Are you shy or just an introvert?

Are you shy or just an introvert?

I grew up believing I was shy. That’s what I was told and that was the excuse everyone used to help others understand why I had very little to say “oh, she’s just shy” I would hear and I lived with that.

I took my first Myer Briggs test when I was over 30 and discovered the word “introvert” – it was a word given to people who are naturally quiet, thinkers who don’t need to be the life and soul of the party and who don’t even need to be at the party because they would rather be at home! People who enjoy solitude, are observers, listeners and very hard to impress.

I can’t recall the exact moment when the light bulb went off and I realised that I am not in fact shy at all but an introvert. It was a label I was happy to adopt. Today in a LinkedIn group I belong to one of the members¬†shared an article that appeared on a website called Scientific American about a book which focuses on the power of introverts.

The Power of Introverts: A Manifesto for Quiet Brilliance.
Source : Scientific American

If you lack self confidence and believe you are shy you may want to stop and challenge that belief you have about yourself. There is a very strong difference between an introvert and someone who is shy. When I was shy I was uncomfortable talking to and meeting new people, I wasn’t comfortable in social situations, I feared them and I couldn’t wait to get out of them.

As an introvert I can start and hold a conversation with just about anyone, I am happy to be around people however I am much happier at home on my own or with family and close friends.

If friends or family come round to stay I can’t wait for them to leave. Not because I don’t love them but because I prefer to be in my own space.

If I had a choice between a New Year’s eve party full of people I don’t know and a night in with my kids and partner the night in will always win with me…. which is probably why I enjoy dating extroverts because they will drag me out!

I have been called “aloof” and “anti social” as well as shy – although for some reason I quite enjoy being known as aloof. Being cool and distant really does piss people off and at least it means I get left in peace!

Men (who are looking to chat me up) have told me they found it difficult to approach me. Those that are brave enough to actually talk to me are then completely surprised that I am a really friendly and warm person to talk with. At one point I did wonder if it was my facial expression and whether I looked as if I would kill anyone who dare approach me. I did try smiling more but that just got me into a different kind of “trouble” with men who believe a woman smiling at them is a signal for all kinds of stuff.

I listen carefully and I hear people. Really hear them. I connect with them because I remember the little things they say and that means a lot to them. I am always told I am easy to talk to (probably because I let the other person do all the talking) and that I am a good listener.

So… do you recognise yourself in any of that? If you Google “what is an introvert?” what you will find will list many of these traits as typical introvert behaviour.

As I worked on building self confidence I began to move away from being introverted and tried to become an extrovert hoping that eventually it would “rub off” on me but I wasn’t being true to myself.¬† After all I had managed to fake self confidence until I felt more confident so I thought this would work too but it never did and eventually I realised I am going to have to be comfortable being an introvert. I had people talk about my “powerful presence” and my “calming influence” – I saw these as positive introvert traits that I possess.

Famous Introverts

I did a little research on famous introverts and was amazed to find that I actually admire and love many of the people who appeared on different lists. Maybe I have a natural introvert radar :) – it included people like

  • Gandhi
  • Meryl Streep
  • Diane Keaton
  • Audrey Hepburn
  • Clint Eastwood
  • Michael Jordan
  • Bill Gates

Mother Theresa didn’t come up as an introvert but it wouldn’t surprise me if she was one too.

Maybe you are shy, or perhaps you could be an introvert trapped in a shy woman’s labelled body and you just need to be okay with being you. Remember, as long as their is fear present when you think about meeting people or going to social situations then there is some work to do towards building self confidence.