How to Overcome the Fear of ‘Putting Yourself Out There’

22087fe How to Overcome the Fear of Putting Yourself Out There

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In honor of Arianna Huffington’s marvelous book THRIVE, I want to write about a very specific aspect of well-being: freedom from fear of sharing one’s ideas.

131f575 How to Overcome the Fear of Putting Yourself Out ThereIn researching my book, QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, I met a scientist performing groundbreaking work on social anxiety disorder. A charming, articulate man, he confided that his interest in the field came from his own struggles with shyness. But he asked me not to use his name in my book. “Not everyone is as comfortable as you are exposing their true feelings,” he said.

To which I could only say “ha.”

I am not a natural self-discloser at all. It took me thirty years to realize my childhood dream of becoming a writer, partly because I was afraid to write about personal things — yet these were the subjects I was drawn to.

Eventually my drive to write grew stronger than my fear, and I’ve never looked back. I still envy friends who write about topics like science or politics. They can show up at dinner parties without everyone announcing: “Here comes the introvert!”

But you get used to it. And really, it’s a small price to pay for the freedom to say what you think.

I tell you all this because I hear often from people who burst with ideas but decline to share them, because they dislike the spotlight. Maybe you fear others judging you and your work. Or you’re uncomfortable with self-promotion. Or perhaps you’re afraid of failure, or of success.

So many fears, so many ideas worth sharing. What to do? Here are eight ideas to help you power through these disabling emotions.

1. Know that you’re in good company. People have always had to put themselves out there. We tend to think that in the good old days, no one had to self-promote the way we do today. True; but if they wanted to share, or lead, or create, they had to go public with their thoughts, too. And this has always been scary. Darwin waited THIRTY-FOUR years to publish his idea that humans evolved from monkeys. Scholars call this “Darwin’s Delay,” and many believe it was due to his fear of how others would judge his heretical theory.

2. When it comes to social media, think self-expression, not self-promotion. Blogging and tweeting, if practiced properly, feel more like a creative project than an exercise in self-disclosure, even though of course they are both. They also don’t require the in-person social multi-tasking that many people find so exhausting.

3. Coffee will deliver you from self-doubt. It gets you excited about new ideas and helps you ignore the chorus of judgers inside your head. It propels your thinking and helps you make connections between seemingly unrelated things. Hence, the saying that “a mathematician is a device for turning coffee into theorems.”

4. Train yourself to associate idea generation with pleasure. I usually work at a cozy café table and indulge in a chocolate muffin. I would probably be five pounds lighter without this habit, but I don’t care. By now I so associate writing and idea generation with pleasure, that I love it even when I don’t have a café table handy.

5. Work alone (or “alone together” — for example, sitting by yourself in a coffee shop or library). There’s a lot of nonsense floating around these days about how creativity is a fundamentally social act. Ignore this. Yes, creativity is social in the sense that we all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us; yes, we must share and advance ideas (that’s the whole point of this article); yes, collaboration is a powerful and beautiful thing (think Lennon and McCartney, or the Madonna and child.)

But for many people, the creative thinking process is a solo act. One of my all-time favorite quotes comes from William Whyte’s The Organization Man:

“The most misguided attempt at false collectivization is the current attempt to see the group as a creative vehicle… People very rarely think in groups; they talk together, they exchange information, they adjudicate, they make compromises. But they do not think; they do not create.”

6. Work at night when your cortisol levels are lower. When I was a child at summer camp, I noticed a strange pattern. I was horribly homesick first thing in the morning, often waking up with a stomach ache. But as the day wore on, the homesickness faded. By nighttime, I was carefree and having a grand time.

Each night, I was sure I’d wake up the next morning feeling just as strong. But the homesickness always came back.

Back then I couldn’t explain this pattern, but I can now. Cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone, and it peaks in the morning and steadily dissipates throughout the day. For some of us, these peaks and falls are especially pronounced.

So while you probably think most clearly first thing in the morning, you may be at your least inhibited at night. I’ve noticed that interesting turns of phrase and associative leaps come much more easily in the evening hours. And indeed creativity researchers believe that a relaxed brain, a brain that is not in the grip of anxiety or blocked by other psychological barriers, is a more creative brain.

7. Strengthen your backbone, and therefore your confidence, in small steps. Get in the habit of asking yourself where you stand on various questions. When you have firm opinions or a strong sense right or wrong on a given question, savor the feeling. It doesn’t matter what kind of question - it can be how to organize the dishwasher.

The point is to get used to the feeling of having a center, and operating from it. Then, produce more consequential ideas from this same place. You’ll still have doubts, of course -Does it make sense? Will people agree? That’s normal. But you need to have confidence about the underlying purpose of your undertaking.

8. If you need a role model of fearless idea generation and sharing, you really need look no further than Arianna Huffington and her Third Metric mission. She’s not worried about resistance, criticism, or taking on a mission that could, theoretically, fail.

Or maybe she is worried, but she does it nonetheless. And that, really sums it up: be afraid, but do it anyway.

What are your tips for putting your ideas out there fearlessly? I would love to hear!

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  1. How to get across your Quiet Competence | QC on 30.03.2014 at 16:27

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  2. Ray DoRayMeFa on 31.03.2014 at 10:26 (Reply)

    Susan, this post is one of your most excellent! Maximum content in minimum space. :-)
    I echo your thoughts about working best, late in the evening. Phooey to those who want to impose an Early-to-bed-Early-to-rise regimen!
    I add that I come up with solutions and “new” ideas best, when lying in bed thinking in a relaxed and non-structured way-either after retiring or after waking up in the morning. (Thankfully I don’t notice higher cortisol detriments before rising.)
    P.S. Respectfully, I fear that coffee and muffins may be Satan’s lure!
    Thank you for your posts.

  3. Susan Cain on how to overcome the fear of putting yourself out there | CARTER GILLIES POTTERY on 31.03.2014 at 10:32

    […] offered what encouragement I could. A few minutes later I was checking my blog roll and up popped a post from the fabulous Susan Cain on precisely this issue. What a coincidence! No wonder people […]

  4. Sarah on 31.03.2014 at 10:53 (Reply)

    This may sound silly to some people, but I play Sara Bareilles’ song “Brave” and sing it in my head when I am feeling anxious about doing something or being at an event where I will be required to talk to others/strangers. I turned it up in our minivan on the way to school on the day of my 2nd grade daughter’s school play (she had a lead role). I had a feeling that it would help her (she is an introvert too). And I smiled with tears in my eyes as she sang along with the words.

  5. James on 31.03.2014 at 14:19 (Reply)

    Wow, great list! This is something I’ve been trying to work on - making myself realize that my ideas and outlook are unique and valuable at work and in life. However, not with you on the coffee thing. Feels like the stuff is gonna eat a hole through my stomach. I’ll stick to tea. :)

  6. Adam on 31.03.2014 at 15:18 (Reply)

    Great post. I love the last line-be afraid, but do it anyway - almost exactly the same as the headline of this blog post!

  7. Chris K. on 31.03.2014 at 18:42 (Reply)

    Wow Susan! I heard your Ted Talk, bought your book and just found you online. I am so grateful for you and your message. I will be a better parent to my daughter because I now can put words and understanding around what both she and I are, introverts. I have just starting writing after 38 years of silence and feel liberated! What’s amazing is that your last line “be afraid but do it anyway” is something that I have been saying to my daughters (the oldest one most, now age 9) their entire lives. I actually just wrote something about this too and that adage is in it. I hope it’s okay to share:

    Again, thank you for writing. I am so glad you started! Chris

  8. William on 31.03.2014 at 21:40 (Reply)

    I liked getting in the habit of asking myself where I stand , I would add without having to tell anyone, this gives me the permission to really know where I stand without thinking about what others might think and then I can share it.

  9. Laura Beach on 31.03.2014 at 21:47 (Reply)

    Dear Susan,
    I love your work. I am an extreme introvert leading a ministry that fosters contemplative practices and so I am surrounded by those who are naturally introverts. Your writing helps me collaborate (my favorite thing to do) with these amazingly brilliant people who would prefer often to work alone or in quiet.
    I am intrigued by your cortisol in the morning information. I have the exact opposite issue and find that my stress levels increase at night when I am alone as apoosed t in the morning when I am preparing to be with people. Do you know if there is a difference in this between introverts and extroverts? Thanks, Laura Beach

  10. Rita on 31.03.2014 at 22:11 (Reply)

    Thank you for posting this article. It was informative and showed me somethings I need to re-try. It reinforced that you can share ideas and thoughts but still work alone. Though I’ve spent half of my life worrying about what other people think, this gave me reason to break free from worry.
    Thank you for listening.

  11. Phyllis Capanna on 31.03.2014 at 22:36 (Reply)

    Seriously, I was going to write a blog post asking extroverts how they do spirituality! I’m so pleased to have happened upon your work, Susan! Here’s what I have to contribute to the conversation: The thing that helped me most in putting my ideas out there was first becoming comfortable with putting my ideas down on paper for myself. I adopted Julia Cameron’s morning pages -Could it be decades ago? And developed a voice, and got to know my voice and trust it. As for social media, I hated it at first, likening it to being at a huge party where everyone was talking at once. Then I realized there are advantages to that for introverts: We can say things out loud without the risk of the whole room stopping talking at once and exposing us. It helps also to notice that some extroverts who blab all over the place aren’t any more clever than we are.

  12. Hailey on 01.04.2014 at 00:38 (Reply)

    Such a great post (same with your book “Quiet” that I’ve read cover-to-cover non-stop!).

    I’m so in love with what you have shared, especially the “cortisol levels are lower at night” as I always get many things done during the late hours and enjoy that time. Your ending is also a strong message for me as well: “be afraid but do it anyway”.

    Thank you Susan for reminding me that I need to share more of my thoughts and ideas to the world out there as other people may be benefited from it (same as I have from yours). I’ve been sharing on facebook and I will set up a blog as a start. Also, I will get the book “Thrive” as this is the third time this book came across to me (I have a rule of thumb that I will ACTION on the 3rd message)

    You are my real role model. I wish one day I can be able to do what I love which relecting a “real” me and earn enough money so that I can quit my 9 to 5 boring accounting job.

    So again, thank you Susan for all your fantastic work.

  13. Amanda on 01.04.2014 at 10:53 (Reply)

    Susan, I’ve been stumbling across your work the last few months, and each time it really resonates with me. Thank you! So many of your points have left me feeling so comforted, not even realizing that something was exceptionally difficult or different for me. And the cortisol levels are highest in the morning-hello morning anxiety. Thank you for helping to shift my perspective on some of the things I experience.

  14. Greg on 01.04.2014 at 13:34 (Reply)

    Great information on the Cortisol stress hormone daily cycle. I might be experiencing this regularly. During the work week I generally wake up at 4 am to 4:30 am, panicked about various things in my work life and I am unable to go back to sleep. When going to sleep in the late evening, I generally fall asleep within 10 minutes of laying down.

    1. Red Dog on 16.04.2014 at 11:47 (Reply)

      The experience of waking after several hours of sleep (and often finding it hard to go back to sleep) is one of general anxiety. The rise and fall of cortisol levels isn’t what is disturbing your sleep. I too have experienced this at times when there were pressing concerns in my life. From what you describe, it’s probably work related and due to your level of anxiety from daily events.

  15. older and wiser on 06.04.2014 at 17:19 (Reply)

    Be inoffensive, don’t irk those with power, don’t let yourself become usable as a
    a tool of the unscrupulous. And we must somehow curb extortionists and other dishonest people.

    In other words, how you speak up, and speak your mind as a citizen and speak truth to power, I do not know. Achilles heels are searched for, probably created if need be, and exploited to the max. It sucks. (And I would dearly like to know how widespread it is, or if it is still in the proof of concept phase.)

    1. Victoria on 17.05.2014 at 13:35 (Reply)

      Dear older and wiser
      I thought to tell you about Brene Brown and her fascinating studies on shame and vulnerability. I can’t recommend her highly enough. She talks about our ‘shaming culture’ which reminded me of your post. After reading her books I am now aware of resilience and real safe spaces within my own mind and with others.
      Loving having found Susan’s work also


  16. Aaron Klokeid on 08.04.2014 at 14:10 (Reply)

    Dear Susan,
    Ugly duckling self-talk has taken a serious downgrade. Thank you for the wide variety of research. The suggested practical adjustments this psychological style can affect will provide much healing reflection. But the best is the warm, kind and sympathetic nature I meet in your book.

  17. Tab on 08.04.2014 at 16:36 (Reply)

    Bam! This hits right at the center of my being.
    Thank you for your courage to share via your work.
    Your writing speaks to so many of us who read you.
    Loud n Clear.Grateful for people like you Susan Cain.

  18. panda3011 on 09.04.2014 at 09:54 (Reply)

    About my fearless, I have so many special, interesting and discontinous ideas (well , special by myself), I want to share but I don’t dare do that even sharing on social network. I think I need to make sure an idea that must be perfect, complete, and if having some reviews, for one, i can respond or protect it. I’m always scared to exposed my ideas, especially to get comments to build them. I’ve wondered how you can have braveness to meet many other people to discuss about your subjects. Maybe as you said, your drive to write grew stronger than your fear.
    About my concentrating, I work most productively when I’m in a café. The crowded in there makes me concentrate entirely on my task with some music themes but I don’t feel stress . if I work at home, a pile of anxious reflects will interrupt my progress. I tried to use many various methods to improve that likes use the inspiring quotes sticked anywhere, put the deadlines by my self, reach out of my hands all thing can be temptations or distributing… but they are only useful for short time. Working at a coffee shop is the most effective measures so far for me.

  19. Red Dog on 16.04.2014 at 12:37 (Reply)

    Susan stated:

    “I tell you all this because I hear often from people who burst with ideas but decline to share them, because they dislike the spotlight. Maybe you fear others judging you and your work. Or you’re uncomfortable with self-promotion. Or perhaps you’re afraid of failure, or of success.

    So many fears, so many ideas worth sharing. What to do? Here are eight ideas to help you power through these disabling emotions.”

    This begs the question: Is introversion nothing more than social anxiety?

    There are many specific forms of anxiety. Those who fear speaking in public have performance anxiety (stage fright). Those who suffer discomfort in being with other people are considered shy. Those who fear criticism are lacking in assertiveness and lack effective skills to cope with it.

    Personally, I don’t consider introversion to be a catch-all categorization for various forms of anxiety. People aren’t born with anxieties. As you detailed in your book, it is likely that introverts do react differently than extroverts from birth, as an innate trait.

    All human beings experience psychological problems at some time in their life. No one is immune from them. As you suggested above, many of your readers have fears. Obviously your book attracts a wide audience, many of whom have fears, and it offers them comfort, but it doesn’t alleviate personal anxieties. There is a tendency for some to think or conclude “I have anxiety because I am an introvert”. Chronic anxiety is curable, or at least manageable with psychological techniques. Introversion is not curable however, *because it’s neither a psychological problem nor is it a defect*.

    Introversion and anxiety are not synonymous. Introversion is a trait shown as a preference. Introversion is NOT a fear, nor is it fear based.

  20. Mirella on 16.04.2014 at 15:25 (Reply)

    I’ve always been an extremely opinionated introvert, so I had to find ways to express myself. Art has helped me build more confidence, while role-models and influencers have inspired to share my unique voice with the world.
    Thank you for the inspiration!

  21. Ariana {And Here We Are...} on 22.04.2014 at 06:29 (Reply)

    Hi Susan,

    I loved this post. While I was always told I was articulate from the time I was a child, the idea of writing a book was completely mortifying, and when blogs came around, I felt the same way. WHY would I do that? All of my family members started blogs over 10 years ago, and I was the last to cave to the pressure. Interestingly enough, I gradually developed confidence and loved having a voice to the world in a way that was much less intimidating for an introvert. I cannot imagine life without blogging anymore, and it has been such a way to open myself to the world and vice-versa.

    I recently published an ebook about intentional living, and the idea was also terrifying/ mortifying- but it was been such an amazing experience. It’s incredible to find your voice and set aside the fears of what others will thing- I believe we all have something valuable to contribute, and especially introverts.
    Thank you for writing this post!

  22. The Silent Saunterer on 02.05.2014 at 12:44 (Reply)

    For me, I think preparation is key. When you are prepared, you cover almost every angle that how people might react and that is quite assuring to me because of the confidence it provides.

    Also, if you have had one positive experience before, it helps a lot. Because before presenting your ideas to the audience, you could always visualize back to the moment when everything went well. I believe this is a technique known as anchoring whereby you anchor your emotional state to a past positive experience. This should make you feel confident. I have tried it many times before a big presentation and although it does not completely ease my palpitating heart, it does help a little.

    I believe everyone feels nervous, but it is about converting that feeling of nervousness into excitement.

    The Silent Saunterer

  23. Pedro on 04.05.2014 at 21:22 (Reply)

    I am an introvert however I have managed to develop more skills that “compensate” this fact.
    I am a sales directive, this is a rol that typically is held by extroverts.
    Happy to see that we are all flexible enough to find ways to bypass our limitations.
    thank you for your inspiration

  24. rhonda84 on 13.05.2014 at 07:57 (Reply)

    I appreciate the concept and the simple and accessible presentation of the ideas. The two points that resonated with me most specifically are 7) the notion of having a center from which to build. After struggling with my many thoughts for years but having no idea how to begin to get them out in a coherent manner I realized it was partially from a lack of a core or center belief system back to which most of these ideas can circle. And 8. - yes I am afraid, but just doing it anyway is one of the most freeing experiences. Thank you for your post.

  25. BF-Earl on 29.05.2014 at 21:34 (Reply)

    I was introduced to Ms. Cain’s QUIET in a meetup group (meetupdotcom) a year-and-a half-ago. Do you have a network for introverts via the Web site just mentioned? I searched it using the word ‘Quiet’ and the name ‘Susan Cain.’

  26. Belinda on 01.06.2014 at 00:52 (Reply)

    Hi Susan

    Thanks so much for your book. I have just finished reading it for the second time. I feel like I have been found. I have always been judged for my introvert qualities and have also judged myself. But now I feel so normal and I feel free. I can see clearly now. I have been sitting on a blog for years now precisely because I am afraid of being judged for my opinions. And being misunderstood. But in my heart I know that the blog will change the world, one person at a time. So am gonna do it anyway.Thanks for your work

  27. Carolynbikergirl on 03.06.2014 at 05:49 (Reply)

    I saw the TedTALK last night and have been reading excerpts from this book and I absolutely LOVE how you explain us as introverts. What you wrote about working later when the cortisol levels are down makes so much more sense to me. I didn’t really realize why I seem to be so much more productive with writing and photography later in the day and always when I’m by myself. I’m extremely fortunate that I’m allowed to set my work hours and I tend to start later and work later. I put in more hours than most but also get a ton done as soon as everyone is gone from the office. With no people around, my mind is free to focus and I love that. I have friends who thrive on being with people and needing something to do. I on the other hand have always loved my time alone and doing things by myself. I do love people and enjoy spending time with people but I need my time alone to recharge and to think. Every morning I take about an hour just to be alone in my thoughts. Now that there are laws against using the cell phone while driving, I have an “acceptable” excuse according to those who want me to call them NOT to. I get to drive 40 minutes each way and I cherish that time as well.
    Thank you for putting all of this together. Even though I know I am great as I am as an introvert, I appreciate the outside acceptance of who I am as well. Thank you!

  28. Christian P. on 05.06.2014 at 02:16 (Reply)

    Hi Susan.

    I just saw your TED talk about Introverts. It made me happy an made me buy your book.
    This way I hope that I can learn more about me, introverts an maybe be able to explain to my friends, why I am who I am.
    My mother actually belived that she had done something wrong, when I grew up. Because of all the time I spent alone.

  29. Charita Cadenhead on 11.06.2014 at 09:30 (Reply)

    Yesterday I read a post you had written that appeared in my FB newsfeed. It was a testimony of an educator that made modifications to her teaching experience in an effort to be more inclusive or attentive to the needs of her introvert students.

    Prior to reading that, I had been wanting to reach out to local educators (teachers, principals, superintendents, etc) to start a conversation about introversion in schools. Admittedly I had been procrastinating. But after reading your post, I am moving forward and am reaching out to local educators and plan to persist in bring this dialogue to the forefront.

    In essence, I am putting myself out there.

    Thank you for everything.

    1. Susan Cain on 11.06.2014 at 16:19 (Reply)

      Go Charita, I am very proud of you! Can you please let me know what happens every step of the way? Eventually the Quiet Revolution will launch a global effort to “quietize” education, and I would love for you to be a part of this.

      warmly, S

      1. Charita Cadenhead on 11.06.2014 at 17:36 (Reply)

        I will absolutely let you know how things pan out. I will be scouring your websites for info I can use. It’s my way of having you walk me through this. I’m passionate and committed to this process.

        Thanks again.

      2. Claire on 12.06.2014 at 10:53 (Reply)

        Hi Susan,

        I’m so glad I read Charita’s post as I have been thinking of doing the very same thing since your book came out. And I think subconsciously, I’ve been wanting to do this for a very, very long time. That was why I was so, so happy when your book came out. Somebody was finally being brave enough to speak up for us! And after watching your recent youtube video ‘Re:Think 2014 Presentation’ where you mentioned visiting schools and workplaces to spread the message, and after reading this post also, you have inspired me to get out there and just do it.

        I am going to a Toasmasters meeting next week, as an observer for the first two or three times, but then I am going to be brave and start taking part myself. I then plan to start off by doing a talk to my work colleagues to get the ball rolling, and then I will hopefully be moving on to local schools and workplaces when my confidence has grown. I suffer with quite severe social anxiety but I am determined to do it anyway.

        I have never been more passionate or determined about anything in my whole life, and despite my fears, I feel I must do this. I wish you had been doing this whilst I was growing up, but even though I have endured the bias, judgement and imbalance all throughout my life, along with all the other millions of introverts who have also struggled to just be accepted for who they are, I am grateful for this revolution even happening in my lifetime. And I don’t want to think of all the children who are suffering now simply because of who they are, to have to continue to endure what we all do/have into adulthood.

        Thank you so much Susan for giving us introverts a much-needed voice and the push to restore equality and balance. And I would also like to say thank you to Charita also for giving me that final push, knowing that I won’t be doing it alone.

        Susan, I will continue to watch your progress. And if you do manage to record your visits to the schools and workplaces I will be using those as my inspiration and guidance, as I want to be as articulate as you to ensure my success.

        1. Charita Cadenhead on 12.06.2014 at 11:20 (Reply)

          Claire just pumped me up even more. It’s just confirmation that I am on the right path. I’m looking forward to keeping each other motivated and we may even end up collaborating at some point. Thanks Claire for weighing in on this conversation.

          I think that your passion about this subject with overpower your fear of speaking in a public forum and you will become a powerful force in this long overdue effort educate the public on the topic of introversion and the people in that personality spectrum.

          1. Claire on 14.06.2014 at 13:11 (Reply)

            Thank you so much for your kind words Charita. I believe you are right that my passion to continue spreading the message will outweigh my fear of public speaking. The more introverts who speak out about this the better, even if it is against our very nature. That should show even more just how determined we are. I see this as an equal rights movement and if we don’t continue to talk about it, there will forever be this imbalance.

            It will only take a few (very!) brave people to get things going, but I really believe that things will then start to snowball and that more and more introverts will start to become brave enough to speak up themselves. Susan has shown that it can be done and we can’t let things slip backwards, we need to keep things going forward now. I never dreamed I would see this happen in my lifetime and I’m determined to do all that I can to continue the progression, even if I will only play a very small part.

            And on the motivation front, even just reading your first post gave me the kick I also needed to stop procrastinating, and I want to thank you again for that. I think that updating each other on our progress would be very beneficial. And on that very note, have you managed to speak to anyone yet?

  30. Annette Vaillancourt, Ph.d. on 13.06.2014 at 16:11 (Reply)

    I have been babystepping out into the public eye very slowly over the last 5 years. I moved to a larger city, started hosting MeetUps in my home (so I, the introvert, wouldn’t have to leave my home), wrote and published my first book in January 2014 and as of TODAY, started hosting my own online radio show. It is sometimes excruciating to put myself out there, but my readers and audience respond so well! Just about the time I want to retreat into my Hobbit hole, they thank me profusely for the work that I do. Sheesh!

    Thank you for writing Quiet! My clients and friends love it!

    1. Red Dog on 15.06.2014 at 19:45 (Reply)

      In what field is your PhD?

      1. Annette Vaillancourt on 15.06.2014 at 20:09 (Reply)

        Counseling Psychology

  31. Charita on 14.06.2014 at 14:45 (Reply)

    Claire. I really haven’t had a Fear of public speaking since I was a young adult and found out that I was pretty good at it. Couple that with passion and I believe I can hold an audience. I have not made personal contact with anyone yet but 2 things have happened. First I mailed a letter out to the School superintendent of my city the other day. Secondly,I am president of my neighborhood association and the other day, my councilman asked if I wanted the Superintendent to attend our meeting on June 23rd, now if that is not added confirmation I don’t know what is. Claire we are a part of this revolution and we will be a part of this history making effort. We need each other to make this happen and I am hopeful that we will keep your fire fueled.

    1. Claire on 16.06.2014 at 18:12 (Reply)

      I totally agree Charita. I never thought of it that way. We WILL be making history, and for such a worthy and long overdue cause. This will change people’s lives, even if if may take some time yet. Even this evening (the night before my first foray into Toastmasters!) though I am so nervous, I also feel excited knowing that I’m going to be doing something so important.

      And also, as cringey as it sounds, something that I feel I was born to do.I know it probably sounds really corny but I feel like I have found my purpose in life, and ever since Susan’s book came out, I’ve been telling a colleague that one day I will be brave and talk to my local community about it. And that day is almost here!

      I actually think my social anxiety has also spurred me on in a way. As being a socially anxious introvert is a double whammy, and so perhaps my lifelong struggle has not been in vain and maybe even happened for this very reason, to make me even more determined than I maybe would have been.

      I wish I was at the stage that you are at now but I know I will get there. And it took Susan a ‘year of speaking dangerously’ before she did her Ted Talk and so I know it may take that long, and maybe even longer for me because of my anxiety. Though when I was sixteen (and the shyest person in my whole year) I was voted as having the most relaxed demeanour in my English Oral exam (apparently I didn’t look nervous at all) even though I thought I was going to throw up beforehand, and during! ;-D So that is also helping me. If I could do it then, when I was super shy, then I can do it now. And I am pretty good at appearing confident when I’m not, so that will also go in my favour.

      You are someone whose lead I can follow throughout, and it will be so helpful to have the guidance of someone who also has the same goal and who will be going through the same thing, but yet has more experience and confidence than myself. Both yourself and Susan will be a great help to me and to be honest, without seeing your first post, I really doubt I would have had the courage to even consider it.

      I’m so happy for you that the Superintendent will be attending your meeting. You’re on your way! :-) I really wish you luck with it and please let me know how it goes. I shall also keep you updated with my Toastmasters experience.

      Just one more thing, I had a really funny experience this evening. I was making my dinner and for a split second, I felt totally relaxed and with such a real feeling of total calm. I had a sudden thought that felt so real, it was if it was actually happening. I have been so excited recently since Susan mentioned her own talks, and about what we will be doing also, that I actually believed in that split second that the change had already happened and that I didn’t need to worry anymore because I knew that everyone now understood everything completely, and that there were no more misunderstandings or apprehension. I think it’s because I never thought this would happen, let alone in my lifetime.

      It was only a very fleeting moment but it was so real, and I think it was the final push (or sign?) telling me that I have to do this. And if the rest of my life is going to feel like that, then I DO have to do it. I’m sorry, I’m not usually so deep and dramatic on a public forum! ;-D But I am fired up, just like you said. So I will be using that to keep me going.

      I’m sorry for rambling on! ;-D But then isn’t that what we introverts do when we’re passionate about something? :-)

      Once again, good luck with your meeting and I will have my fingers crossed for you.

  32. Nicole on 16.06.2014 at 13:23 (Reply)

    Love this Susan, thank you so much for sharing. I feel ease reading this :-)

  33. Charita Cadenhead on 17.06.2014 at 07:37 (Reply)

    Susan I know that you are really busy these days, but I also hope that as time is available, you get a chance to see (read) Claire beaming about her transition into a passionate introvert on a mission. Like you, she is totally being an inspiration to me to keep moving. Some would think that I am an Ambivert, but in my mind, I am a bonafide introvert, but likely close to an ambivert.

    Claire I agree that this journey is just beginning and will be a long term journey. When I think about the changes that will be made over the next 10 years, I get even more excited. Also like you, I have become so passionate about this that I’m feeling like this is what I’m suppose to be doing as my contribution to this world. I have never felt so strongly about anything. I don’t think this is going to be easy and I may be shunned or discounted along the way, but I’m moving forward and talking to whoever will listen.

    As for social anxiety, I have suffered from the same in the past. I used to have very frequent panic attack. I will say again, that I believe your passion will override that anxiety and your passion will compel people to pay attention. I learned in college that I was a pretty good speaker and when I talked, people listen. I’m hoping that’s going to help me bring the topic of introversion to the forefront particularly in education.

    I did make another contact and hopefully, I will be speaking at a small business seminar on the topic of Networking for Introverts. I just know that I will “reach” someone in that audience which will be a milestone whether it’s one or one hundred.

    You know it’s possible and likely that those split seconds will become minutes, and hours and that will be the real catalyst (along with Toastmasters).

    I feel like I’m highjacking Susan’s post. I am hoping that we continue to support one another and that Susan, I am sure, will be our lead (directly or indirectly). By the way, if you are on Facebook, I don’t mind if you connect with me there (

    As for rambling, you know how we are when we’re really excited about something so run with it.

  34. Charita on 18.06.2014 at 14:53 (Reply)

    Okay so now I have put myself out there and I REALLY need some help. I have made a significant connection with a school Superintendent and I met him personally on yesterday. I asked if he would be willing to meet with me to discuss concerns related to educating introverted students and he agreed to meet with me next week. THE PROBLEM: Now that I have his attention, I don’t even know what I’m going to say. I can’t come up with the words to convey any type of comprehensible message. I am a complete BLANK. Can anybody offer me any suggestions. I have really got to nail this because this will open a great many doors for me to get into other schools and start a much needed discussion.


    1. Rosa on 20.06.2014 at 22:32 (Reply)

      Hi Charita,

      Congratulations for beginning to put yourself out there! What an important effort you’ll be promoting for schools. It’s really wonderful and so badly needed as we live in such a culture where so much emphasis gets placed on the extroverted way of being as the “right” way to be.

      You asked how you should approach the superintendent now that you have their attention. I’m thinking about it as what might work for me as I can see having similar feelings if I were in your situation: this is obviously something that has great meaning for you. You have inner wisdom about what you want to express to the superintendent. Perhaps you might find it helpful to think about the important points that you want to make and write them down before you meet with the superintendent to have them more clear in your mind. And when you have your meeting, with those points in mind, focus on what is in your heart and speak from there and I’ll bet the right words will come.

      Good luck!

    2. Claire on 22.06.2014 at 15:20 (Reply)

      Hi Charita,

      My sincerest apologies for my delay in replying! On the same evening that I went to Toastmasters I became very ill and even had to spend a few days in hospital. But I’m on the mend now and this post is just to let you know that I haven’t forgotten or abandoned you! I am going to re-read your previous posts and reply properly. I just wanted to send you a short note at first, just so that you know that I’m still here and still supporting you.

    3. Claire on 22.06.2014 at 16:26 (Reply)

      Ok, I just re-read your post and I see now that it’s a meeting and not a talk as such. I’m so sorry, I’m still not completely recovered and so my mind is not back to it’s best yet. I too am sorry for hijacking this post. (I’m most definitely a bonafide introvert as I usually score 97% or above, and so I’m that introverted that I haven’t even ventured into social media yet!)

      So I will just have to use this forum for this purpose for the time being. Can you draw from your previous experience from public speaking to help you talk to the Superintendent? If I were you, I would just take a rough draft of what you would like to say along with notes to prompt you. But most importantly, just speak from the heart, as this is where our strengths as introverts lie.

      Just keep thinking of all the students who are struggling, just as we did. Remember that feeling and let it spur you on to speak up for those who can’t do it for themselves. Think how grateful we would have been to have someone to speak up for us back then. Just as we feel about Susan now. We are spreading the word on her behalf. It’s like repaying the kindness and courage she has shown us.

      Try to keep it brief and then encourage questions. As then hopefully, when you’re more relaxed,it will just come naturally to you. I’m sorry I can’t give you much more than that at the moment Charita, as like I said, I’m hoping to get to where you are, so I have a way to go myself yet.

      Have you tried Tweeting Susan for some advice? When it comes to my turn, I am hoping that Susan will have recorded some of the school and workplace talks so that i can follow her lead. But as you have experience of public speaking already, and are also clearly very intelligent and passionate, I know you can do it and that you will be fine once you get there.

      And think of this, you will be one of the first introverts to venture out to start spreading the message even further. And think how you will feel when you have done it. The first time is always the hardest but i truly do have faith in you.

      I wish you all the luck in the world, even though I know you won’t need it. You really are very brave Charita and ALL us introverts appreciate what you are doing for us. Please let us know how it goes. I for one will be thinking of you.

    4. Claire on 23.06.2014 at 17:09 (Reply)

      Hi Charita,

      I really, really hope things went well for you today. I was thinking of you. Please let us know how it went.

      I just thought I would let you know how things are progressing with me. Though I felt unwell throughout the Toastmasters, in a way it helped as it took away some of my nerves. And the people were really lovely and friendly, though they did reel it in when I told them what my motivation for going there was. ;-D Some were introverts themselves and thought it was a really good idea (obviously!). :-)

      I took in as much as I could but am looking forward to going back on July 1st for my second meeting, when I shall hopefully feel a lot better. I can’t do much at the moment but I can write. So I have written lots of notes for my speech and have been keeping a notepad with me to jot down any other thoughts that come to me. I have also decided to include pictures of the different brain pathways in introverts (from one of the many introvert books I have) along with the science behind it (including the information on Dopamine etc.).

      Also, when I get back to work, I will be talking to one of my managers, who is also an extreme introvert and the very person who taught me what introversion really means. Without him, who knows when or even if, I would’ve found out. I’m going to pluck up the courage to tell him about my plan to do a talk at work and am hoping he may even help me kick-start it. I’m also hoping he can advise me on my speech, and maybe even be a mentor to me, but I don’t want to ask for too much! I do get on very well with him and find him easy to talk to, and as he is also very introverted, I’m hoping it may inspire him to actually want to help me anyway.

      I’m very sorry for my belated advice Charita (and I’m sure I wasn’t much help anyway). And considering how articulate you are and with your experience of public speaking,, I just assumed you had already thought it through and had a plan ready. So I was upset to see just how much you were struggling.

      Anyway, I hope you are well and hope to hear from you soon.

  35. Claire on 22.06.2014 at 15:49 (Reply)

    Hello again Charita :-)

    Ok, I really feel for you at this very moment. I just know that I would feel exactly the same as you in your situation, but I will tell you what my intial plan for my talk is in the hope that this may help you before tomorrow. I know it’s short-notice due to my circumstances, but I will suggest all that I can to help you.

    For my talk I was going to give brief definitions of introversion and extroversion and explain how important it is for both personality types to be considered equally in both school and workplaces. I would then show Susan’s original Ted Talk first, as it would obviously be the perfect initial introduction. It is also obviously a very professional presentation and so would be taken seriously from the start. It would show just how important a subject it is to be talked about on Ted. This would also give me time to calm down before having to talk myself. I would then relay a personal story/stories about my own introvert experience/s and ask for any further questions, then I would just go from there.

    Being introverts ourselves, it would be very easy for us to answer questions and explain our feelings and needs, as we have had to conform to the extrovert norm all our lives. So we know what we need to get that equality. I feel that once my nerves have settled, the answers will just flow from the relief of finally getting it out in the open.

    I’m sorry this is so short but I will elaborate, I just wanted to share a few of my ideas to hopefully motivate you. I will give you more as soon as I can. I have complete faith in you Charita, and I know you will do us proud.

    Good luck!

  36. Charita on 23.06.2014 at 17:30 (Reply)

    Claire I hope you’re getting back to 100%. We’ve got a job to do and we need you at your best. Well after the initial excitement of the Superintendent agreeing to meet with me, I had to quickly regain my composure. I did attend the school board meeting last week just to introduce myself and he asked that I call this week to set up a meeting. I think he’ll be back Wednesday so I’ll do it then. I do plan to use the suggestions that you made and I’m sure that will go nicely. He is very personable and down to earth. I’m looking forward to it, but I think I am going to set it up for next week and take this week to make sure I have my act and thoughts together.

    I have thought about all of the people that I will be helping and believe me, it keeps me going. I feel like I’d be letting them down if I did not pursue this. As a matter of fact, I have become so vocal about this passion, that other introverts want to join me in my efforts. That’s encouraging. I am forming alliances locally and across the country.

    I think that is a great idea about Susan’s Ted Talk. I could do that when I finally make my presentation to teachers (and the Superintendent if he wants to preview my talk).

    This is all very exciting. I have a blog if you want to reach out to me there as well via the contact form. I’m guess I’m kind of feeling a little guilty or awkward about hijacking this post. I guess it’s okay since the moderator has to approve the comment before posting.

    As for you, boy oh boy are you motivated. I get the feeling that you are really stepping out of your comfort zone and I think it’s great mainly because it just shows your passion and drive about this subject matter. It’s just too important to let go.

    I’ve got to get ready for Neighborhood Association meeting. Looking forward to hearing about your update.

    You have been a ton of help and I appreciate it.

  37. Charita on 24.06.2014 at 20:43 (Reply)

    Rosa I am so sorry that I am just seeing your comment. I must not have scrolled up far enough the last time I commented Your kinds word and encouragement are comforting. With so much support, I can’t help but make an impact when I finally sit down one on one with the superintendent. I will be prepared and one thing I have noticed is that when I start talking about the topic of introversion, my whole heart is in it and it comes across. My sincerity will speak volumes.

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