We’ve all heard the terms “introvert” and “extrovert” and we know what they mean. Most of us even know which category we fall under. Some of us are a mixture of both – an ambivert. Some of us excel under our given personality type, and some of us struggle everyday with trying to make our innate tendencies work for us. The world needs introverts and extroverts alike to function, yet the world seems to be built for the extroverts of the world. With group projects at school, team organization at work, and socialization built around large groups and constant human interaction, it can be hard fitting in as an introvert.
As an introvert myself, I often struggle with fitting in. It’s sometimes hard to be surrounded by extroverts and expected to do extroverted things to succeed, but that doesn’t mean I don’t succeed. While the world is geared towards extroverts, this doesn’t mean that introverts can’t succeed. As Susan Cain explains in her Ted Talk on The Power of Introverts, introverts can excel in a variety of different ways in the extroverted world we live in, and introverts can add value in ways that extroverts can’t.
I’m by no means an expert like Susan Cain, but I’ve learned how I can adjust to the extroverted world around me. While it is, at times, extremely hard to adjust to the world of the extrovert, it’s not impossible. Here are three things I’ve learned can help introverts excel in a world of extroversion.
Fake it ‘til you make it.
This mantra is well known amongst a variety of circles. The idea of pretending or acting a certain way until you ultimately are what you’re pretending to be can be helpful in many different aspects of life. When it comes to succeeding as an introvert in our extroverted society, faking it ‘til you make it can be a game changer. When I was in high school, I was somewhat of a theatre nerd. When I stepped on stage, I was somehow able to quell my nerves and put on a good performance. While acting is not something many introverts would intentionally seek out, it helped me learn that I could do something that scared me if I set my mind to it.
I still remember some of the advice my mother gave me when I had a big scholarship interview my freshman year of college. She told me to pretend like I was playing the part of an outgoing, confident student. It may not have helped me get that particular scholarship, and I doubt my friends would describe be as outgoing even today, but ‘playing the part’ of who I want to be has inevitably gotten me where I want to be. Faking it ‘til you make it can be intimidating, but it eventually works in ways that are unexpected and, ultimately, rewarding.
Push yourself out of your comfort zone.
If you thought faking it ‘til you make it was hard, this little tidbit of advice is even more difficult. Something I’ve learned over the course of the last few years is that you’ll never grow as a person until you try something new. This can be incredibly nerve wracking and can cause many anxiety-ridden and sleepless nights, but it’s essential to growing as a person and breaking out of your shell. Some of the best things I’ve done during my time in college have come from deciding that I was going to do the thing that scared me. At first this meant leaving an old job I had gotten cozy at in favor of a new one that would give me experience closer to what I wanted to do after graduating. Then this meant becoming a teaching assistant and interacting with students in a different way than I was used to.
This idea of pushing yourself out of your comfort zone ultimately ended up with me deciding that I wanted to be a college instructor and applying to grad school, something I don’t thing I would have even considered a possibility if you’d asked me three years ago. Comfort zones are the soft, warm bed we love to fall into every night – they keep us comfortable and content for a while, but if we never wake up and move on to better things we’ll never get anywhere. It’s incredibly scary to try new things, but ultimately it’ll be worth it.
Don’t be afraid to fail.
For me, being an introvert means that I’m often afraid of the potentially negative outcomes of any given situation. I am energized by my time alone, as most introverts are, but I often let that become an excuse to avoid relationships and to stop myself from setting new goals. I’m constantly worried that trying something new and putting myself out there will end disastrously. In fact, this has been the case on more than one occasion.
It’s hard to put your thoughts and feelings out into the world, and it’s hard to overcome your own tendencies to be more reserved. I totally understand that, but I’ve learned that every situation involves a learning curve – even the situations that don’t turn out well in the end. Being willing to make changes means that your also willing to fail. Learn from it, move on from it, and try something else!
We all have to learn how to succeed in the world we live in. For some, this means making adjustments and trying new things. Introverts have so much to add to the world, but in order to make a difference certain concessions must be made. Don’t sell yourself out, instead propel yourself forward. Try something new – push yourself out of your comfort zone, fail a few times until you learn how to succeed, and if all else fails, fake it ‘til you make it.
To learn more about introverts and extroverts, check out Susan Cain’s books and Quiet Revolution.