“I'm afraid to talk to clients.”
“I'm not comfortable doing audio or video chat interviews with clients.”
“I decided to work from home so I wouldn't have to interact much with other people, what do I do when a client wants to chat on the phone?”
“I know that my client is asking for things that stretch me beyond my limits but I don't know how to say no.“
Does any of that sound familiar? If it does, you are reading the right post! And, you are not alone. On the surface level, you may just think you're shy and, hey, you might be right. In my experience (personal and with freelancer clients) the roadblock statements listed above really boil down to issues around self-empowerment, self-esteem, confidence, confrontation, and communication.
Is there a level of introversion that comes into play here? Of course. A lot of us work-from-home people, especially us writers, are introverts at heart. We enjoy a quiet working environment, working alone as opposed to in teams, and can even feel an energy overload in crowds. I want to begin this post by stating that there is nothing wrong with being an introvert. The goal, here, is not to change who you are at your core. The goal is to remove any extra barriers built by low self-esteem, fear of confrontation, and other negative thought patterns that hold you back from important career opportunities.
There is a balance you can find between being an extrovert and unknowingly sabotaging your opportunities. I like to think of it as health introversion.
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What is Healthy Introversion?
Introverts are often defined as self-starters who enjoy spending time alone, are most creative when in stretches of alone time, and prefer not to engage in hostile or stressful interpersonal situations. Introverts are also defined as people who tend to feel rejuvenated after spending time alone and can actually become exhausted after spending too much time with other people.
A healthy introvert embraces her personality. She knows when she needs to retreat into herself, in meditation, relaxation, or just curled up with a good book. She also knows, though, when she needs to break through the awkwardness or difficulty she may face with strangers or groups to best benefit her life. She knows when it is time to take those difficult steps and do something a little more extroverted. Naturally, though, she also knows when it is time to recover from that draining experience.
Unhealthy introversion occurs when people become afraid to do necessary things. In freelancing, this can manifest as turning down a lucrative job offer because you are afraid of committing to audio chats with your client. It may be that audio chats are the best way to collaborate on the project. If fear holds you back and actually leads you to turn jobs that don't have any recognizable red flags – jobs which are actually huge opportunities for you in your career – chances are that you're engaged in an unhealthy level of introversion.
The Role of Self-Empowerment in Creating Healthy Introversion
If you believe that you are leaning more toward the unhealthy level of introversion and want to take control of your career by stepping past that barrier the key is often self-empowerment.
Sometimes, low self-worth and low confidence disguise themselves as introversion. They sneak into our minds and wrap themselves up in the same clothes out introversion wears. We start to tell ourselves that we are just introverts. That it's just part of who we are to feel fear in those situations. But introversion isn't defined as a fear or other people, fear of interactions, etc. Introversion isn't about fear it's about preference and energy levels. Healthy introverts can step out into the world when necessary and then retreat back inside to rebuild their energy.
If you are experiencing fear there is something more at work. Could you still be an introvert even if you have these fears? Yes! These fears hide the best in an introverted person because it can be so easy to confuse the two things. Approaching and addressing these fears won't make you less of an introvert. You won't suddenly become an extrovert. You'll simply become an introvert who is able to step out into those slightly uncomfortable situations from time to time without hesitation, without crippling fear, without sabotage.
So, how do you find that empowerment? How do you face those fears and move beyond them? I could tell you I have five simple steps but that would be a lie. The key will be finding an approach that works for you.
Here are some ways to begin your self-empowerment journey:
- Join empowerment Facebook groups or message boards.
- Start seeing a great therapist, life coach, or business coach.
- Follow #empowerment and #selfempowerment on social media outlets.
- Read self-help books on anxiety, social anxiety, self-esteem, etc.
- Look into cognitive behavioral therapy for social anxiety.
- Learn about interpersonal boundaries.
- Practice exposure therapy by exposing yourself to these difficult situations in a safe way (i.e. – do video chats with an online coach or therapist).
Creating Healthy Work Practices for Introverts
Remember that the goal isn't to change you from an introvert to an extrovert. There is nothing wrong with being an introvert. In fact, a lot of the greatest minds in our human history had introvert tendencies. Instead of changing who you are, you are changing some of the things you do. For example, you are communicating via audio chats with your clients and establishing healthy working boundaries. Doing these things can be draining, at times, though, especially if it is new to you.
Healthy work practices I often suggest for freelancers (and use myself) include the following:
- Meditate before interactions with clients.
- Take some time away from work after a stressful/draining event (even if it's just taking a shower).
- Schedule your interactions at your peak time of day when you have the most energy.
Do you struggle with stepping out of your comfort zone in interactions with clients? Have you struggled with making effective boundaries in your working relationships? Have you turned down good jobs because you were afraid to speak to the client? Have you successfully navigated these challenges? Share your experiences, questions, and suggestions in the comments below.
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