My story is really just at the beginning, but I want to share the first chapter to inspire other young introverts to start embracing their strengths and feel confident to take on the winding journey that awaits them after education.
Our introvert stories seem to start the same way: once we acknowledge the negative connotations that come with our quietness, we get frustrated, tired of not being able to express our inner ideas, and often retreat further into our shells. A world that values extroversion as a starting point for success makes for a daunting place for an introvert. I’ve often found that I have felt constrained to pursue a career and activities that are within my comfort zone.
Growing up, I was very afraid of saying the wrong thing and of what people would think of me. I would only be myself with my family and close friends. I also found making simple decisions difficult because I was conflicted between doing what I felt most comfortable with and branching out and stretching myself to something more adventurous. I reached regional and national level in swimming and biathlon, but my competitive side fell short of what was required to take it to the next level. At school, I studied hard, got good grades, and came out of university with a good degree. On finishing university, I felt like I had reached the top of the mountain—my long hours of study had been worth it, and I would start my life in a good career and begin to work my way up the career ladder.
Unfortunately, my plan didn’t quite play out as linear as my education had. In school, I always knew what the next step would be, but now, I struggled to find direction. I was out on my own, and I didn’t know which path to take. Work experience placements and tough interviews followed, with people who saw my paper degree as insignificant and a long‐standing passion for their company as mandatory. I tried lots of different work but never really settled. I felt my new colleagues could only see my shyness when they told me to put myself out there and to be pushy and forceful with my ideas or else I wouldn’t have a chance of success. This was all overwhelming to someone whose written work usually proved her competence. I flitted around, trying to find where I fit amongst an increasingly competitive workplace, where extroversion seemed a prerequisite for success.
Despite setbacks, which made me doubt my abilities, along my journey, I had moments of acceptance—times when I’d try something totally different and it’d worked out despite my shyness. I was cast as an actor in a commercial; I did some modeling for a London fashion brand; I planned my own sport events ceremony; and I am now managing my own marketing campaigns—all things I never dreamed I would have the confidence to do.
It’s been three years now since I graduated, and those three years have been a zigzagging path of a career ladder and a continuous struggle to be more outwardly confident in subjects and industries that I am still only learning. But it is a struggle that has shed light on a variety of sectors, people, and job roles and gave me a belief that I can pursue the business world with a quiet confidence. We are complex individuals with many layers, and we should not let people define us by one trait. I am still quiet; I am still me; but I am still growing. And most importantly, I am learning to accept myself and have the confidence to understand that I am a person with many different strengths, one of which is being an introvert.