Connection for introverts/ambivert may look different from extroverts. My ambivert nature does not make me immune to the desire to feel and be connected but it does mean that my needs may be packaged differently. I don’t need to be constantly inundated with conversation or text messages or constantly surrounded by people to feel loved or cared for, but I do need people to listen when I speak and be heard. I primarily identify as an introvert/ ambivert and at times silence my thoughts and my ideas by hiding behind my introverted nature. As I get older, however, it’s becoming harder to tell whether or not my aversion to speaking up comes from a fear of rejection or the deep need to be accepted and understood and if it possibly underwrites my propensity for perfection. Because who can reject what is perfect. I imagine while this is my story, it is likely similar to struggles that many introverts face which is why I’m sharing it here.
What I am learning is that my need for perfection not only silences me but it also separates me from the connection I crave and the connection I need to grow. My point is best illustrated with an example from my own life. I recently attended an amazing summit filled with change makers and pioneers in the field of Public Health. In the breakout sessions, I shy’d away from asking questions not because I had nothing to say but more for fear that I would say something silly or not been understood. Prior to this conference, it had been my experience that panelists have shut me down, intentionally or unintentionally, which made me incredibly fearful of speaking up in professional forums. A characteristic that I publically attributed to my introverted nature. At the last panel I went to I noticed that the invited guests spoke on the need for community in order to truly thrive, which I agree with wholeheartedly; however, what I felt was missing was real tangible advice on how to create that community. And I felt the internal urging to ask for more concrete examples of how to create meaningful community and foster true connectedness. So I sheepishly raised my hand and asked my question. The initial response was abrupt but undeterred I urged for a deeper response. The answer I got was, in two words, personal conviction. Which left me still hungering for deeper still response. But I knew that we were over time and so I let it go.
Afterward, several audience members acknowledged the poignancy of my question and another self-identified introvert approached me and challenged me to dive deeper. From our discussion (which lasted less than 5 mins) she gave me an idea that jogged my thoughts and catapulted me down a path of creativity that had been stalled. So while I didn’t receive an inspirational or encouraging answer from the panel, I received encouragement and validation from various audience members and although I’ll still search for the answer to my question, I realized that while the response I received from the panel wasn’t what I was looking for I would not have gotten the experience of connecting with the other audience members had I remained silent. So my encouragement to others on the path to personal, professional and creative fulfillment, especially the introverts among us who may be crippled by the fear of being misunderstood or rejected, is to push past fear and remember to
“Never silence yourself for fear that others won’t understand. Courageously speaking up for what you believe in creates a platform for others to stand with you in mutual agreement and identifies those who will invest in or contribute to your quest for truth and understanding.”