The Courage to Speak Softly

Posted by Nicki Peasley Share Your Voice


 I am an introvert.  Scratch that.  I’m not going to put myself in a box.  How about, I work and play best in the introvert camp.  That’s better.  After all, I love a good party.  I’ve been known to be the “life of the party” a time or two, in fact.  And I need a lot of  “me time,” before and after that party, to charge and recharge my energy bank.  (OK, I admit to recharging mid-party, finding a hidden space to sit and breathe, pet a dog, or make faces at myself in the bathroom mirror).

This party perspective translates to all areas of my life, really.  I would rather write a story in the privacy of my own office than tell it to an audience. I would rather run by myself than play on a team.  And I would rather work on a project in deep reflection rather than dynamic interaction.

That’s why this TED Talk with Susan Cain resonates so deeply.  According to Susan, 1/3 of us are introverts (or play best in the introvert camp). She describes introverts as  “deep thinkers with the power to spark ideas, creativity, epiphanies and even revelations…the silent thinkers that can still be the movers and shakers of the world.”

And she asserts that our current systems are designed for extroverts. We are living in the age of big personalities and big talkers.   It’s all about teamwork and group think and how to influence others.   Now Cain is quick to clarify that collaboration is essential in our schools and workplaces…. And so is solitude. 

I think this is the point that underlies my vision for bringing mindfulness practices and even meditation into our school systems.  Teaching kids to drop into themselves to discover their own truths BEFORE collaborating with others.   For some more than others, this is an essential step on the journey to creativity and innovation.

Huh.  Hadn’t correlated mindfulness with introversion.  Interesting.

Back to the TED Talk.  Cain spent 7 years writing her recently released book, Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.  She describes those 7 years as bliss, her days spent in solitude and reflection.   And now that the book has been released, she finds herself in a very uncomfortable spotlight and living what she calls the “year of speaking dangerously.”

I get it.  Thursdays are my favorite day of the week… because I am by myself from 8:50-3:40.   And I cherish every quiet moment of those 6 hours and 50 minutes.  I write.  I read.  I pause. I create. I dance.  I don’t answer the phone.  I thrive.  By myself. 

So by the time my kids bust through the door at 3:40, I am fully charged.  I have it all figured out (well, some of it).  And I am confident and eager to share what I’ve learned in my Ah Ha moment(s) of the day… with anyone who will listen. 

Until I actually have to do that in a setting of more than 2 people.  And then, quite often, I freeze.  And everything that was so clear in my blissful solitude gets buried underneath this blanket of self-doubt. 

Huh.  Fascinating.  While I’ve always correlated this aversion to public sharing with my introverted nature, as I write, I have to wonder:  Is this really just about my response to stimulation… or does it go deeper?

Back to the TED Talk.

Cain shares that some of our greatest leaders have defined themselves as introverts.  Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, to name a few.  And, yes, they took the stage to share their vision—even when every bone in their bodies was telling them to retreat.    They took the stage not because they wanted attention, but because they heard a deep calling to lead change.  And their passion was bigger than their fear.

That’s courage.  And man, do I want some of that. And this damn fear keeps getting in my way.

Case in point:  Last week in a Bounce meeting, I put myself on the agenda to share a perspective on education that I feel in every cell of my body.  I had crystallized it brilliantly (in solitude) and was excited to share it with 3 of the people I most admire in the world. 

 And as soon as I opened my mouth, the doubt blanket enveloped me.  My voice got shaky, my breath got short, and that familiar just let me just crawl under the table feeling crept in. 

Well, I powered through some of what I wanted to say and then quickly closed.  And I sat there feeling this guilty sense of inauthenticity and wondering, how can I be working with a leadership development collective that is all about relationships and connection, learning between people, togetherness for a better world….when all I want to do is run for the hills—by myself?

I suppose I could shift my guilty perspective to own and celebrate the courage that it takes to step into my fear and share at all.  To be willing to be this transparent and vulnerable for the sake of my own development and that of others who may find my story to be a mirror of their own human experience.

Yeah.  I think I’ll go with that. 

And I’m still left in the question:  What is this fear?  Is it a fear of not meeting others’ expectations?  Or a fear of not living up to my own… of never realizing the me I want to be, the me that is in there  (I just know it) waiting to emerge.

I don’t know the answer.  And I am open and curious and willing to sit for a bit in the mode of wonder.  I invite my human experience to unfold and to ultimately replace my blanket of fear with a tapestry of courage and living color that is me… moving and shaking and speaking my truth-- softly. 

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Small Nicki Peasley I am the CEO of my home, managing a team consisting of a 40 year old, an 11 year old, an 8 year old, and a 6 year old. In my spare time, I am the YOUth development director for Bounce, writing curriculums and working (playing and learning) with elementary and middle school youth.


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