Anxious Introvert in an Extrovert World
"Solitude matters, and for some people, its the air they breathe" - Susan Cain
Hey there! It's been a while since I wrote so here I am. It is the middle of July, weather is hot, and I've been doing a lot of goal-setting. Yes it isn't the end of the year and I'm not doing any New Years resolutions in July. I've realized you dont have to wait for the end of the year to start looking into your goals. Whether these are short term goals, long term goals, personal goals, career goals, relationship goals, you name it. As I was thinking about what some of my professional goals were, I started feeling a little anxiety kicking in; which is what brought me to this topic. So I'm sure most of us heard about resumes our whole life and tips about how to write a good resume to stand out, etc. However, I don't recall hearing about the importance of building professional relationships and how it can help you further your professional career. In today's world and depending on where you work, it is about who you know rather than how you look on paper. In my experience working in the community mental health system, I've witnessed this first hand. Jobs are usually offered to people recommended by individuals already working there regardless of the qualifications. Sucks I know but it plays a great part.
It is about who you know rather than how you look on paper.
Advancing your career, promoting, or simply landing another work opportunity requires you to have professional references. Looking back, even trying to advance in your education requires letters of recommendation as well. These are people who can vouch for you, your work, and pretty much why you are an awesome person who should be hired. Im sure each career path is different and this isn't to say that every workplace is like this. Bottom like: professional relationships matter. So what does this mean for someone with anxiety? Or a person who is an introvert? I began to look back on my journey to where I am now. Ive been through community college, undergrad college, and graduate school. I've also been through job changes and promotions. Here is my experience.
Introvert & Extrovert Meaning
If you haven't heard of the concept before, the introvert personality type tends to focus inward on their own thoughts and emotions. Extroverts tend to focus their energy on external things like other people or their environment. This is also where they gain the most energy. For an introvert like me, being alone helps me regain energy. On the other hand, an extrovert gets energy from being around others or socializing. When someone thinks of an introverted person, a lot of times they describe them as shy, quiet, prefers to be alone, and perhaps even antisocial. Extroverts are seen as more outgoing, assertive, charismatic, friendly, confident, and able to work their way around the crowd. There are also those who consider themselves an ambivert, which is a balance of both introvert/extrovert. Im not entirely too sure about what causes you to be one or the other. Could it be genetics? Brain chemical balances? Not too sure but that's something you can research if your'e interested.
I was always shy and quiet growing up. In school I was more of the overachiever who followed directions by the book. Ive talked about my experience of culture shock in college and feeling like I didn't fit in. It was hard for me to feel like I related to other people. I've always been able to get my sh*t done though. My grades were good and I was always able to work with smaller groups of people. In some ways, I also thrived in public speaking so maybe I'm a little bit of an ambivert. The first time I remember questioning my abilities was when I began the process to applying to graduate school. I needed 3 letters of recommendation but only had 2. The year prior, I had participated in an internship on campus learning about different developmental disorders and how to work with students. It was basically a group of I think it was 6 of us and we met every week in a classroom to learn about all these things. I was usually not the most outspoken of the bunch and was the introvert in a room full of extroverts. I feel like I basically did the exact same things everyone else did minus the extra chatter. So I decided to ask the the director of the program for a letter of recommendation.
A simple "NO" would have sufficed. The director proceeded to tell me that I was too quiet and introverted to go into social work. Director(they) tried to talk me out of pursuing graduate school. According to them, I could not possibly be a successful social worker because this would require me to be more outspoken. I walked out of that office with extra motivation to prove them wrong. I was so upset that they were trying to discourage me.
The first time I remember questioning my abilities was when I began the process of applying to graduate school.
Unfortunately being introverted can sometimes be confused as being stand-offish, rude, not confident, or even not capable. Because we aren't as socially inclined, we can be thought as not being able to get along with others or unfriendly. That is farthest from the truth. Being an introvert doesn't mean that you dont like people or aren't able to socialize. You just do it differently. As an introvert, I am more observant, tend to think before I speak, am a good listener, and value quality vs quantity when it comes to friendships. I also possess the same amount of skills and knowledge as anyone else. Simply because I express myself in a different way, doesn't make me any less capable.
This is something that I continued to struggle with throughout my education. My supervisor for my first internship as a student refused to provide a letter of recommendation for me because I wasn't trying to be her bestie even though I really worked hard and did what I was suppose to. People can respond to introverts differently.
Anyways, I really wanted to write about this because I'm sure that I am not the only one who has felt this before. As I've moved forward in my career, into more "grown up" roles, things have changed. All of my introvert qualities have helped me tremendously and I've gotten good feedback. Ive been told introverts do well in supervisor roles or leadership. Ive learned to embrace being an introvert. There's nothing wrong with being quiet and needing to be alone to recharge. So next time you see your quiet colleague, don't be afraid to say hello. They don't hate you. The truth is they probably want to talk to you but it can be overwhelming. If you are in the role of a supervisor, take this into account when dealing with your staff.
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