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The Ambitious Introvert

Why are we ambitious and how do we deal with the pressure?

To many extroverts, the term "Ambitious Introvert" makes no sense. It sits in conflict with every stereotype they associated with the "Hidden Half." However, to many introverts, it actually captures our approach and our predicament quite well...

Reach for the Sky!

Why are many introverts so ambitious?

Primal Survival Instinct

Most of us need to either go to school or work for a living to put food on the table. Since we are all different, we may approach this need in different ways. Some introverts opt for more solitary approaches - virtual classes, the newly popular virtual work, jobs that are more individual vs. teamwork such as IT, online help desks, writing or other creative endeavors... This can help us remain in our comfort zone more. However, even more solitary jobs do have aspects of interaction. Most jobs involve customers and suppliers that we engage with while many also have collaboration, networking, and presentations as part of the job description.

When I first entered the workforce after college, I was a supply analyst at a large corporation. While this pushed me out of my comfort zone, most of the work I could do alone. A few years later, my career progression placed me in more logistical roles where I was interacting with more groups internally and externally. I loved the problem solving aspect of the job, but found some of the interaction tiresome. Mid-career I found myself in more outward facing roles as a trader and supply manager. Again, I liked much of the tasks and the small work groups, but the seemingly constant interaction and the leadership expectation of addressing personnel issues and solving operational problems was exhausting. This was especially evident since I was trying to do all this by following my extroverted role models.

All of these more outward-facing tasks require that we stretch our comfort zone and interact with others to succeed. So we do. Some of us are great at it, some may have raw skills, and probably all of us introverts are exhausted afterward. But we do it to survive. Every day we face our own challenges with interactions just to accomplish our basic family or work tasks. I dare say most extroverts don't have such a daily mountain to climb and few could possibly understand the challenges introverts face in this regard.

High Standards

But it is more than just survival that drives us because we may find ways to survive with little outside interaction or conflict resolution. We are often driven by high standards - our personal initiative to not just survive, but thrive! We can't sit idly by basking in our comfort zone while we see issues and opportunities all around us. As introverts, some of our strengths are indeed listening and observation. We see these opportunities and then we cogitate on them. We may say nothing and others wrongly assume we are disengaged, but we are sorting out problems and opportunities in our head. And though we may be reticent to speak up and share our ideas, our introspective tendencies nudge us out of our comfort zone and into the limelight when the drivers are too significant.

Furthermore, we often review past meetings, socials, or other interactions as well as future appointments, presentations, or parties with trepidation and concern. But our own high standards usually mean we just can't dispel these concerns but that we must act on them to relieve the pressure in our minds and to satisfy our internal need to succeed, not for the money or outside recognition, but more so to meet our own high standards and expectations.


Along the same lines as the High Standards, introverts are often drawn out of our comfort zones due to our own curiosity. We are natural learners. We want to understand history, background, how and why things work, and how things can be improved. This usually is relieved by asking questions of others - many questions of many others. It satisfies our desire to learn but does increase the draw to share the observations and ideas that develop thereafter in our minds.

How do we deal with the (internal) pressure?

Run & Hide

I'll admit, it is tempting at times. Our comfort zones are so warm and satisfying. No confrontations, no unexpected questions, no idle chitchat. But we really can't stay here all the time. It's just not healthy. People need interaction - yes, including introverts. And besides, we have a lot to say and share. Enjoy your comfort zone, but pick your opportunities to stretch based on your passions and curiosity.

Have Confidence in Yourself

So what are your passions? What are your special interests or skills? What do you have strong feelings or opinions about? The world needs you! If each meeting room or dinner table only had extroverts participating, it would be an awkward discussion at best. Probably lots of chitchat and brainstorming but less deep conversation, evaluation of pros and cons, and creative problem-solving. In fact, many groups are like that because they staff up without introverts or don't encourage the participation of all. But these engagements without the "hidden half" skew the conversations and most importantly the results. These groups need our questions, our insights, our challenges. Do yourself a favor and join the discussion and definitely do others a favor and be part of the best solutions rather than a bystander.

Embrace Your True Self

Okay, so I do need to participate. I have lots to say, I'm just hesitant to get out there. How do I do that? First, don't try to approach social and work situations like the other more bombastic people. It might appear they have it all - confidence, answers, and leadership - but that is often not the case. They just look like that. Besides, hiding our true talents and trying to replicate others not only deflates our self-esteem but acting all day is exhausting. Be yourself. Ponder your skills. What are you really good at? Over 2200 people have taken our Introvert Strength Quiz which helps identify your strengths and how to grow and apply them in life. Many introverts are great at planning, learning, listening, being thoughtful, creative, and even social. Explore your strengths and how to apply them. This will build self-confidence and respect from others too.

Create Your Own Thrival Plan

These steps are the right things to do, but still not always the easiest things to do, especially when you first decide to turn over that leaf. But doing so enables you to go through life not just surviving, but THRIVING! So create your own Thrival Plan! Check out our description and template for quickly building your support through mindset, preparation, and wellness. It really works!

Equipped with greater self-confidence and growing experience, we can happily celebrate our ambitiousness...and so will others.


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