Finding Your Voice in an Extroverted Society | Abigail Smith | TEDxStLawrenceU

Finding Your Voice in an Extroverted Society | Abigail Smith | TEDxStLawrenceU


Translator: Leonardo Silva
Reviewer: Claudia Sander Rosa Parks, pioneer
of the civil rights movement. Steve Wozniak, inventor
of the most popular computer model. Bill Gates, technological genius. Sir Isaac Newton,
world-renowned physicist. J. K. Rowling, author
of the best-selling book series. Dr. Seuss, one of the most famous
children’s authors. Our world would not be the same
without these introverted leaders. Raise your hand if you’re
afraid of public speaking. Thank God. I thought
I was the only one here. During my speech, I am going to be talking to you about
how I gained enough confidence in myself to have the courage to stand
in front of all of you today. In second grade, I was often described as a shy, quiet girl who had yet
to come out of her shell. I favored coloring
and reading books by myself over socializing with my classmates. One day, my teacher, Ms. Spaniard,
who was very aware of my shyness, contacted my parents so that she could coordinate
our outfits for class the next day. Here’s a picture of Ms. Spaniard
and I on that very day, wearing our same blue sweaters. Despite my shyness, I’ve always had
a somewhat goofy side to me as well. As a child, I always had
high aspirations for myself, and I was constantly thinking
about my future. I wanted to follow my dad’s footsteps
ever since I was a little girl. I used to ask him,
“Dad, what do you do for a living?” And he would simplify
what he actually does, which is work in private equity, into little-kid terms,
by saying he sold things to people. So, for the longest time, I thought my dad
sold furniture for a living. (Laughter) And, of course, I wanted
to sell furniture for a living too. This goal of mine quickly changed
as my interest in rocks progressed. I wanted to be an archaeologist
up until high school. My obsession for archaeology
grew to the point where I asked my grandmother
for a rock polisher and a metal detector
for Christmas one year. I was convinced that I would find
some sort of gold or valuable item buried in my backyard
using this very metal detector. Despite my constant need
to think about the future, which frankly has not changed one bit, I’ve always been very apprehensive
to pursue these goals. How would I, a shy, quiet girl,
be able to get her voice heard and pursue her dreams
in such a loud society? Introverts prefer solitude
and gain their energy from being alone, while extroverts prefer socialization and gain their energy
from the presence of others. I credit my shyness
and fear of social disapproval to being completely introverted. However, I never thought that I fit
the definition of an introvert perfectly. So, as I grew up, I thought to myself, “How does my personality
really fit into the binary of being completely introverted
or completely extroverted?” I felt uneasy about how
my personality fit into this binary, until stumbling upon a quote by Carl Jung, an influential psychiatrist
and founder of analytical psychology. He proposed that there’s no such thing
as a pure extrovert or pure introvert. “Such a man would be
in the lunatic asylum.” I was under the impression that I was
an introvert in an extroverted world until high school. So, I acted accordingly. In middle school, I was very comfortable
with being myself around my best friends, but the minute I had to interact
with people I was less comfortable with, I would tense up
and felt like was acting awkward. As much as I loved my school
and as much as I loved my friends, my absolute favorite part of the day was waiting in the
carpool line for my car, next to my pink polka-dotted backpack, so that I could go home
and spend some time alone. The perspective that I had
on how my personality fit into society changed when I went to boarding school. Now that my school was also my home, I noticed my introversion a lot more so
than I ever did in middle school. After a long day of socializing,
going to classes and doing work, my very first instinct was to go upstairs
to my room and spend some time alone. But when I was doing this, I felt like I was missing
on everyone else was socializing and getting to know each other, but I was never satisfied
with spending all of my time alone, nor was I satisfied
with socializing all the time. So, I didn’t quite
understand how I fit in. Ever since Ancient Greece, when public speaking was an expectation
in our democratic society, extroversion has been the ideal. Our culture is built on individualism
and the principle of speaking up. We pay very little attention
to the power of creativity, which is more often than not
bolstered by solitude and thinking, characteristics that introverts embody. This ideal undermines a quiet resilience
that many individuals hold in our society. Introversion should not
be seen as a burden when it can be an opportunity
to be successful. Because we live in this extrovert ideal, I felt the pressure to go out
of my comfort zone and be extroverted myself. At the end of my sophomore year, I attended a social justice conference
in Seattle, Washington. As a member of the youth group
of this conference, we were required to gather onstage, but speaking about
our experiences was optional. As an introvert at the time,
I was terrified of public speaking. Nothing has changed, even though
I’m standing in front of all of you today. And with no intention to speak in front of the 1,000 or so
participants of this conference, my body acted before
my mind could stop it. I took a step forward
and I grabbed the microphone. In a world that prizes extroverts, my faithful step toward this microphone was the first step in my self-imposed
introvert’s challenge. I’ve continued to follow
my introvert’s challenge in an effort to become
a functional ambivert, someone who embodies the qualities
of both introverts and extroverts. In order to develop a more harmonic
personality in our extroverted society, I opted to become a peer-discussion
leader in high school. Initially, as a peer-discussion leader,
I was very uncomfortable leading weighty discussions
about drug and alcohol abuse, healthy versus unhealthy
relationships, and bullying, with people that I barely knew. But as the year progressed,
my nervousness abated. For the first time, I didn’t feel confused
about how I fit into this society. I was confident
that my personality mattered and I was proud
to call myself an ambivert. In my experience, being an ambivert
is like being a balloon. Balloons are meant to expand
to reach their fullest capacity, but they can only expand so far. Eventually, as time passes by, they begin to deflate
and they return to their original state. As an ambivert who does
prefer introversion, I strive to stretch my balloon
in extroverted ways. In order to grow
and find balance in my life, I’ve stretched myself
as far as I am capable of going. However, after having done so, I know that it is important to return
to my comfortable state. That’s why, after this speech is done, I can guarantee that I will be
crawled up in my bed, watching a TV show. I stretched my balloon farther
than I ever thought possible during the summer
after my junior year of high school. I continued to pursue
my introvert’s challenge when attending an entrepreneurial
summer study program in Boston, Massachusetts. I gained an understanding of myself
that I never had before, and I began sharing my voice
more frequently and more confidently. I had to create two business plans
during this program, and I presented them
in front of venture capitalists. I acted as a CEO for both of my companies and I never felt intimidated
or scared to share my ideas. I felt passionate
about what I had created, and I became more extroverted
through the experience. Sometimes, all it takes
is finding your passion in life to feel comfortable
in an extroverted world. In a loud world
where I used to keep quiet, my voice finally mattered
and was finally being heard. My introvert’s challenge
has proven to be a successful journey, and now I consider myself
a highly functioning ambivert in situations that do not
come easily to introverts. The balance that I found in my life
was being ambiverted, and I was able to interact
in an extroverted world while still being me. Rosa Parks, pioneer
of the civil rights movement. Steve Wozniak, inventor
of the most popular computer model. Bill Gates, technological genius. Sir Isaac Newton,
world-renowned physicist. J. K. Rowling, author
of the best-selling book series. Dr. Seuss, one of the most famous
children’s authors. These introverts show us that leaders do not have to be gregarious,
extroverted or talkative to lead. People can lead by introducing things
in unconventional ways. As Gandhi famously says, “In a gentle way,
you can shake the world.” Thank you. (Applause) (Cheers)

Leave a Response

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

16 thoughts on “Finding Your Voice in an Extroverted Society | Abigail Smith | TEDxStLawrenceU”