Standing Out

IG_Deanna2Guest post by Deanna Driggers

“You have no personality,” he informed me, as if he were doing me a favor.

I stared, dumbfounded, high-voltage emotion blasting through me. Somewhere deep inside, thoughts tried to form. “Really? That is your conclusion about me after two laborious hours of you making this little party all about . . . you?!?”

Unfortunately, the traffic jam of emotions and the distance from my brain to my mouth proved to be too much . . . again. So, I just stood there, looking stupid.

I can laugh now, but it’s taken me years to embrace this part of my personality that’s often considered by our outgoing western world to be a weakness. You see, I am a woman and a leader. And, along with one third of the world’s population, I am also an introvert. And while being a woman leader in a man’s world, where you are often the one expected to conform (ie. leaving a certain amount of your femininity at the door), is challenging enough, being an introvert just makes it that much more . . . interesting.

According to Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking‚ “a widely held but rarely articulated belief in our society is that the ideal self is bold, alpha, gregarious. While introversion (defined as people who prefer less stimulating environments and tend to enjoy quiet concentration, listen more than they talk and think before they speak) is viewed somewhere between disappointment and pathology.”

IG_Deanna1Being a female introvert, then, can feel as if you’ve involuntarily wrapped yourself inside your own shadow.  While there’s more of you beneath the surface than above, in an age preoccupied with sparkles and flash, what’s valued is what’s visible, not what’s ‘discoverable.’ And the bubbly, talkative, and always laughing personality is today’s perfect Eve.

And she’s great. It’s just, what do you do when you’re not her? When you’re easily dismissed based on that first-impression? When, as a leader, you want to leave those high-energy gatherings for something quieter? When you find yourself labelled as being proud, boring, or even a non-personality although you’re actually quite the opposite, if someone would just take the time to find out….

In my own attempts at navigating this dilemma, I have come to recognize a few helpful truths. First: introverts make good leaders. Cain writes “studies show that introverts are better at leading proactive employees because they listen to and let them run with their ideas.” In other words, introverts excel at leading leaders. Second: I am at my best when I make room for my introversion; allowing myself to develop the rich inner world that keeps me motivated and inspired. Yes, we introverts need to push ourselves to be social, but we also need to find joy in being who we are. And, the key: there is one sparkle that proves irresistible every time, whether you’re extroverted or introverted . . .

The person who is at peace with herself always stands out.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? What challenges do you have to overcome in leadership, or in finding peace with who you are?

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13 thoughts on “Standing Out

  1. I love this! I am an introverted leader myself and often it feels like the social grid doesn’t know how to make sense of that. Very true though that a person at peace with herself makes a strong impression, whether as in introvert or extrovert. Thanks Deanna!

    • That’s a great way of putting it Neets..it definitely doesn’t know how to make sense of it. But security is something everyone can understand and work towards. At least that has been my solution :-).

  2. I agree that leadership should not be boxed into a sterotype personality. We should celebrate the strengths in different personalities and allow each other the freedom to grow. In my experiences, first impressions are often forgotten, when we choose to give people the opportunity to show us who they really are.

    • That is so true! First impressions are either forgotten, or just wrong. How often do we make an observation about someone based on a first impression, and then look back sometime later and shake our heads wondering how we could have thought THAT about them. There’s too much room for wrong assumptions when we only look at what’s visible. And really, true leadership is being able to take a step back, wait, and take the time to get to know the people you’re leading. I am in full agreement, Romonz :-).

  3. I am an introvert by nature who is slowly learning to adapt and socialize with new people all the time and it’s been a good transition very slow but I know that God is doing something in me every time I step and and ask a stranger a question even if I don’t always end it the best way… With each exchange I’m getting better and more confident in my abilities to meet other people.

    • Great to hear Teribell! I must say I know the feeling of taking a deep breath abefore introducing myself to a new person. It seems to get easier with time though, thank goodness 😉 thanks for your post, great to hear from you xxx

    • Awesome, Terribell! It really is one step at a time, choosing to put yourself out there with others. Over the years I have had to learn to do it, so I now know that I can (and people often actually think I am an extrovert). But a feeling of dread remains a part of the package deal :-). What’s helped me the most has been to get informed about introversion and try to understand why I am the way I am….realizing it’s not wrong, it’s a good thing! In fact, although you may not enjoy meeting new people, introverts tend to be very gifted in going deep, which is a priceless ability and much needed in our world.

  4. Thank you so much for this post, Deanna! The key quote for me is, “you find yourself labelled as being proud, boring, or even a non-personality although you’re actually quite the opposite, if someone would just take the time to find out….” It can be As an introverted female leader I’ve found that I MUST make time for myself and not allow my schedule to fill right up. Susan Cain’s book has been on my reading list for quite a while now- I think it’s time to order a copy!

    • Yes! read it! it’s worth it! 🙂 And yes, we should keep encouraging each other to be taking that time…not so easy in ministry, but necessary. 🙂

  5. Beautifully written! It’s a balance. Yes by all means EMBRACE your introverted ways. Value your “me” time. Don’t feel pressured to act like an extroverted. Be yourself and accept yourself. But at the same time don’t be afraid to try new things, to step outside your self made bubble. I tell people to find just a few introverted friends to go with you to explore the world outside your bedroom at times. Be an introvert, just don’t hold yourself back from experiencing life because you’ve gotten too comfortable where you are =)
    lovethyintrovert.com

    • So true! And great advice :-). I think in embracing your introversion, ideally, it takes the pressure off and removes that ‘guilt’ feeling that can try and creep in. With that pressure gone..then, at least I personally find that I WANT to get out more. And the truth is, it’s generally getting out that gives the introvert the material they need for their inner world times. It means striking a balance, for sure. 🙂

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