When the topic of extrovert vs introvert comes up, I always have trouble finding which side of the spectrum I fall on.
From grade school up through most of college, I always had a big fear of presentations. I know it’s very common for people to be nervous about public speaking, but I felt mine was a bit extreme. It was something I’d dread for weeks and the anxious symptoms I’d experience the day of were crippling – incredibly fast heartbeat, shortness of breath, shaky voice, blurred vision, it was extremely difficult to deal with.
I’d always been comfortable around family, friends, and even mutual friends. But putting myself out there seemed difficult – especially to strangers. I felt the need to win people over and I think that may have had to do with my own poor self-image.
Fast forward to the second half of college when I was in business school. The first day of the semester was always dreadful because I knew we’d probably play “Let’s go around the room and introduce ourselves”.
Well, that happened in my first class of business school. And when it was clear what we were going to do, the symptoms washed over me. I couldn’t control it, and I couldn’t stand another embarrassment. I made up an excuse that I had to leave.
I sat in my car and cried in frustration because I could not get over the fear of presenting myself to a room of strangers. I remember thinking to myself “I’m studying business, how the hell am I going to make it in business if I can’t even introduce myself.”
I decided to speak with a campus counselor and address my insecurities instead of trying to hide them from everyone. Just the small step of verbally expressing my fear helped immensely.
Later that semester, I gave a presentation with more confidence than I’d ever felt standing in front of a class.
Fast forward to my senior year and I was leading meetings as Vice President for the school’s Supply Chain Management Association with an audience of 60+ students and potential employers (who went on to offer me a full-time position a few weeks later).
I’m now almost 2 years removed from college graduation. I moved across the country where I knew barely anyone and took a job in sales. This would have been a daunting thought for high school Andrew.
Come to find out, the idea of sales was still a daunting thought for college graduate Andrew.
I remember the weeks and days leading up to hitting the phones on the sales floor. Again, I was in a room full of unfamiliar faces and about to put my speaking skills on display. I was nervous as hell on my first phone call and it showed. But honestly, that’s all it took to shake the fear again.
I came to realize that going headfirst toward your fear is the best way to conquer it.
So now, present day, I make 50-100 cold calls per day on a sales floor. Sometimes the room is dead quiet and I know everyone is listening to me try and sell a stranger – and other times the room is buzzing and it’s easy to riff with the person on the other end.
The thing I’ve come to realize after being in sales for 6 months is that it’s mentally draining. I tend to be chipper and upbeat and talkative during the day, but by the time I get home, it’s time to shut off.
I don’t particularly want to socialize with strangers at the dog park, I don’t want to hangout with friends, I don’t want to talk on the phone, I want to be in silence with my dog and my music.
Although I’ve put myself in a position that forces me to be extroverted by being in a new city and taking on a sales role, I still have introverted characteristics.
I felt like I had “beat” by introverted side, but come to find I had just suppressed it.
I was on a date not too long ago and were on the topic of introverted vs extroverted.
I thought I’d surprise her by saying I felt like an introvert. But she wasn’t surprised at all. She said, “You’re an ambivert.” And I said, “I’m a what?”
She said, “You’re very outgoing and social, but you need a recharge in isolation after being social.”
She was exactly right.
It made perfect sense. I’m sociable and talkative all day long at my job, but when I get home, I just want to block the world out.
It’s kind of a strange dilemma if I’m being honest. When I’m approached by someone, I’m much more receptive to engaging in conversation.
It’s seldom that I feel the desire to go out of my way and approach a stranger. However, when I do have the feeling, it’s fun and it feels great to connect with someone new.
But when that feeling isn’t there, I sometimes want it to be. And when I do try and engage, it sometimes comes off as nervous and unnatural and I begin to feel the traits of myself from grade school.
There are ebbs and flows in our moods and I think being able to understand where you are in your rhythm is important.
I’ve also come to realize that when you feel good about the things you’re doing, you project that onto the world with confidence.
So, when I’m feeling shy or nervous, I now begin to think about what I’ve been doing lately. Have I been acting for the me in 5 years from now, or am I acting for the present moment me?
Meaning, am I working out, eating right, saving money, writing, and getting enough sleep. These all make me feel like I’m progressing – and in turn, I’m proud.
Or am I scrolling on my phone, eating junk, going out too often, and staying up late. These all make me feel like I’m taking steps back – and in turn, I’m disappointed.
I think the moral of the story here is that you should first worry about yourself. Take care of your personal agenda and feel good about the things you’re doing.
For me, this has resulted in projecting myself in a more confident and positive way.
And although I’m still introverted at heart, I want to live as much as I can in those extroverted moments,