Quit Hiding Behind Your Introversion
- By: Jessica Faust | Date: Sep 26 2017
Being an introvert is a real thing. I have friends who are extremely shy and I’ve helped authors write books on the subject. It’s also an extremely convenient excuse.
It’s why authors don’t network at conferences and why publicity and marketing are such a struggle. I’m not arguing with whether or not you’re an introvert, what I’m telling you is to stop making it your crutch.
We all have our personality quirks and challenges. I wouldn’t call myself an introvert, but I don’t think of myself as an extrovert either. I’m also not going to spend time psychoanalyzing myself here because none of you really care. What I know is that when I’m dropped into a room full of people I don’t know (aka a writers conference) I get nervous and sometimes wander around looking for a friend or a group to talk to. My hands sweat and I’m constantly looking for the door. And I have a choice. I have a choice of how I’m going to face that situation. I have a choice of what’s more important to me. Is it more important for me to be an introvert or do I really want to use this opportunity to network in a way that’s going to build my list and BookEnds?
I could decide I’m an introvert and use it as my excuse to leave, or I could decide that I’m there to build a client list, to network with agents and editors, and to make new contacts. I could wipe my palms on my skirt, take a deep breath and a sip of my cocktail and charge in. It might not always work. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked up to a group of authors to try to introduce myself and initiate conversation only to be ignored or made to feel like an intrusion. I didn’t die though. I didn’t even cry. I just pulled up my tights and moved on to find a more inclusive group.
Of course you’re an introvert, you keep telling yourself and everyone else that and the more people you tell the truer you make it. Couldn’t the same be said of telling yourself that you’re brave, that you’re a networker, that you’re going to do this? If you walked into that conference and told yourself that you’re a networking genius enough times you would make that as true as you did when you made yourself an introvert.
Let’s stop hiding behind being an introvert and start challenging ourselves to really use the opportunities we’re given to meet with and talk to the people we’re there to meet with and talk to. Decide you can do this. And if you’re really truly an introvert check out Laurie Helgoe’s
Introvert Power and find that inner strength I know you have.
I was terrified at my first conference (introvert here), but over time and with practice I’ve learnt to be more outgoing. Not that I’ve changed my introvert ways, but I’ve learnt how to mask them and put my best foot forward. Thing is, people can’t tell how you feel on the inside, so if you can pretend to be confident, they assume you are =)
Jessica probably won’t believe this because the Kate Douglas she knows never shuts up, but the real me dreads social situations. On the other hand, Kate Douglas loves to be around people and never meets a stranger. Essentially,,
my pseudonym has bigger balls than the other me, and she’s the one who goes to conferences. When it gets to be too much, she gives the boring Kate a break to go hide in her room and read.
Role playing has gotten me through situations I never even dreamed, back in those early pre-published days. After a while, it becomes the default for socialization, though I do have to occasionally tell her to shut up, or I’ll send her to her room.
Ha! Someone had to say it 🙂 Way to go, Jessica.
What you’re describing is shyness and/or social anxiety. Introversion means you don’t enjoy, feel fulfilled by, or feel energized by situations like that. You feel drained and mentally exhausted. Someone who is far to one end of the introvert spectrum probably feels drained by noon every day, so they will of course resist something that’s *extra* draining. Introversion is not a personality flaw or something to be ashamed of, it’s just an aspect of who someone is that’s no better or worse than extroversion.
That doesn’t mean introverts can’t be expected to just get through it sometimes. We all have to do things we don’t like, introverts included. But it would be more helpful to treat different personality types with compassion, and encourage them to find and use their coping strategies.
Introverts are already strong, social situations make them tired, not weepy, and I think it’s really important to remember that to be an introvert in a world that only values extroversion requires bravery on a daily basis. Maybe a better approach would be to make sure your authors know you’re not asking them to change who they fundamentally are, but only to figure out how to do what needs to be done, with the reward being greater professional success. Kindness will probably go farther than criticism.
Thank you. You are correct and I should have made myself more clear in the post. I hear authors say all the time, “I’m an introvert” when in fact they are just shy and hiding behind a term so they don’t have to push themselves.
Introversion is a serious struggle for some and I’m sorry I didn’t acknowledge that better.
Introvert is more than just being shy. I think you should understand it more.
I agree I need to understand introversion more and I’m sorry I wasn’t more clear in my post. As I said to another commenter, what I often hear authors say is that they are introverts and it’s an excuse for not pushing themselves when, in fact, most are simply shy and using the term as an excuse. I feel for people who struggle with true introversion and agree that this post is not for them.
Shyness and social anxiety are real challenges that many of us, especially some introspective writers, face. Introversion is completely different, and not a struggle at all but—in my opinion—a valuable asset. As I write in my book as well, it’s completely normal for introverts to take time to warm up in social situations. Doesn’t mean we can’t be rockstar salespeople when we are ready. My whole platform for introverted lawyers is that we are tired of being told to act like extroverts. The legal profession needs to cultivate quiet thinkers instead of talkers.