Growing up I was a very shy and quiet child – a classic introvert. I enjoyed playing with close friends and family but felt very uncomfortable speaking in front of people I didn’t know or large groups. I would happily play by myself and found large gatherings where I had to say hello to aunty, uncle and great-aunty’s second cousin quite daunting!
Fast forward several years and I’m much more confident. I enjoy meeting new people and seeking new experiences, however, my introverted tendencies do pop-up now and then. I’m grateful for them as I find myself being more productive and happy during these times. I feel more than content when taking time to myself or with a partner and escaping the bustling city-life for something more calm and isolated and I’ve found that being this way has helped me grow as a creative and well-rounded business woman as well.
In this blog, I explore what it’s like to be an introvert determined to be a successful entrepreneur and how I’ve made it work for me.
What is an introvert?
Introverts are often labelled as shy, reticent and reserved. We tend not to seek out special attention and social engagements leave us feeling exhausted at times. Society often sees these traits as flaws and mostly rewards extrovert behaviour – think Instagram and Love Island – but I know that introverts have so much to offer the world, albeit behind the scenes.
We may not be the life and soul of a party or the loudest in the room but we tend to be extremely thoughtful, reliable and strategic problem-solvers, who are good at building strong and meaningful relationships. As Caroline Castrillon, a Forbes contributor said, “Introversion is often misunderstood… it can be an advantage if you follow the right strategies.”
A study showed that qualities that make a good CEO include:
- Being relationship masters; building good relations between clients and the business
- Reliability; being able to stick to a plan and be there when needed
- Decision makers; the ability to make a decision with conviction and speed
- Adaptability; being able to rise to the occasion, whatever is thrown at you
As mentioned above, introverts tend to excel in these qualities and so there is no reason why we can’t be successful employees, business people and entrepreneurs. After all, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and J.K Rowling didn’t do too badly!
Making it work
I love being a graphic designer/illustrator and enjoy going to events to promote my work but some may say that being reserved is a hindrance to my growth as a business woman. I disagree – it’s just a different route from extroverts and I strongly believe that I can make it work whilst staying true to who I am.
My sales style is probably more personal; I find doing the ‘hard sell’ technique quite difficult, so striking up a conversation with people and getting to know what they are looking for is more comfortable for me. It allows me to really listen and build genuine connections with my customers and I find that they are more likely to invest in my brand this way. Don’t get me wrong, I know when it is necessary to grab opportunities that lie outside of my comfort-zone, but don’t beat myself up about not being the centre of attention every time.
As Ghandi said “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”
Stepping outside my bubble
In January 2020 (on my birthday), I definitely shook MY world and stepped outside of my introverted comfort-zone! I was blessed (and brave) enough to have the opportunity to speak about my greeting cards and gifts on BBC Radio London with Aurie Styla! Me… on the radio… speaking to thousands of people… I know right! It was a crazy experience that I am extremely grateful for and shows that I can and will step up to the plate when the feeling is right!
I also dance which has taken me on amazing journeys, performing in front of thousands at venues such as Wembley Arena and Hammersmith Apollo. Dance allows me to really take hold of an extrovert persona where I can portray huge amounts of confidence (and even cockiness at times) which makes me wonder… am I actually an ambivert? An ambivert is someone who possess both introvert and extrovert qualities depending on the situation.
Just doing me
At the end of the day, us humans are complex beings. Whether introvert, extrovert or ambivert (or anything in between) we are all just making our way through life, doing the best we can to make it work for us!
Have conviction in your goals, make a plan, stay true to who you are and you’ll be able to build a business in your own way, in your own time… maybe just a little quieter than others!
Check out my small-business; illustrated greeting cards and gifts, here.
Written by Leanne Armstrong