It was a little over a year ago that I walked into an auditorium of strange faces.
There were small clusters of people scattered everywhere – where do I sit? It was the first club meeting of the year, and as a brand-new freshman in college, I knew this would be a great opportunity to meet new people and potentially new friends. I was excited to start my college experience! But at the same time, I wanted to run out of the room and find refuge in my dorm room.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been labeled as quiet, shy, and introverted.
I’ve always preferred to be around only a few people or even just by myself, rather than be surrounded by large groups. I’ve never been the most outspoken, whether in a classroom or at the dinner table. These natural tendencies were most evident when I started studying at a huge public university. With huge numbers like thirty-six thousand students and sixteen hundred professors being thrown around, everything seemed so much bigger (and more intimidating) than ever before. Instead of tackling issues like meeting new people and making new friends, it was a lot easier to disappear into the crowd or enjoy some alone time in my dorm. Even while sharing a dorm room with two other girls, I remember a lot of lonely nights scrolling through the internet while my roommates were out with friends.
Now, I don’t have a quick-fix solution for my natural tendency towards shyness.
Nor do I think that my natural temperament is something that needs to be fixed. But I also know that spending 24/7 alone in my room won’t get me very far in my life. I think that fully accepting and understanding my nature is integral in developing my leadership skills. At the end of the day, my personal successes have emerged from embracing and working with my true nature, rather than resenting it or letting it control me.
Remember that auditorium of strange faces?
After I walked in I sat myself next to a group of people and introduced myself. Even though it might seem like a small step to others, it was a huge leap for me. This small victory gave me the momentum to keep taking these small steps; I moved on to going to more events, applying for leadership positions within the club, and eventually feeling very comfortable within the club.
Leadership isn’t an immediate switch that you can turn on and off.
For me especially, becoming comfortable in an arena where I exercise my leadership in large groups of people took time and a lot of small steps. But instead of letting my natural shyness control me, I learned how make progress towards my goals by working with my authentic self.