I remember, I felt pretty much framed in the category of people who were not as good as the extroverts. It was like, the real ideal person is by nature an extrovert. Introverts will never reach the same joy in life as extroverts.
You are just out of luck as an introvert.
Then one day I met the new head of the apartment I worked in. It was in the beginning of my career and before my own aspirations as manager. He said something that changed my view upside down.
Every week he gathered the entire department and made a speech about the remarkable results we had achieved. He was calm and confident while delivering the message.
Traits I would associate with an extrovert.
One afternoon, while I was having a casual conversation with him, he told me something that changed my view. He said, that he was an introvert.
Him an introvert. Honestly, I didn’t believe him at first. He couldn’t be an introvert. All admired managers are extroverts, they needed to communicate confidently in front of people all the time.
Later I realised that about 50% of all managers say they are introverts.
Well, actually being introvert or extrovert has nothing to do with being calm and confident, while delivering a speech in front of a group of people. Even most extroverts do not like that.
Being an introvert does not limit anything in your life. Actually, I would claim it is an advantage.
But back then I had a lot of fears, which were blocking my way to my success. Here I will list the 5 main fears that limited my behaviour around other people. Surprisingly, they are not related to being an introvert and you can overcome all of them with the right effort.
1. Fear of being judged stupid by others
I had this fear as early as I remember. It made me afraid to speak up. Because, what if I said something stupid, such that others would think I am not smart.
I know now, that most people have this to some degree in certain situations. For me, it was dominating my life in a way such that I would never speak up about anything in any situation unless I was forced.
Welcome science. Maybe you can imagine why many introverts dominated by this fear are attracted towards the science world. Well, it is because many aspects of science are basically binary, in the sense that either statements are true or false. Hence, when you speak up about science you know it is true and you are not afraid of being judged stupid, as the true science backs you up.
Also facts are nice. Nothing to discuss. Nothing to judge your lack of knowledge. Or the real fear behind it, that somebody will laugh and say, oh, look how stupid this guy is!
2. Fear of others knowing something I don’t
This one has haunted me far beyond that I would like to admit.
It is so silly. I remember driving in my car as 30 something years old man and thinking, why do people not use that lane over there? Is it because they realised something I didn’t? And if I go there, will something happen to me like being stopped by the police, or is there something on the road to puncture my tires and everybody will laugh of how stupid I am?
Earlier in my life in elementary and high school, I would alway be afraid of answering questions or raise my hand, even though I thought I knew the answer. What if I was wrong and everybody else knew the answer. Then they would make fun of how stupid I am.
This haunted me far beyond that in my life. It was limiting my behaviour in groups and meetings. I would never speaking up freely due to this fear. What if I said something wrong that everybody else knew the right answer to.
You would think I had some experience where something like that happened. That I said something wrong, everybody laughed at me, and I would feel really stupid and everybody would make fun of me for years to come.
Well, nothing like that ever happened in my life.
3. Fear of being the only one failing
Don’t look at me, don’t look at me, don’t look at me. Please, don’t pick me.
What if you were picked and you failed at it. Afterwards everybody else would do it perfectly. What would they think of you. What a looser.
How would I ever be able to look them in their eyes again. Whom am I kidding. Back then, I would never look anyone in the eyes anyways.
But most importantly, I would never try anything voluntarily.
How would I ever recover from the damage that would bring me. I felt not being good at anything at all in front of other people. I would fail no matter what. My poor destiny was to fail. I just knew it.
If I was chosen for something I would be so nervous, that I would surely fail.
Again, this fear did not go away after elementary and high school. It was still limiting my behaviour. I would never volunteer in front of other people. Why would I? Because I grew up?
The feeling of fear does not go away by itself. You need to challenge it away. You just don’t wake up one day and all your childhood fears just disappeared without any effort from your side.
4. Fear of not living up to others expectations
So, you are an expert?
I was a specialist, but you can’t imagine how much I hated that too. What if I said something, which I was expected to know.
I was an expert and I was afraid to speak up about my own area of expertise. For instance, if someone would ask about a specific computer issue and how to solve it. I would not speak up, even though I would know a possible way to solve it. Because, maybe, someone else would know a better solution to the problem, which would make me look less knowledgable and not live up to what was expected by me.
Honestly, this fear went far beyond that. I have a hard time to admit it, but I wanted to live up to all peoples expectations of me, also those based on misunderstandings.
Say, someone would think I liked something, a dish or similar. Then I would not tell, I would just eat it.
This also developed into keeping track of all other peoples expectations of me. I would try to remember them, such that I would not let them down.
This was madness, even I knew it. I was just afraid not to be what others expected from me.
5. Fear of others not liking me (but not telling me)
What does this one do to you? Well, I’ll tell you. It makes you afraid to tell others how you actually like them. Because, what if, they don’t like you and they will make fun of you?
Actually, the consequences of this one is even deeper. Let me explain.
People love when someone is smiling to them. There is a psychological principal that happiness transmit from one person to another.
It is most apparent when a small baby smiles to you. You can immediately feel the joy and you smile back.
Babies are dependent on others to take care of them, hence, they use this deep psychological principal that we tend to like people that are happy and smile.
The opposite is also true. We don’t like angry or sad people.
Well, back to not daring to show others that you like them. Say, you see someone that you actually like, only as a friend. But you don’t smile to them, because you are afraid they don’t like you back.
What if you smile, they see it and they think you are a looser and make fun of you behind your back.
The problem is, if you never show happiness when you meet people, they will not by default start liking you.
When I was younger, I thought that all these 5 fears were related to my introvertion. Luckily, they are all possible to overcome.
Remember that fears are just feelings and you can change them. Of course, the feeling of fear do not go away by themselves. You need to challenge them away. You just don’t wake up one day and all your childhood fears just disappeared without any effort from your side.
Finally, believe you can overcome your fears. I know, if I could do it, so can you.