by Shayla Price
Growing up I avoided large crowds like the plague. Intimidation immobilized me when I even thought about going to parties or attending networking events.
My social awkwardness caused me to hide in the nearest restroom where I would give myself mini pep talks that often led to nothing. My inner monologue kept telling me I wasn’t good enough.
As the years passed, looking for jobs – something that’s already quite awful – became excruciating. Every interview was a struggle to try my best at small talk. No one seemed quite as interested in my opinions, compared to the boisterous laughs earned from outspoken, fun-loving talkers in the circle.
With so many social situations like this, I regularly found myself drained. My social activity decreased. I participated in fewer outings and became more paranoid about my interactions with people, even worrying about whether I appeared “crazy” to the Starbucks barista.
Saying my introversion consumed my life is an understatement. It paralyzed my every move.
The Shift to Freedom
But my mindset changed when a friend recommended that I apply for remote jobs. I started to learn what it entailed and how people actually earned a living 10,000 miles away from their team members. It challenged my way of thinking. I now know that the traditional, on-location work environment isn’t the only option. I had more choices on how to excel with my introversion.
My interest in remote companies also centered around flexibility. Instead of inserting my life into the workplace, recruiters challenged me to integrate work into my current schedule. This allows me to be present in my work when it best suits me. For introverts, anxiety can creep up in overly structured environments – I would feel pressured to engage with people all the time. The flexibility of remote work lets me carve out when I want to fully participate with my colleagues.
Working remotely also provided a promising outlet for me to thrive using my natural skills of writing and researching. From my experience, employers seeking remote talent care about my ability to get the job done in a timely manner, rather than my ability to impress my teammates during in-office happy hours.
Once hired, online communication tools like Slack and Skype reduced my anxiety during group and one-on-one meetings. It was an over-the-moon sensation getting to participate in critical projects without the icky feeling of worrying about negative judgment. Supervisors praised my introversion and considered my self-awareness and thoughtfulness an asset to their businesses. Unlike most misinformed people, they understood that my limited engagement with coworkers didn’t negatively impact outcomes.
Every remote job isn’t equal though. The people within the culture determine the level of respect and humility in each organization. In the end, senior leadership chooses whether to uphold top-notch standards of decency – and that holds regardless of whether you work face-to-face with your colleagues or not.
Many people think remote work and “no human interaction” are the same thing. They’re not. Every human being needs to communicate with someone. A remote job just gives me the freedom to control how I build connections.
Realizing this is when the floodgates of wisdom hit me: I control my interactions.
To quote Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Now, I don’t give undeserving people access to my mind and time. When people want me to participate in a toxic, off-topic conversation at work, I simply decline and focus on more important tasks. And let me tell you, it feels amazing to be free of that stress and anxiety.
With my newfound knowledge, I approach my life differently. No longer do I dwell on every minute detail involving my social anxiety. Being an introvert has unraveled itself into a powerful stance.
If you ever feel trapped inside your solitude, remember that nothing is wrong with you. On my journey, I learned three tried-and-true lessons:
1. Value yourself first: Give yourself the unfettered will to achieve your destiny. In a society that overly praises extroverts, value your self-worth above the unnecessary beliefs held by a few.
2. Choose your surroundings: Remove internal doubt about how you’re stuck in your toxic situation. Seek a positive environment that welcomes your winning character. Need courage? Try reciting a daily affirmation to change your thinking patterns.
3. Find your freedom: Happiness isn’t exclusive to your extroverted colleagues. You deserve to live a life where you can flourish, too. Explore diverse opportunities that will stretch your abilities to be comfortable in any circumstance.
Looking back, I wouldn’t change my personality to be the life of the party. I am who I am: a happy introvert exploring life on my own terms.