Most people believe that introverts only feel comfortable in our shells. They think that the spotlight is reserved for outgoing extroverts who can handle having all eyes on them.
“Of course, extroverts would make better public speakers, actors, comedians, and performers,” they say with certainty. “Introverts are too shy to do any of that.”
They are wrong. There is a very long list of famous introverts who flourish in the spotlight: Barbara Walters, Al Gore, Barack Obama, Keanu Reeves, Emma Watson, Julia Roberts, Amy Schumer (yes, it’s true!) – just to name a few.
Why introverts make great actors and orators
Before they became celebrities, famous introverts were just quirky kids who lived inside their stories, and made speeches to their stuffed animals. Later, they were the ones who would skip a party to practice a speech. Or stay up all hours to perfect a dance choreography.
Introverted excellence – whether that be in the spotlight, or the lamplight – is usually the result of solitary obsession.
People tend to forget that comedians spend a lot of time observing, and thinking to come up with their jokes. Their time in front of the crowd is brief compared to the countless hours they devote to lonely preparation.
The same principle applies to actors, orators, dancers and other performers. They spend far more time preparing behind the scenes than they do in the spotlight. Then they must simply cultivate the courage to take their skills to the stage.
Fortunately, extroverts don’t have a monopoly on courage. Even us quiet types can be brave as lions. We, too, can muster up the gumption to go after our dreams. Sometimes our aspirations take us behind the scenes. Other times they bring us to the forefront where all eyes are on us.
Rosa Parks was a courageous introvert who embodied the kind of “quiet fortitude” that can inspire a nation. Author Susan Cain explains:
I had always imagined Rosa Parks as a stately woman with a bold temperament, someone who could easily stand up to a busload of glowering passengers. But when she died in 2005 at the age of ninety-two, the flood of obituaries recalled her as soft-spoken, sweet, and small in stature. They said she was “timid and shy” but had “the courage of a lion.” They were full of phrases like “radical humility” and “quiet fortitude.”
Our fear is our friend
Courage cannot exist without fear. Often it is the fact that we are scared shitless that motivates us to follow through. Like many introverts, I over-prepare in the face of fear. This innie characteristic has helped me to develop many talents that would have otherwise lain dormant.
As you might already know, I used to be a professional salsa dancer. I competed and performed in front of huge crowds. Nowadays, I spend more time in front of the computer than in the spotlight. That all changed this past weekend.
I was at a salsa dance event in Vancouver and decided to do salsa superstar Serena Cuevas’s choreo challenge.
A group of brave ladies and little ol’ me learned, practiced and performed one of Serena’s choreographies in less than 48 hours!
It was scary. I thought I would most definitely freeze, or fall on my face. But then that old, familiar, introverted obsessive focus kicked in and somehow I made it through.
It wasn’t a perfect performance, but considering the circumstances, we were all delighted with how it went. The most important thing is that we had the courage to just do it despite our fear.
What to do when the fear is too great
Sometimes, our fear gets in the way of what we want to do. Instead of motivating us, it debilitates us. It’s not just performances and presentations that get our hearts racing. Often, talking to someone new, setting boundaries, or sharing our truth can feel unbearably scary.
The reason is that we don’t trust ourselves. We don’t believe that we’ll be able to follow through. We want proof that we won’t fall flat on our face. With this in mind, one of the best ways to overcome our fear is to give ourselves proof.
Find examples of success in your past and focus on those. Next, learn to trust yourself by inching your way through your fears. Take tiny steps toward achievable goals instead of trying to make it to the championship on your first day of practice.
Over to you
Do you excel in the spotlight?
How do you overcome your fears?