I’ve said in the past that I am a totally different person from the one I was 15 years ago. Others have noticed this too. Those who met me back then came across an extremely quiet individual. Someone who hardly ever spoke up in meetings. A person unsure how she could contribute to a team. Ambitious and wanting to make a difference yes, but lacking the knowledge and confidence to ascertain how.
Now, I participate enthusiastically in meetings (often chairing them). I drive initiatives and projects. I regularly stand up in front of audiences and speak. So it’s easy to see how I come across as a “totally different person”, unrecognisable compared to the one of 15 years ago. But this actually isn’t true. I haven’t changed as a person, but I have evolved.
I’m still an introvert. I generally think before I speak, I’m more comfortable one-to-one than in a crowd and I don’t like interrupting others. I’m still highly organised, great at attention-to-detail and always wanting to get it right.
I’m not as stuck in my ways. I’ve learnt how to use my natural personality strengths when it’s helpful and let go of them when it’s not. Sometimes you don’t have to know every detail. Sometimes it’s OK to let someone else worry about organisating something (or not). Sometimes it’s fun to try new things, fail and look silly. I’ve gained the confidence to speak up and even interrupt (when it’s appropriate). I understand and value my own knowledge, opinions and the contribution that I can make a lot more than I used to.
My personality fundamentally has not changed. My confidence has. These are the things I think have made the biggest difference for me:
- Understanding – It was a revelation to understand my personality type and how that makes me different from other people. I can now recognise where my unique abilities within a team can help achieve our goals.
- Learning – Confidence came from being willing to try new things. I’ve learnt new skills – some of which resonate well with my personality, some of which are a push.
- Encouragement – My confidence was also greatly influenced by those I’ve been on teams with. Friends, colleagues and peers recognised what I could contribute and encouraged me to do so.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, learning the skill of public speaking was one of the biggest game changers for me. It was being able to communicate better that allowed me to use my knowledge and talents more effectively. If not for the chance to do this, I’d still be the person not speaking up in meetings, not taking opportunities to speak in public, not really speaking at all.
It’s OK to experiment, make mistakes, learn. Only by doing this can you find out what you’re good at and how to use those talents. When you recognise a skill in someone else – encourage them to use it.
This way you can still be you, just better.