The following is an adapted excerpt from my upcoming book, Boldly Quiet: The Introvert’s Guide to Developing the Mindset of a Successful Leader.
Any type of label that is perceived as being negative can become a self-fulfilling prophecy as the person—in this case, an introvert—begins to believe the negative perceptions are true. Many introverts develop a distorted view of themselves as they hear these comments at home, school, and in the workplace:
“You’re too quiet.”
“You need to promote yourself.”
“No one knows how you are contributing.”
“You have to be more inspiring to your team.”
“You need to speak up more in meetings.”
“You’re so quiet, I didn’t even know you were there.”
“You have to be more charismatic.”
These types of comments, while often meaning well, can send this message to the introvert: “You’re not good enough as you are . . . you need to become something different.” And to an introvert, that “something different” is a goal that often represents exhausting effort with minimal success.
These feelings of not being good enough as you are or of needing to be invited to participate can lead to ever-deepening self-doubt. Maybe your prior accomplishments were just flukes. Perhaps the extroverts are just smarter than you are. Maybe you don’t really deserve to have the position you do. This pattern of feelings is called the “imposter syndrome,” where you fear being exposed as a fraud. In her book Presence, Amy Cuddy describes imposter syndrome as “the deep and sometimes paralyzing belief we have been given something we didn’t earn and don’t deserve, and at some point we’ll be exposed.”[i]
This fear, which can permeate your mindset, is incredibly detrimental in today’s business environment, where the pace is fast, interactions are complex, and teamwork and collaboration are critical. Picture a star baseball player experiencing a hitting slump. The longer the slump lasts, the more worried the player becomes, adding to an already negative mindset that then perpetuates the poor performance. The same is true of a self-doubting mindset in a business environment. You will begin to shy away from opportunities and relationships which will reinforce your feelings of being a fraud and impact your performance as a leader.
Have you ever had an eye exam? The phoropter is the instrument you look through while the optometrist asks, “Which is better, the first or the second?” Sometimes the phoropter’s settings are such that you can’t even identify any of the letters on the eye chart. But when the settings match your needed prescription, the eye chart is crystal clear. When we, as introverts, allow self-doubt to drive how we view ourselves and our ability to perform well as leaders, we essentially have the wrong prescription in our glasses and will not be able to accurately assess ourselves or the situations we are in because of the distortion.
What if you put on a different pair of glasses, ones that allow you to not only clearly see, but also celebrate the unique blend of personality, passions, talents, skills, and experiences you offer as a leader? What if your feelings of frustration were replaced with feelings of freedom because you no longer had to pretend to be someone else? What if you knew how to position yourself to be respected as a successful leader within the context of your organization?
The purpose of my soon-to-be-released book is to provide you, the reader, with a new pair of glasses that will change how you look at yourself as a person and as a leader. This fresh, clear, perspective—or mindset—is presented to you in the form of The Boldly Quiet Manifesto, my declaration to myself as I sought to change how I viewed myself so I could adjust the perceptions of others.
[i] Amy Cuddy. Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges, (New York, Little, Brown Stark, 2015), 89.