They say confidence is everything.
But how do you show confidence and claim your position at the table when you are a naturally reserved person?
There are many misconceptions around about introverts, but according to Author of eBook Shhh… Katherine Mackenzie-Smith, reclaiming your power as an introvert is easier when you focus on your strengths and lean in to what your heart truly desires.
In this interview I talk to the Life Coach for introverts to discover how the quiet and composed woman can harness her power in an extroverted world.
Q: Why do you believe being an Introvert has negative connotations?
I think the biggest thing is that, for so long, we’ve been living in a world that favours extraverts. Not for any real reason, other than the fact that they are outgoing and communicate openly, they share easily, and are usually pretty charismatic and that’s been seen as the optimal way to thrive in the world.
In contrast, introverts tend to be more quiet, complicated, and can often be seen as rude or unfriendly because we process internally and gain our energy from time spent alone.
Q: In your book you talk about believing there was something wrong with you because you were always told you were too sensitive or quiet, can you tell us a bit more about your own journey and how you came to accept your introverted qualities?
Yeah, it’s pretty funny how things that happen to us in our lives form the beliefs that we have about ourselves. I’ve had so many experiences that formed those beliefs for me and I always thought that it meant I was broken or something was wrong with me.
The biggest thing was actually accepting that I’m a sensitive person and sometimes an overly quiet one as well. Actually seeing that you have an aversion to aspects of your personality can be so eye-opening! I found coaching and kinesiology were paramount in helping me understand and accept myself exactly as I am.
It’s not always easy, but it’s definitely a process of seeing those old beliefs and then having the tools to let go of the things that don’t actually serve you and are holding you back for the life that you want to have and the person you truly are.
Q: What do you believe are some of the other largest misconceptions about introverts?
That introverts don’t like people – do a hashtag search on Instagram and you’ll see how many quotes and posts there are about how we hate people. Nope, that’s called a misanthrope. An introvert gains energy from time spent alone, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t enjoy connecting with other people!
That all introverts are shy or depressed – again, this isn’t true. While there are many, many introverts who are shy or depressed as well, there are also many who aren’t. Being an introvert isn’t the cause of either of these things.
That because you’re an introvert there are things you can’t do – like speak in public, or put yourself forward for something. Nope, this is just fear. Sure, there are challenges that come up for all of us in life, but being an introvert is definitely not the trait that is stopping you from doing anything in your life!
Q: In Susan Cain’s best-selling book Quiet Revolution, she talks about when it’s OK to be a ‘pretend extrovert’ – what are your thoughts on playing a part to get a head or make yourself heard?
Hmmm…this is an interesting one and I actually don’t remember that part in her book. I do remember her recount of meeting Brian Little who talks about ‘free trait theory’ and that it is possible to ‘be more extraverted’ when you find the thing that you’re most passionate about.
And I kind of love that.
I believe that when you find your thing – your passion or purpose – that you don’t need to pretend anything. That your message becomes so much bigger than you, and you can’t help but share it with the people who need to hear it.
I have times when people think I’m an extravert, probably because I’m being loud or I’m with people I feel really comfortable with. There’s not, for one second, a moment where I’m pretending, it just so happens that when I’m somewhere I feel comfortable or open to being myself, that part of me shines. When I start talking about my passion – to champion introverts to better understand themselves, discover their true purpose, and find a way to cut through the noise to be seen and heard – it’s difficult to shut me up. I’m not pretending, I’m just excited and so the extraverted aspects of my personality pop up.
Q: What are some of the biggest traps an introvert can find themselves in which diminish their power?
I think the biggest thing is not setting clear boundaries and not communicating with others. When you’re a quieter person, it takes nothing for a louder person to speak over you or zap your energy. When you know yourself really well, understand what your needs are, and set those beautiful boundaries, it’s much easier to communicate what you need in a way that is respectful, rather than rude.
When you don’t do this, it’s easy to get swept up into a situation that you don’t want to be in and that can lead to frustration, overwhelm, and feeling pretty terrible. I know myself, when I’ve let that happen, I usually snap and come across much worse than if I’d asked myself what I needed, processed properly, and then communicated with the other person what I need. That shows respect for yourself and the other person, and it’s so much easier to come to a compromise from that place!
Q: In your book, you make the point of advising women shouldn’t use their introverted nature as an excuse – can you expand on that further and why some people women are inclined to hide behind it?
I’ve heard people say that they can’t put themselves forward, speak in public, ask for a raise, etc, etc because they’re ‘too introverted’ and I just think that is a b/s excuse for ‘I’m too afraid’.
It’s kind of the other end of the spectrum to not understanding your introverted personality and, instead, using it as a ‘get out of jail free card’ to not do things that feel scary or uncomfortable.
It’s a way to stay small and play it safe and it’s just another excuse that people use to hide behind their fear.
The reason I started my podcast, The League of Extraordinary Introverts, was to prove that there are lots of people out there giving it a go and doing stuff that’s a bit scary, to become successful and make an impact on the world.
If it’s something that you really don’t feel aligned with, that’s fine – for example, marketing your business a certain way. But, it doesn’t mean that lets you off the hook to then do zero marketing, it means that you’ve decided that’s not right for you, and then you need to think of another way to get the results you’re after that feels good for you (kind of like if you hate running, that doesn’t mean you give up on doing any exercise, it just means you need to find something that you love and that plays to your strengths!).
Q: How can someone use their introverted attributes to their advantage to reclaim their power?
These are some of the strengths that more introverted people seem to have – excellent listening skills, the ability to connect deeply with others, creative and powerful thinking and introspective skills, incredible observation, attention to detail.
These are just some beautiful strengths most introverted people have, it’s simply a case of looking for them. I believe that lots of people want what they don’t have (not unlike when you have curly hair and wish you had your friend’s straight hair and she feels the same about your curls).
I used to always feel bad that my extraverted friends were so outgoing and charismatic and put themselves out there with such ease, they can work a room like pros, and seem to be constantly acting on their ideas.
But they also make mistakes, there are some negatives to the things that (seemingly) come so easily to them. When you can focus on your strengths and live your life by them it will serve you so much better than focusing on what you wish you did better or your perceived ‘weaknesses’.
Q: What suggestions do you have for someone who may feel their power is being depleted by the external world in order to embrace their authentic self more?
The external world can be an energy zapping place for everyone, not just introverts! But the further down the introvert end of the introvert/extravert scale you sit, the more you will find this.
The first thing is to be really aware of this (I often find when I’m getting drained by the world, I get cranky or frustrated for no real reason, or I feel this underlying anxiety that I can’t put my finger on).
Then ask yourself, ‘What do I need right now?’ And actually listen to and honour the answer.
Take time out, go for a walk, meditate, close the door for some peace and quiet, step out of a busy room for five minutes, ask someone to take your kids for an hour, go on a solo retreat, get an early night.
Introverts gain energy from time spent alone, so if you’re feeling drained then it probably means you need to get away from people for a little while. Be okay with that, and remember to communicate with people and they will learn to understand!
In the comments below, Katherine and I would love to know:
- if you’ve ever struggled with being an Introvert and how you managed it (or still do)?
- what strengths you believe introverts bring to the table and what others could learn from it?
Katherine Mackenzie-Smith is a life coach for introverts, assistant life coach trainer, writer, and speaker.
As a self-confessed quiet achiever and passion-fuelled dream chaser, she’s on a mission to empower extraordinary women to step into their quiet power, discover their energetic secret sauce, and find their own way to shine in life, business, and everything in between.
Connect with Katherine at katherinemackenziesmith.com and get free instant access to the League of Extraordinary Introverts community.