Confidence Looks Different for Introverts

confidence looks different for introverts

When I started this blog almost three years ago, it was called “The Confident Introvert.”  I chose that name because I think there is a perception that many introverts are not confident.  After all, we’re still often defined as anti-social, shy loners – and that doesn’t sound very confident, does it? I think introverts can be – and are – just as confident as extroverts.  So why that inaccurate perception?

It’s the difference between what confidence feels like and what confidence looks like.  Anyone can say, “I feel confident.” But only the speaker will know if it’s really true or not.  An observer will decide if someone else is confident based on their behavior.

In our extrovert-centric culture, there’s a generally accepted view of confidence.  It’s bold action, decisive body language and lots of talking.  We know it when we see it.  And when we don’t see what we expect to find, we wonder if confidence is missing.

Which is where most introverts run into difficulty.  Our outward behavior doesn’t look like what most people think confidence looks like.

Words – Let’s face it.  We do not talk as much as extroverts.  Extroverts tend to think out loud.  Introverts prefer to let a thought out into the world only if it’s been thoroughly inspected and tested for flaws.  Talking – and being able to fill silence, which seems to make so many people uncomfortable – is a way for people to determine if someone is confident.  If you’re not talking, you’re shy or quiet – and therefore not confident.

Body language – Because we are so internally focused, our body language can sometimes suggest to others that something is wrong or off. I can’t tell you how many times someone has told me they thought I was angry or unhappy when in fact I was feeling quite the opposite. My serious face happens when I’m listening or observing or analyzing.

Especially in public situations, we tend to conserve energy for the important task of dealing with people.  So we don’t stride into a room, walk up to a stranger, thrust out a hand and start talking.  Our slower, less expansive body language tends to look like timidity and fear to others.

Thoughts vs. Actions – Introverts think.  A lot.  And almost all of it happens inside our head, which of course no one can see.  I sometimes think if our skulls were transparent and people could see all the activity going on in our heads, it would simply astound them.

We have such a bias toward action that inaction is seen as a negative.  It’s okay to want to sit back and think about a problem or an issue before reacting to it.  Extroverts will solve a problem by immediately trying different solutions; an introvert will think through every possible solution before actually picking one.  Neither is right or wrong; they are just different.

Finally, I think there’s a factor that actually gives introverts an edge when it comes to confidence.  We have such a deeply rooted, internal belief system that we don’t need any external validation.  We don’t need accolades and applause (though they are certainly nice to have!).  But our introspection and self-knowledge tell us all we need to know.

While others may not see our confidence, that doesn’t mean it’s missing.  Remember that your sense of confidence doesn’t come from what others think – it comes from what you think.

Image credit: almagami / 123RF Stock Photo

 

 

Comments

  1. Great post! I know extroverts who appear confident because of our idea of what confidence is supposed to look like, but you come to realise that they’re very insecure. I guess an introvert’s confidence looks almost identical to an introvert’s lack of confidence except to very perceptive people. I have a general, quiet confidence most days, but I’m often very self-conscious. I don’t act much differently externally when I’m feeling more confident though. I feel like people see me as a poor, depressed soul all the time even if I’m pretty happy, because I don’t sleep enough and then the social situation they find me in makes me so tired I could go to sleep on the floor, which obviously makes me appear weak and timid. It’s kind of funny how introverts have everything they need to not look confident. But extroverts know how to put on a confident front, making them always seem more confident except to those few people in society that really understand.

  2. Susan Steele says:

    Thanks! I have a feeling that sometimes people talk a lot out of a *lack* of confidence — that filling up space with words will somehow make a difference. It usually doesn’t. :)

  3. Great points to remember, Susan – thanks for articulating them.

    I think for me, there *IS* a definite difference in how I appear when I’m confident vs not confident… and a lot of it is in my body language. When I’m not confident, I tend to be closed off – leaning away – sometimes I slouch or round my shoulders a little… on a subconscious level, it’s probably about protecting myself.

    When I’m confident, my body language is more open. It’s not full of wild, effusive gestures the way an extrovert’s might be, but I’ll still tend to stand taller and straighter, and I use a lot more open gestures.

    Good food for thought though!

    • Susan Steele says:

      I think you’re probably right — we do internally feel different and may even think we act differently. Some people will pick up on those differences and recognize confidence. Some people won’t.

      But it’s what’s on the inside that counts the most. :)

  4. Susan, great post. Lots of things that resonated with me. Totally true though. It’s a misconception that sadly, many make; introverts are insecure and hesitant, and extroverts are confident and assertive. Not so. I blog about introvertedness as well, so it’s always uplifting to discover someone else who can relate.

    Anyways you’ve got one new follower! :)

    • Susan Steele says:

      Hi Brandon! Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I’ve just added your blog to my feed and I’m looking forward to your future posts — you’re very articulate and I think you’ll have some thoughtful things to say. :)

  5. I agree. It’s true indeed. I’m really confident and feel confident, idk why some people told me I lack confidence. It’s not about how you look like confident, it’s about how you think as you are… thanks for your blog and hopefully people will discover the difference between what confidence feels like and what confidence looks like. Just observe without judging.

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