I’m a hard-core introvert. Left to my own devices I will hide away writing a book or reading one. You’re unlikely to find me out in the world without someone else prompting me to do so. I’ve been an extreme introvert my whole life. I was painfully terrified to talk to people in school, even though I saw them day after day. I had my little pile of friends that didn’t mind my eternal weirdness and that was perfect for me.
I remember one day a friend of mine got me to try out to be a cheerleader. It wasn’t that I didn’t think they were cool, or that I wasn’t talented enough to do it. I was just so shy that I would have never thought to even do it in the first place, but my friend convinced me. I showed up to cheerleading practice, won a spot and the next thing I knew I was learning routines for the Basketball squad. Learning the routines and stunts was fun . . . until that fateful day I had to do it in front of people!
My first game we stunted while they did the player line up, then I promptly went to the bathroom and threw up. The second game same thing. Third game I didn’t puke but I sat out until half time, just learning to be in front of other human life forms.
To an extrovert I sound like an alien, but to you my fellow introvert, you get me. You know the agony of being seen . . . being judged. But game after game, and day after day I became a better cheerleader and a better extrovert-pretender. LOL. It took a long time and a lot of effort to be a cheerleader and it wasn’t because of the physical nature of the sport. Though it is very physical and I thank God everyday that I got to do that or I may very well still be hiding in a closet.
I often get asked how I talk on panels and do book signings and visit schools and book clubs if I’m an introvert. I often hear from people who don’t know me well that they always assumed I was an extrovert, but I have spent half my life forcing myself to be social and extroverted. It is with great practice that I appear an extrovert. It doesn’t come easy. So here are some pointers from one introvert to another.
1 Force Yourself. That is what cheerleading was for me. It was forced extroversion. It was such good practice. Whether it is a sport, a performance group like community theater, open mic night, whatever it takes. Even karaoke. Just start forcing yourself to do things that you normally would say no to, but only do it on your terms. I chose cheerleading, it was awesome and torture. Make sure you choose it for yourself verses someone else choosing it for you.
2 Start Small. I started with small book clubs of people that I knew at least one person. Then it feels less threatening. I did probably six of those before I ever stepped it up.
3 Public Speaking Classes. This is a huge step, but you will gain so much confidence, poise and practice from taking a class like this.
4 Be Prepared. I like to write up my whole speech. Practice it out loud in front of a mirror. Then make the cliffs notes version of the points I need to remember. Practice again. I used to record myself just so I could hear where I stumbled, I don’t do that any more, but if you’re struggling it is a good option. When I was a young designer and I was doing my first presentation to clients, I would tape a few pointers to the back of my presentation boards so when I was presenting and couldn’t see the art myself I knew what it was and what to say if I blanked. With practice a lot of these things can be left behind, but I think I shall always read my speeches out loud several times beforehand, because practice makes perfect.
5 Eat Like a Hobbit. I come from a grand line of hungry people. When we finish eating one meal we start cooking the next. LOL. So eat something simple before your event. Nothing too greasy or spicy, that can cause tummy troubles, because nobody wants tummy troubles during a speech, but not eating is equally bad and distracting. I also always bring a bottle of water and something to munch on if it is a long event. There is nothing worse then being hungry when you’re supposed to be on-point.
6 Believe. Simply believe in yourself. As Christopher Robin once said, “…You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” Know it. Own it. Be you!
BUT, also remember to give yourself grace. Being an extroverted INTROVERT, doesn’t come natural. It is practice, over and over again. It is probably a lot like acting, though I’ve never acted, but you have to put yourself into the role. The persona of an extrovert. And when you’re done with the event, you will need to hide inside yourself and recharge. Take it from me, an introvert, that many people think is an extrovert, I have to give myself a pep talk every time and after I need me-time to heal. I would much rather hide, but hiding doesn’t help change world. So here I am an extroverted-introvert. It is a lot of work being an extrovert when you are truly not one. So give yourself the room to grow, the room to cry, the room to forgive yourself, and the room to breathe.