Written by Aoife Lenox, Introvert Coach & Trainer and Founder of Inside Strategies.
‘The single greatest enemy of contemporary satisfaction may be the belief in human perfectibility.’ – Alain De Botton
In the opening chapters of Quiet; The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, author Susan Cain talks about the current culture of personality overriding the culture of character experienced by previous generations. This culture of personality promotes vocal abilities over contemplative skills. The loud get heard and the quiet, well they don’t.
This association between outgoingness and success has attributed to many introverts feeling a lack of confidence. Confidence is just that; a feeling, one that can ebb and flow depending on life’s circumstances.
Introverts & Confidence
Our biological differences as introverts don’t help our cause. We need additional time to process and can be viewed as indecisive or lacking in confidence in our decision making. We float below the radar at work and avoid socialising afterwards. Politely declining to get involved in lunchtime conversations or activities because that alone time for introverts is not just nice to have, but a necessary nourishment. More prone to anxiety we often avoid situations that may prove overwhelming. We don’t speak up in meetings and hold back as we fear judgement, our excessive internal chatter doing enough of that for us. We overanalyse almost everything we say.
Quiet confidence is an inside out strategy for building confidence. It doesn’t come from a place of needing to be heard, but a deep-down self-belief in the value you bring to the world. It doesn’t stem from perfection or any attempt to be close to that, but a vulnerability that owns failures and a growth mindset that learns from them. In other words, true confidence stems from our humanness and our inability to know the outcome but know that we do our best every day.
Introverts, have a natural humility that will rarely drive us on the path of overconfidence. If anything, we have a tendency towards under confidence, but if we do that, we don’t come close to harnessing the potential of our introvert personality. Don Moore, author of Perfectly Confident, says that we need to base confidence on our past performance and our abilities. We can be accurately confident when we focus on such a formula.
Introverts have an incredible array of strengths, ones that our world hugely needs right now. Natural empathy enables us to connect deeply with others and build solid relationships. Our observational and listening skills provide opportunities to meet the needs of others and create opportunities that may have been missed. Our slower decision-making skills help to avoid risky behaviour. Quiet leadership skills are hailed as the best in leading proactive employees. Creativity facilitates effective problem solving.
Own Your Success
The challenge for introverts is that we often don’t recognise our own strengths. Our first step in building confidence is to appreciate what we do well. This might mean asking a colleague to share specific and positive feedback, it could mean printing off any positive comments you have ever received and taping them to a wall in front of you or creating an accomplishment folder. This folder doesn’t have to hold Masters degrees, it can be the time you picked up the phone instead of sending an e-mail. It can be the time you spoke up in a meeting without having prepared anything. If it was a big deal for you it is an accomplishment.
The Genome Project, a study on 2000 CEOs over a 10 year period, found, that while the more extroverted outgoing CEO was more likely to get hired, it actually had no reflection on performance. In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review, extroverted CEOs earned a 2% lower return on assets. Another study at the University of Queensland assessed introverts’ feelings going into a leadership project and found they were more likely to feel negative about taking on a leadership role. However, when assessed after the project, introverts were just as likely to have enjoyed the task. We hold back from opportunities because of what we tell ourselves.
Change your Narrative to Build Confidence
These stories can influence our self-belief and feelings of confidence. In the inside out approach to building confidence, rather than, ‘faking it till you make it’, work on slowly reframing negative thoughts that are defining how you show up in the world. Stretch yourself gently out of your comfort zone to try some small new challenges without creating fear or panic and most importantly recognise those accomplishments. A sustainable confidence is one which is built on recognising your own unique offering to the world not on comparing your worth to the exterior achievements of others.
Finally, confidence building is not a box to be ticked off on a to do list, but something that you will continually nurture as you face the ups and downs of modern life. Build a solid support system that can help you on this journey and say yes to opportunities to see just what you can learn, because as Mahtma Gandhi said, ‘live as if it were your last day on earth and learn as if you’re never going to die’.
Written by Aoife Lenox, B.A. MCIS, founder of Inside Strategies