come as you are

I am an introvert: personality and inclusivity

With diversity and inclusion high on the agenda for most businesses, it got me thinking about something that has been in the back of my mind for a while – personality types.

I’m an introvert and it’s something that I’ve struggled with for as long as I can remember. It actually feels very uncomfortable for me to share that in this very public way, because for the majority of that time my introversion has been a source of shame for me. Something that I had to hide or change about myself, despite it being a fundamental part of who I am. It’s not an exaggeration to say that it’s something that is constantly on my mind – do people think I’m standoffish? Is this person bored because I don’t talk enough? Do I come across as unfriendly? The pressure can, at times, be immense.

As a creative i felt that pressure very acutely while working in agencies. I had to work really hard to overcome my introversion because I felt I needed to in order to meet the expectation of others. Would being quiet and more reserved in my behaviour be interpreted as a lack of creativity? Would I be side lined for more outgoing members of the team? If I take a back seat when presenting will people think I’m lazy and haven’t contributed? It meant that regardless of how well I did I always felt like I was failing in some way.

The social aspect of agency life has also been difficult. I really struggle with very large groups of people, particularly when I don’t know anyone, which leads to one of two things – either I force myself to go and spend the whole time feeling stressed, or making an excuse not to go, then worry that I look antisocial. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy socialising, but I would almost always prefer to be in a smaller setting with people I know well.

I’m obviously older and, to some extent, wiser now and what is crazy to me is that I actually felt that I had to fundamentally change my personality in order to be accepted, or to be considered good at my job. In reality my personality type has no bearing on my ability, in fact there are aspects of introversion that have probably made me better at it. Amongst many other positive traits, Introverts are known to be highly empathetic, which is a fundamental part of being a good creative. If someone had known and appreciated that about me earlier in my career, perhaps even shown me how to use it to my advantage, it may not have made me more successful but it certainly would have saved me a considerable amount of stress.

Over time I’ve become more comfortable as an introvert and have learned to embrace it, but it makes me wonder how many others feel or have felt this way? How many mental health issues that people are experiencing come from a lack of support for their personality type? As employers we have to not only ensure that we’re building teams of people from different backgrounds and experiences, but also ensure that we’re creating a comfortable working environment for them to thrive in. Long story short, diversity and inclusivity is crucial to creating the best work, but it goes way beyond a hiring strategy. We need to truly understand and be in tune with our people to ensure that we create working environments that are supportive no matter who you are.

About the Author:

Tim is the Executive Creative Director for independent, integrated agency CreativeRace. Tim has over 12 years experience in the industry and started off his career in London working for agencies such as Mother, Wieden + Kennedy and VCCP. He has since gone on to head up creative for boutique agencies specialising in everything from brand strategy to social media, experiential and interiors, also serving as group creative director across multiple Diageo brands. Tim’s primary focus is developing creative strategies, campaigns concepts designed to more closely align brands with culture.