Now, you might have come across the term introvert before - but there still seems to be a lot of misconceptions about the term ‘Introvert.'
To clarify: it’s mostly a way of describing how we are energised.
Introverts are energised from spending time alone, extroverts, tend to get their energy externally - from being with people and bouncing ideas off others.
In addition, introverts tend to process information more slowly and carefully. Do you find you have to think carefully before you speak? I do! I much prefer a well-crafted email to a sweaty, awkward phone call...
Finally: introverts are NOT necessarily shy or quiet! If you google the term 'introvert,' you’ll find words like ‘shy’ or ‘reticent’ and while these characteristics are commonly found in introverts, they are not synonymous!
Shyness, confidence, are things you can learn and develop over time and with practise: introversion or extroversion is something you are born with and are less subject to change.
Ok even though I say introverts aren’t shy - I was actually a very shy kid.
I couldn’t even look at the camera let alone crack a smile for this family portrait. Honestly? I preferred the company of animals to the company of friends.
Skip forward to me age 18. At university, I did learn - possibly through my good friend alcohol - that I could put on an outgoing, chatty front. This convinced me that I was indeed a fairly bubbly character, able to hold a conversation at least after a drink... or several.
So moving onto my first 'proper' job after graduating.
It was a job as a web designer at a digital media agency in London's West End.
Your dream open-plan office space. The people were friendly. There was table football, a darts board, the radio was always on, and drinks on a Friday afternoon.
Everything a young creative dreams of...
I was in HELL.
I found that after the first 2-3 hours of being in the office, I was drained. I could get my work done, but it was painful. I was irritable and miserable.
However, the odd day I worked from home was totally different: I’d get double the amount of work done, and stay perky all day. It was weird, but I put it down to me being... a freak of nature.
Anyway, after 3 years, I threw in the towel and left the safety net of the 9-5 to try my paws at freelance design.
After celebrating my new found freedom in Japan, I settled into the life of a freelance designer.
I LOVED it.
I could work from my bed if I wanted, I didn't have to wear pants, I loved the variation in the work and all the different clients I could serve.
It was heaven…
Until I ran out of work.
I accepted the fact that if I wanted to get more clients, I’d have to step away from the laptop and meet some people - in real life.I got some snazzy business cards printed and I started going to networking events.
Here’s how it usually went...
The first hour was generally characterised by desperation. I’d feel like an injured deer surrounded by a pack of hungry wolves, I’d get a bit too drunk and after an hour or two I’d be so exhausted I’d have to leave - also so as not to make a fool of myself.
Needless to say networking was not for me.
I felt like a broken human.
I couldn’t work in an office because it exhausted me, I couldn’t network because it exhausted me - all I really wanted to do was work alone, helping one person at a time.
It was around this time a friend of mine pointed out that I wasn’t broken: I was an INTROVERT!
an introvert.After doing some research in the Jungian psychology, Myers Briggs typing and various Buzzfeed articles... I became obsessed with my new found diagnosis and started writing about it myself, as the Creative Introvert and set up an online community known as the League of Creative Introverts.
I started classifying everyone I knew as either an introvert or an extrovert.
I found that the vast majority of the creatives I knew were indeed, ALSO INTROVERTS!
Everything started to make sense.
Susan Cain has done a great job at spreading the word about what introversion means and how employers and society at large can work to embrace the more introverted qualities in people, and even design workplaces around our preferences.
Which is wonderful - I’d love to have had my own little corner office when I was at the 9-5.
But… I’m here to get the word out to individuals. Because let’s face it: if we don’t know ourselves, our own preferences, our own skills and weaknesses - then we don’t have to wait for society to change around us.
We can make the most of our personality types starting TODAY.
In my case, when I found out I was an introvert and stopped pretending to be an extrovert, I started making changes. I started making decisions based on what I knew about myself. That’s when my life completely changed - for the better.
Introverts don’t have to become extroverts - and vice versa.
We just need to identify what it is that makes us light up, what energises us, what drains us - and do the best we can (WITHOUT apologising about it!) to live a life that suits our needs.
The work I’m doing at The Creative Introvert is to really drive home that simple message. There is no cookie-cutter approach to building a creative business or living the best life.
But the more we know about ourselves - even through using tools like online quizzes (I have one that tells you what type of creative introvert you are.)
It's when we ask ourselves these questions about our likes and dislikes our behaviours and habits, that we learn about ourselves and can start to create a life we truly love.