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solo girl chronicles: you can't be an introvert

“YOU can’t be an introvert!!!”
“You are always going out somewhere.”
“You have been a professor teaching in front of hundreds of students at universities.”
“You teach exercise classes in front of large groups of people.”
“You own your own business.”
“YOU being an introvert is Not. Even. Possible!”

If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say something along those lines to me I would not even need my coaching business!

The fact of the matter is I am an introvert. And, taking it a step further, I used to deal with social anxiety all of the time. Sometimes I still do.

For many years, this caused me problems. I rarely went out. When I did go out, it was only with people I knew REALLY well. Even then a million questions ran through my mind:

“What will they think of me?”
“What if they hate my clothes?”
“What if they don’t ‘get’ me?”
“What if they think I’m stupid?”
“What happens when they realize I would never fit in with them?”

And the list went on.

But, the thoughts always circled around fears – fear of rejection. Of not being good enough. Of not being capable.

Even to this day with all of the strides I have made, I still have a tendency to cancel plans right at the last minute due to my anxiety and introverted tendencies.

The fact of the matter is that throughout my entire life, I have struggled with my confidence. My level of self-esteem was abysmal. I constantly second-guessed myself. I rejected the praise and compliments of others. I talked myself into avoiding anything where I would have to really “put myself out there”.

However, at the same time, the concept of empowerment fascinated me. During college and graduate school, I entrenched myself in women’s and gender studies and became fixated by the confidence and empowerment exuded by leaders and participants of the feminist movement. They lit a spark in me.

I kept reading. I kept learning. I kept writing. Eventually, I met my idol, Gloria Steinem twice. I attended one of the biggest women’s empowerment events in the United States – the Vday Celebration – in New Orleans. The speeches inspired me. I got to Second Line with Eve Ensler.

But, I finished graduate school and I left New Orleans and all of the women who had inspired me. I shut down again. And, all of the voices of rejection and isolation once again took over my mind.

It wasn’t until early 2015 that I realized my lack of confidence in myself was no longer going to be acceptable to me. I had had enough. I saw an advertisement on Facebook for a free webinar on building confidence. I took this as a sign and I registered immediately.

I still remember it clear as day when Chalene Johnson began talking about introversion. Here’s this gorgeous fitness model who is seen everywhere and known all across the globe for her exercise programs and group fitness classes and she is talking about being an introvert.

I sat there listening to her speak, utterly fascinated. She talked about being an “engaged introvert” and learning to be confident in yourself and your abilities. She stated, “Desire cannot be taught. Confidence can.” She explained that by acknowledging and understanding your personality style, you can manage your energy and exude confidence.

Interestingly, the more research and reading I did on the topic, the more names I discovered to add to the list of fascinating people who put themselves out there all of the time, but identify as introverts: J.K. Rowling. Bill Gates. Abraham Lincoln. Christina Aguilera. Eleanor Roosevelt. Candace Bergen. Warren Buffet. And, that’s just to name a few.

As Chalene Johnson so aptly explained, being an introvert does not mean that you’re shy or afraid of people. But, it does mean you are probably very sensitive. And you experience A LOT of emotions. You are passionate about nearly everything you get involved in. You find solace within yourself.

You can still love people, be an engaging individual, and enjoy short periods of time in social settings, and be an introvert. But, introverts tend to need more of a break from society to find clarity and focus.

My life has done a 180* since the time I first participated in Chalene Johnson’s program. I learned how to use my introversion as a blessing – it is no longer a curse to me.
In many ways, so much of this boiled down to my lack of confidence. I began to understand that the way that you view yourself has the power to change your life. I vowed to increase my confidence in myself.

Fast forward to 2016. I run live webinars. I speak in public. I offer workshops. I participate in large local events. I teach group exercise classes. I attend parties. I go out at night with friends.

Sometimes my introversion and my social anxiety are still a struggle for me. Some days I would rather run and hide. Not be seen. I still cancel social commitments at the last minute from time to time. But, those moments are few and far between.

And, that’s all because I chose to value my introversion and learned how to manage my energy effectively as an introvert. I no longer feel confined by introversion. Instead, I confidently establish social boundaries for myself. I choose to perceive my introversion as a gift.

Ali Jencik is a personal success coach and CEO of Radiant Energy Wellness, LLC. As a previous university professor, Ali combines her passion for teaching and her love of research to create pivotal online programs that help empower women to design the lifestyle of their dreams. She is also a mom of five year old twins. In her free time, Ali is a fitness enthusiast who loves to lift weights, train for half marathons, and do yoga on the beach. 

Solo Girl Chronicles is a new series on the blog. I am opening up the blog to admirable girls I have come across from years of "living" online who surprisingly have a lot more in common with my story, and maybe even yours, of anxiety disorders and social mental blocks than anyone would realize. Sometimes you just a need a chance to share your voice. After that, we all realize how similar we really are, and how no one is alone when it comes to the human experience. If you'd like to share your story, please see my new submissions page here.

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