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I’m An Introvert At Heart… But No One Knows

I’m An Introvert At Heart… But No One Knows

Have you ever stood in front of a group of people, and in the middle of speaking, you just freeze? Your mind goes blank. You start sweating. Your fear and self-doubt paralyze you.

I’ve been there. Many times.

On the last day of my internship during college, I called in sick just so I wouldn’t have to deliver a short, 15-minute presentation to less than 10 people. I was crippled by fear. I’m not alone with this kind of thing.

In fact, according to a Gallup Poll, 40-45% of people are afraid of public speaking. It is often listed as the most common fear, after snakes and even death itself. Researchers have also found that introverts make up 26-50% of the population.

It stands to reason that the same people afraid of speaking are also introverted. That was me—about five years ago. But if you met me today, you would have no idea. That’s because I’m an introvert at heart but no one knows it.

What is introversion, anyway?

According to this Scientific American article, the extrovert-introvert spectrum comes down to two aspects: enthusiasm and assertiveness.

Extroverts have more, whereas introverts have less. Ambiverts—or, if you prefer, extroverted introverts—are somewhere in the middle.

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Enthusiasm is about sociability, excitement, and friendliness.

Assertiveness is about leadership, persuasiveness, and dominance.

How outgoing are you and what’s your social status? Do you make friends easily, laugh a lot, take charge, captivate people, and have the ability to talk others into doing things? If not, you’re an introvert.

Can an introvert become an extrovert?

There’s a reason I started this article off by talking about public speaking. That’s because, until I finally learned how to become an accomplished speaker, nothing I did gave me the confidence to engage with other people, take on leadership roles, or influence others.

Learning the skill—and art—of speaking transformed me so profoundly that I can honestly say you would think I’m an extrovert if you met me. Even though, really and truly, I am not.

I’m the guy who never spoke up at meetings and avoided making presentations at all costs. Today, I regularly compete in speech contests, hold webinars, deliver training, and speak in front of cameras and crowds.

How can you conquer your fear of public speaking to become an outgoing introvert?

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Two of the most powerful ways are:

  • Join the non-profit organization Toastmasters
  • Take an improv class

Toastmasters will encourage you to learn and practice in front of others in a safe, non-work environment. An improv class will take you out of your comfort zone and help you explore the positive, humorous side of speaking.

Why public speaking?

Here are 7 reasons why becoming a proficient public speaker can make even the most timid introvert come across as an outgoing extrovert.

1. People will get to know you

Introverts often have trouble making friends. It’s tough to open up to strangers.

If you work on the skill of public speaking, whether it’s through a training course, at work, an organization like Toastmasters, or an improv class, you will have to talk about something. And, your most knowledgeable subject is, well, you. By talking about your story, your experiences, your struggles and successes, others will get to know you, and you will get to know yourself. This will gradually bring out your confidence and inner extroversion.

2. You will become more enthusiastic and excited

When you’re on a deadline to come up with a speech topic, you learn to constantly look for ideas. Then, when you find an idea you like, you will start to dive in, read about it, research it, and put together your talk. This process, which many of us haven’t done since grade school, is a perfect way to ramp up your enthusiasm.

I recently gave a speech on grass-fed vs. grain-fed beef. Sounds boring, I know. But the process of learning about the food industry, agriculture, and nutrition motivated me to learn more and focus on my health.

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This enthusiasm and excitement builds on itself, and you build a repertoire of knowledge that makes dinner parties much more enjoyable. Without even trying, your introverted self becomes the life of the party!

3. You will have fun

Don’t get me wrong, introverts can have just as much fun as extroverts. But there’s a new sense of enjoyment that comes from gaining confidence speaking in front of others, and it brings out a side of you usually reserved for yourself. The same fun you get from reading a book or walking alone to think is suddenly expanded to encompass your audience, mentors, and peers.

I recently gave a humorous speech at a contest. Let’s just say comedy is not a strength of mine. But knowing that my speech had to be funny pushed me to learn about writing jokes, using punch lines, creating drama, and using my face and body for humor. It definitely brought out the comedian in me, and it was lots of fun getting there.

4. You will learn how to persuade others

This is a big one. Influence is a subtle art, and we as introverts believe it is out of our grasp.

Don’t despair. Becoming a more confident speaker also means you learn the skill of delivering your message, in a way that appeals to the audience. By practicing the use of your voice, appearance, and body, along with the structure, story, and words of your speech, you will have a recipe for persuading others that few learn or practice.

This ability will extend into your personal circle, enabling you to make friends more easily and open up opportunities in your career or business.

5. You will start to captivate people

Part of influence is the ability to gain others’ attention. To captivate your audience. You will learn to ask questions, appeal to “what’s in it for them,” use multiple methods of communication (stories, data, hands-on), and create calls to action.

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All of these serve to draw in your audience—whether it’s a room of people or a small group at a party. You will learn to captivate them.

6. You will gain tons of confidence

This entire process of developing your speech, learning the skills to deliver it, speaking in front of others, and, most importantly, getting feedback so you can improve, will make you more confident than you ever thought possible.

After six very awkward speeches, the feedback I had received started to come into place in each successive speech, and I became more and more confident. As with any skill, the more you practice, iterate, and learn, the more sure you are that the next iteration will have a certain outcome. This, in turn, breeds greater self-confidence.

7. Your newfound confidence will make you a leader

When you have greater self-confidence, you speak up more during meetings, seek interactions with others (no matter how intimidating they used to seem), and volunteer for more roles where extroversion is required. This creates amazing new opportunities.

After about six months of developing the skill of speaking, I had the confidence to try a new leadership position at work. I had new responsibilities that required me to mentor and speak to others, but I wasn’t afraid of this any more. In fact, I relished it. As a result, I found advancement where I wouldn’t have otherwise.

Create your own luck and become an outgoing introvert by learning the skill (and art) of public speaking.

Start by reading some good books, and then joining Toastmasters or taking an improv class.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via pexels.com

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

2. Be Honest

A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

4. Succeed at Something

When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

Final Thoughts

When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
[2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
[3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
[4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
[5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
[6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
[7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
[8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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