruence. So whether you have an introverted, or extroverted nature, explore what makes you YOU.
Work to your strengths, and get support in the areas you’re weaker in so you can reach the people you’re here to serve. Don’t use introversion as an excuse that holds you back. When you share who you really are you will attract those people who are similar to you because they will know that you ‘get them’. It’s no surprise that 90% of my clients are highly sensitive introverts!
Get help and keep the batteries topped up
So I’d achieved my BIG dream and I couldn’t have been happier…
…But then I totally crashed.
Being an introvert doesn’t stop you being able to present from the stage, but it can be very draining. And it’s not just the giving out from the front of the room to people that depletes an introvert’s energy, it’s the marketing that goes on before, and the follow up, which is all outward-going energy.
Having learned the hard way I’ve discovered how important it is to have enough support. I had great help on the day (thanks to my amazing team – Aska, Sara, Lenka, Steve, Siobhan and Sundy), and help with social media to promote the event, I was eating healthily, meditating and drinking lots of water to look after myself, but I still did far too much myself, so my batteries were only partly charged before I got to the event, and then I gave everything I had left!
Since then I’ve spent the past couple of weeks slowly re-energising in quiet and solitude. I’ve found it really hard to do any work, so took it as a time for introspection and reflection, and now I’m finally starting to get my energy and focus back.
Like everything in nature our energy moves in seasons and cycles, there’s a time for expending it and time needed to replenish it. Inner reflection and withdrawal is as necessary and valuable as dynamic action. And as introverts, that’s where we excel. We just have to be aware of our personal energetic needs, levels and patterns, whether we’re introverts or extroverts, and find ways to top it up and manage it so it doesn’t negatively impact us.
That way we can shine in our unique brilliance, make our difference and enjoy the fruits of our labour without succumbing to exhaustion or making ourselves ill!
Need some help?
If you recognise yourself as an unfulfilled introvert or extrovert with lots to share with the world, or just lack the clarity to do your thing in ways that suit your way of being, and you’d like some help to bring out your unique brilliance, why not get in touch to book a complimentary discovery session.
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