How to Work In An Extroverted Field as an Introvert
Although I’m able to be pretty flexible with my schedule and do a good amount of work at home, I’d say that what I do for a living still involves a fair amount of interaction with others. Part of the time I’m a personal trainer (to wonderful clients, which helps) and part of the time I work on this blog and social media content.
I think the most accurate term to describe my personality would be the term “extroverted introvert,” but if wavering between the two, I am most definitely more likely to fall prey to introversion than to the former descriptor. I can say confidently that I will never feel energized by being in a group of people, preferring far more to enjoy an evening alone, lighting a candle, hiding under a blanket, and reading a book. The thought alone is pure comfort.
That being said, it’s not really an effective way to live life and I’ve learned through going out on my own that other people are incredibly important — not just for networking opportunities or inspiration, but also for support so you don’t go insane working all day every day by yourself and eventually start talking to your plants.
So how can I effectively grow a self-employed business if I’m not able to hustle and bustle 24/7?
When I started out, I accepted virtually every invitation that I received because getting one made me feel like OMG I’VE MADE IT AND PEOPLE LIKE ME AND I WILL MISS OUT IF I DON’T GO. Now I realize that some events fit my brand more than others and it’s ok to decline those that don’t. I also started to dread going to events because they were often in the evening and by that time I was ready to plant myself on the couch and watch TV with Neil or read something. Personal interaction was the last thing on my mind.
Starting with brand new training clients left me a little terrified because I knew I had to be on my game and make conversation, but just like any job, it became easier with time and practice. I’ve thankfully retained many of the same ones for a period of years now, so that also makes it much less daunting.
I’ve gotten comments from people who are surprised that I would rather hang out at home with my dog than interact in the world, but that’s the truth of it. Even so, I know interaction is important, and so here are some of the things that have helped me over the years.
Think about what’s going to add to your life.
In order to find that balance, I think about what’s really going to benefit me or my brand when deciding on events or how many clients to take on in a day. Will this decision serve my goals or theirs? Is it a brand or company that I genuinely care about and want to support? And on the personal training side, just how many hours of conversation can I realistically have in a day?
These days I make time to actually think about these things before blindly saying yes or filling my calendar from morning to night with things that may not serve me. It’s made a world of difference.
Just be gracious with yourself. If I’m ever feeling overwhelmed, I simply pause and take some deep breaths. I may step outside for a bit to gather my thoughts and find some energy. Obviously I don’t do this while training, but it’s usually fine once the session starts. I’ve gotten much better at making conversation over the years and the fact that none of my clients are brand new makes it much more enjoyable to chat.
If I’m still faced with those feelings of overwhelm and panic, I spend as much time as I can there and then make a graceful exit. I’m a HUGE fan of the “Irish exit,” that is, silently slinking away and saying goodbye to no one, but that doesn’t really fly if you’re at a brand event. I’ve made much more of an effort now to actually thank and say goodbye to whoever is hosting and my world doesn’t explode.
Sometimes it’s just going to be hard.
As someone who deals with social anxiety as well as depression, I’ve come to accept that sometimes it’s just harder to do things than it is for other people. I have to put in a little more work to operate at someone else’s baseline. That’s ok, but I also know that it limits the amount of things that I can commit myself to. I can’t fill up my week with in-person meetings and evening events and expect to feel sane and refreshed at the end of it.
I don’t think it’s ever going to come easily for me, so I simply find ways to manage what needs to be done. I make sure I don’t work on weekends (aside from at-home blog work on Sundays) so that I have time to recharge, and I schedule time for myself amidst time with others. It’s taken awhile to figure out exactly what works, but I feel like that’s true in so many life situations. Experiment until you find what works for you.