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Being An Introvert

Being an Introvert: Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

I am an introvert. Saying that feels like a confession of some sort like “Hi, my name is Colleen and I am an introvert”. Growing up, it seemed to me and the rest of the world, that being an extrovert was better or at least more popular. My mom always said I was afraid of my own shadow, which of course did nothing to help me step out of my shadow. I was considered quiet and shy by most people particularly my teachers. Even a friend of my sister once said this about me, “She doesn’t mind being seen, just not heard” which was quite an astute observation coming from a young man in his early twenties. I guess that explains why I liked modelling…seen but not heard.

Yet oddly enough, I remember winning a speech contest in Grade 2. I had to give the speech in front of the whole school in the gymnasium. I even remember my opening words: “Recently, I visited the Planetarium in Winnipeg”. What I don’t remember is being scared. I’m sure I was nervous but I don’t remember it being a big deal. I always thought it was a bit of a paradox…an introvert being able to get up in front of an audience and give a speech. But apparently not, according to Rachel and Kristen of Clarity on Fire.

Rachel and Kristen have written a blog post on “How to tell once and for all, whether you’re an Introvert or Extrovert”. It’s all about where you draw your energy as opposed to how outgoing, talkative, opinionated, or loud you are. Click on the image to check it out:

Clarity on Fire How to tell once and for all, whether you’re an Introvert or Extrovert

I think this view of introversion vs extroversion is more the norm now. If introverts have been given a bad rap since the beginning of time, a quiet revolution has taken place over the last few years. There has been a lot written on the subject: do not overlook or undervalue the introvert. We have a lot to offer.

I have always thought of myself as an introvert, but deep down I knew I wasn’t shy. I wanted to be seen. I wanted to be heard. I wanted to express myself. I just needed to find my voice. And I needed time to thoughtfully consider things before expressing an opinion which is why I have never liked boardroom meetings. People sitting around a big table, all expressing different views where often nothing ever gets resolved. I have sat back and observed how some people just seem to talk to hear themselves talk and few people listen because they are thinking about what they are going to say in rebuttal.

I know I am not an extrovert. I don’t think and talk at the same time. Rather I like to think first to get my creative juices flowing, then get my thoughts organized in my own head, and then speak. I don’t get an adrenaline rush from walking into a room full of people and networking, making small talk. I do get energized by other people but in smaller more intimate groups. I prefer more in depth personal and meaningful conversations.

I made a comment on Rachel and Kristen’s blog post about being an introvert and being able to get up and speak to a large group if I am passionate about the topic. Here’s how Rachel responded:

“Your comment about being able to speak to large crowds reminds me of something I’ve heard about introverts, which would seem counterintuitive: A lot of us have no trouble performing on stage (whether that’s speaking, singing, acting, playing music, or whatever!). Because when you think about it, performance can be a very solo activity. There’s an audience, but you’re not really interacting with them!”

I had never thought about speaking in front of an audience in that way. It is a very solo activity that does not require a lot of interaction with the audience unless, of course, there is a Q & A portion. And come to think of it, that would make me a lot more nervous because it requires thinking on your feet, answering on the fly. And as you know, my preference is to have lots of time to think before I speak.

I do draw energy from being alone and having time to quietly reflect but I also draw energy from being around other people and interacting. Hmmm…maybe I’m an ambivert. Have you heard of this classification? Rachel and Kristen briefly mention this third category in their post.

Definition of an Ambivert: a person having characteristics of both an extrovert and introvert

And really, probably most people have characteristics of both. It’s not black and white. There are shades of grey, just not 50 of them ;-).

What do you think? Are you an introvert, extrovert, or a bit of both a.k.a. an ambivert?

Colleen Kanna is a breast cancer champion and creator of coKANna designs, a line of bamboo knit, Canadian-made adaptable clothing for women. Five percent of online sales are donated to the Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre in support of their Head Start Program for women newly diagnosed with breast cancer.


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