Two weeks ago, I went for a job interview and I was asked this question “What is your biggest challenge being an introvert and how did you overcome it?”
It was a really interesting question. I had never asked myself this before. And being an introvert, my mind went blanked immediately. I think I said something silly like being mistaken as being shy. And yes, most people think that introverts are shy, but that’s hardly the biggest challenge that introverts face!
After having some time alone to ponder and reflect, I have a better answer to this question:
The biggest challenge that introverts face is low self-esteem.
I’m not sure how true it is for other introverts. But for me, that is the biggest challenge growing up.
Introvert Problem # 1: Keeping to Myself
I had very low self-esteem in secondary school (otherwise known as high school in the US). I found it difficult to communicate with other classmates.
I had a very old soul since young. It’s not that I didn’t want to talk to my classmates, but most of the things they were interested in aren’t something I like to talk about. When other kids were busy playing sports, games and planks on other classmates, I was busy learning, reading and writing.
Other kids didn’t want to talk about homework. And if I talked to them about the meaning of life, they would think that I’m crazy! I’m not sure if anyone would want to hear me speak.
So I rather keep to myself.
Introvert Problem #2: Being Misunderstood As Aloof
But my quietness is often mistaken as being shy or boring. Sometimes, others think that I’m aloof, unapproachable or anti-social.
When I was 13, our teacher assigned us in pairs. For most of our lessons, we had to sit next to our partners. My partner and I didn’t have much in common. We hardly talked and he was frustrated with my quietness. He didn’t want to pair up with me. So he kept forcing another student to be my partner. And they would argue. Both of them didn’t want to be my partner.
How did that made me feel?
Introvert Problem #3: Don’t Feel Good about Myself
Whenever I went for school excursion, I would be one of the first to go up the bus. I didn’t want to be the one to choose who to sit next to. I wanted someone else to choose me. Or if someone else who got on the bus last, they would have no choice but to sit next to me.
I slowly convinced myself that I am aloof or socially inept. I was wondering why everyone else seemed to like being in groups and I didn’t. I thought there’s something wrong with me.
I didn’t feel good about myself. I had low self-esteem. It haunted me for years.
And that’s the biggest challenge I faced being an introvert.
Introvert Low Self-Esteem: How Did I Overcome It?
I was really lucky.
Ever since my secondary school days, I always have the best groups and know the best people. And I’m grateful for that.
The turning point was when I was in junior college. The class is much smaller. There were less than 25 students per class. It was great for me as an introvert because I’m better at opening up to smaller groups of people.
And we had longer breaks in between lessons. I had more time connect with others. I also think that having a mix of male and female in the class helped. When you have all male students, the class is rowdier. But when you have female in the class, the guys tends to tone down their behavior. Furthermore, the guys are now older and more matured, they are more accepting towards guys like me who isn’t that good with sports. We even played soccer together.
And of course, it helps to be in a class that is fun and a good mix of different personality.
Accepting My Introverted Nature
But as far as what I did personally to help myself cope with low self-esteem, I think taking time to understand and accept my introverted nature helped.
At 13, I started writing to myself because I was lonely. Writing helped me a lot. I couldn’t connect with my classmates in school. But I didn’t want my parents to know about it. I didn’t want them to worry. So I wrote to myself instead.
Not only was I able to express my ideas through writing:
I started to care for myself.
I started encouraging myself with my own words. I realized it’s okay to be an introvert. It’s okay to spend time alone to recharge. However, I couldn’t ignore the external world. I needed to learn:
- how to communicate with others,
- how to balance time spent alone and time spent with family and friends,
- how to use my gifts as an introvert, and
- how to relate to the external world without comprising my introverted nature.
I spent a lot of time understanding my introverted nature and it helped me grow my self-esteem over the years.
Question: How about you? What is your biggest challenge being an introvert and how did you overcome it?
Featured Photo Credit: 140:365 – Left Out / charamelody