Many introverts are confident people and introversion is not about lack of confidence, but characterises those who are more stimulated by internal thought than by external action and interaction. Where an introverted personality type might not actively seek and enjoy large social interactions, this is a preference rather than an aversion. They just prefer the solace of solitude, at least at regular intervals, to recharge their batteries. To a more extroverted person, this may seem like shyness or a resistance to participation. If you are an introvert, you and others may mistake this preference for lack of confidence. You may also feel socially inadequate in some way because of it. By recognising and understanding this aspect of your personality, you can work with it rather than be floored by it, learning ways to manage other people’s expectations as well as your own.

Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and one of the most successful businessmen in the world, is, by nature, an introvert, but he definitely doesn’t lack self-confidence. By contrast, Barbra Streisand is a hugely successful, award-winning singer, actress and film producer, with a larger-than-life extrovert personality. She has, at times, suffered from crippling stagefright. Both have learnt how their personalities affect them and have worked with, rather than against, this to become successful, confident people.

Can extroverts lack confidence?

Yes. Although extroverts are stimulated by action and interaction outside their own thoughts, they might still lack confidence in certain situations.

We are all a mixture of circumstance and experience, along with any genetic predisposition. Like everyone else, extroverts learn what they feel confident about through experience. The difference is that they may be more willing to try new experiences, take risks and generally open themselves up to learning, and feeling more confident about these experiences.

We often marvel at how introverted, geeky kids ‘blossom’ into secure and happy adults. We liken it to a metamorphosis. However, maybe it’s not the children who change but their environments. As adults they get to select the careers, spouses and social circles that suit them. They don’t have to live in whatever culture they’re plonked into.

What about shyness?

Shyness isn’t the same as introversion. In many ways, shyness is a learnt experience and is characterised by self-consciousness, negative self-evaluation and self-preoccupation. Some people may be more prone towards shyness, and this may be more true of introverts but not exclusively so. Some people may be more shy at particular times of their lives. Adolescence, for example, is often characterised by extreme selfconsciousness and preoccupation that creates shyness. So much so that these are accepted facets of adolescent experience, but ones that most people ‘grow out of ’ as they mature. However, for some, shyness can become crippling, linked to extreme anxiety and can make life miserable.

The good news about shyness, however, is that there are many things that can help in learning to manage it, from cognitive behavioural therapy to utilising some of the social tools that help create a confident attitude and, in time, greater confidence itself.

"I have made plenty of mistakes. The key to life is to learn from them. I have been a little too introspective, but I think that stemmed from insecurity or shyness. I took a long time to grow up" 

Richard Gere, actor and Buddhist

Extracted from I Want to be Confident by Harriet Griffey (Hardie Grant)