Fighting to find my voice: Stephanie Swiatek, Creator of INTRO(VERT)
It was the night of my senior high school graduation. My friends and classmates surrounded me onstage at my performing arts high school beaming with excitement. We had made it. The chapter was closing on the crazy, amazing time we all had studying theatre, dance, writing, visual arts and music together as as a close-knit community. It was time for awards and recognition.
Looking around, I was happy to be surrounded by the future Broadway stars, modern dancers and visual artists of the future (a true statement seeing as my classmates found great success). I had never felt more at home in my life than I did with those artists.
My acting teacher stood up at the podium to present the 'Most Improved' award to an individual from our class. She began with a story about a girl who had spent her life dancing, never needing to use her voice as a performance artist. She was soft-spoken, but curious. When she decided to transition from her dance studies to acting, you could barely hear her onstage or in the rehearsal room for that matter. With determination and countless failures, she slowly but surely grew comfortable with the sound of her thoughts, ideas and opinions echoing in the theatre for others to hear. She constantly fought to find her voice.
That girl was me.
I'm still fighting to find my voice each day.
You see, I'm not shy. I'm an introvert.
I'm currently reading Susan Cain's New York Times Bestseller Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. Books can change lives, and this one is changing mine.
In her book, Cain writes, "Introverts are drawn to the inner world of thought and feeling, said Jung, extroverts to the external life of people and activities. Introverts focus on the meaning they make of events swirling around them; extroverts plunge into the events themselves. Introverts recharge their batteries by being alone; extroverts need to recharge when they don't socialize enough."
Cain digs deep into the idea that society interchanges shyness with introversion, establishing a misperception that introverts second-guess themselves, lack confidence and have difficulty developing new relationships. Let's just say this was my personal 'aha' moment. Growing up, I myself interchanged shyness and introversion. I accepted that others might perceive my quietness and preference to write, above being the first on a dance floor, as an inability to connect. I was connecting. I was listening. I was just processing differently.
I'm sure I'm not alone here.
Has someone ever challenged your ability to take on a new role at work because they perceived your quiet curiosity and need to think through a challenge as a roadblock in your potential to lead? Have you ever shamed yourself for needing to recharge on a Friday night rather than hit the town for cocktails? It happens.
Introverts can be interesting, engaged and confident leaders if you give them a chance. But, they may not tell you that they are those things without prompting.
That's why I'm starting this blog to create a safe, supportive space for story sharing. You'll hear from the introverts that keep up the good fight to find their voices, spark change and inspire those around them in quiet, powerful ways.
Be on the lookout for more stories to come.