When I went to my first Young Professionals Connection event nearly four years ago, I was scared. The same thing was true when I went to my first Business Record event.

My fear had nothing to do with YPC or the Business Record. It had everything to do with my personal insecurities. I was afraid to walk into a group of people I didn’t know and try to fit in.

The word “networking” sounded, well, terrifying.

Today, I look forward to every YPC event. I look forward to events such as The Principal Charity Classic’s Networking on the Green and Business Record’s Power Breakfasts. It’s exciting to me to be able to walk into these events, talk with people I know and make new connections.

What changed? 

For one thing, I realized that I really enjoy getting to know people on a personal level. Perhaps just as important, I got to know myself better.

I have always considered myself a shy person. But I think at this point it is much more accurate to use the word “introvert.” 

In the last year or two, I’ve had people tell me they don’t think I’m an introvert anymore. One person has even referred to me as a “recovering introvert.” 

As for myself, I still consider myself an introvert. Here’s why: Yes, I’m comfortable in my own skin, and yes, I enjoy being social and getting to know people. At the same time, I get energy from being able to reflect and contemplate. I am comfortable being alone. Sometimes I just need to retreat and gather my thoughts.

So often, I feel that the word “introvert” has a negative connotation, because people confuse an introvert with being shy or antisocial. That’s not true with me. I don’t consider myself shy anymore, and I don’t think anyone who knows me would say I’m antisocial. I enjoy being around people. I enjoy getting to know people. And every so often, I need to be alone and recharge.

There are a few lessons to be learned here, for both introverts and extroverts. 

1)Introverts can be very confident people, even if it’s not obvious at first glance.

2) Neither personality type is better than the other, in my opinion, at least. The important thing is understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your personality type. That way you can capitalize on the strengths and learn how to minimize the effect of the weaknesses.

3) It’s not fair to put people in boxes. Just because I’m an introvert doesn’t mean I stay at home and read books all the time. Just because you are an extrovert doesn’t mean you go out and party every night. (Extreme examples, maybe, but I think you get the point.) There are many, many shades of gray. 

Personally, I have learned to embrace my introverted tendencies. I know why I react to things the way I do, and I know what that means in my personal life, in my job and in my aspirations to be a leader. Trust me; that’s a healthy process, no matter your personality type.

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Kyle Oppenhuizen
Staff Writer, Business Record