Does the following phrase resonate with you?
We like to think that we value individuality, but all too often we admire one type of individual-the kind who's comfortable putting [her]self out there.
Not that there's anything wrong with being comfortable putting yourself out there!...but there might be a problem when one personality trait is culturally valued over another.
I've been reading a book called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain. It talks about how, extroversion is an enormously appealing personality style, but we've turned it into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform.
Do you consider yourself and introvert and have you ever felt like you were living in a culture that wasn't designed for you? I have! Don't get me wrong, some of my best friends are extroverts and what I'm about to say isn't really about introverts and extroverts. It's about how we communicate.
How do you feel when you hear the phrase, "putting yourself out there"? Here are some words that come to mind for me:
Wanting to go home and hide under the covers (Yes, that's more than one word!)
The scene this phrase brings to mind for me is having to be charming in front of an interviewer, boss, large crowd, or other party guests while my guts twist as I try to imagine them all naked in order to feel less worried that they might not like me. It sounds like I'll have to take up space in a way that feels uncomfortable or be loud, brash, and constantly smiling to gain praise and attention.
Let's reframe this whole idea of "putting yourself out there". There's an inherent problem with this expression. Why should we have to put ourselves anywhere?
What if we just stay put right where we are and look, listen, and respond. What happens then?...Presence, connection and communication.
Regardless of your personality type or tendencies, if you are centered, present, and listening, you are ready to communicate. This could be in the context of work, family, socializing...you name it.
When you "put yourself out there", you try too hard. You step outside of yourself and leave what you most have to offer back in the corner, while you try to present what you think people expect. Often we do this unconsciously as a habit and I work with people to help them notice and change these habits. The changes can be both subtle and powerful.
Becoming more effective in your communications involves making changes from the inside out so that you don't loose yourself in the process, so you do put yourself out anywhere. You stay right where you are. When people feel good around others and say that they have a "certain something", it isn't magic and it isn't extroversion. It's the ability to stay centered, which means staying relaxed and grounded, maintaining good posture and easy breathing.
Centered-ness is contagious and people like to feel that way and to be around people who are that way, whether or not they can pinpoint what that certain something is. It's not a talent that you have to be born with. It's just something we get in the way of and can find again.
You can be a centered extrovert or introvert, but introverts might feel most in need of finding their centers so that they can learn how to be heard or how not to overexert and exhaust themselves by trying to be extroverted.
Find out about my workshop, Posture Under Pressure: Command Your Presence for Effective Communication, and learn how to communicate from your center.