Poor me! is a series in which the Swaddle team offers your pity some advice you’ll probably ignore.
“The online education mode made my level of confidence zero. No matter how many answers I know in class, I just can’t bring myself to unmute and give the answer. A lot of my friends on the other side seem pretty confident and always stay active. They don’t hesitate in the least to answer questions even if sometimes they are wrong. It made me anxious about my own inability and I often have trouble sleeping thinking about my lack of confidence. I often catch myself thinking about how I’m going to fit into the colleges I dream of applying to with this little bit of confidence. Don’t introverts have a future? Can’t we move on in life without being the one who never fails to answer in class?
— Unconfident student
NR: Hello, I am very sorry that you feel this. I completely empathize with you and understand how isolated one feels. Unfortunately, our social world is designed to favor extroverts over introverts, and so are our performance measures. It can be very difficult to navigate. But hopefully it helps you know that there are people and places that appreciate your ideas, however you choose to express them. What you see as weaknesses today might actually be your strength. As an introvert, you have unique skills – you’re likely to be more thoughtful, introspective, and a good listener. Not responding instantly can mean you have the ability to zoom out and see the bigger picture. You may be able to spot things that others tend to overlook. You may lack the confidence to speak up, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have the answers! You just express them differently and stay quiet about it, but that doesn’t mean you have less to offer. You absolutely can apply to your dream colleges and fit in there — don’t view your introversion as a hindrance or a weakness. This can be your strength. That’s not to say how hard it is to get through this, but hopefully it helps you know that there is immense value in who you are right now, without you having to change yourself for the better. integrate you.
I also encourage you to read Calm by Susan Cain – it may reassure you to know that there are so many people like you who have “moved on” in life, and you may also come to understand yourself better in the process. There are also other ways to prove yourself in online classes that don’t involve speaking – perhaps you can send your thoughts and questions to your teachers, or try to answer in chat. But even if you can’t, don’t worry about not being able to move forward in life – you can and you will. Schools can be quite restrictive and there is a whole outside world that can accommodate your authentic self. You don’t have to always be visible to be valuable.
KB: The short answer is yes! Online life has killed various parts of us all – you are not alone. Many people find it more difficult and exhausting to engage with colleagues, professors, or even friends on a screen than to have the same conversations in person. There’s something about being spotlighted on that screen, in front of dozens of peers, that’s more terrifying than answering questions in live lectures. What you are experiencing is very common. The important thing to remember is that this pandemic will eventually end and you will resume live classes and interactions with friends and teachers. And when you do, even though it may take time, you will eventually forget the difficulty of the past year and come back to life. Eventually, this will all be a distant memory, and your confidence will come from the incredible things you experience and accomplish after you step out of your bubble.
DR: I graduated a good four years ago when there was no pandemic raging, and so online courses were unheard of – but I feel you. In college, there were classes that really interested me, but that I couldn’t pass because they relied too much on class participation – which basically meant raising your hand and speaking in front of the whole class. Scoring badly doesn’t really matter in the long run, but I still hate how the classes made me feel inadequate. However, if this is something you want to actively work on, you may want to try reaching out to a counselor or therapist, who might be able to help you understand the nuances of speaking in class that you are struggling with. – and whether these specificities can be treated by therapy.
That said, I don’t think that not answering in class Actually prevent you from progressing in your professional or personal life. But, unfortunately, our education system tries to “fix” introversion rather than allowing people to realize their true potential without wasting their breath trying to change who they are. I would suggest you can try to introspect and understand your challenges – introspection is always helpful, unlike public speaking which may or may not be. However, I would say don’t be too hard on yourself, society can make life quite difficult for introverted people. Good luck!
OG: The new normal has caused many of us considerable discomfort and I’m so sorry it’s been so difficult for you. Personally, I’ve always preferred talking to people in person over a phone/video call, it feels more natural and it’s easier to pick up social cues. It can be difficult to adjust to online classes because everyone seems to be at home and you feel like you are under surveillance at all times. It is true that being able to answer makes a good impression, but you will have plenty of opportunities to prove yourself through the work you do. Submitting quality work consistently, even if you’re quiet in class, will get people to notice you. As you progress in your work and gain validation, your confidence will grow. Also, try to identify why you are not talking? Are you afraid of giving the wrong answer? (Because it’s good to take a chance, it’s good to be wrong sometimes). Or is it just the fear of speaking in public? (Talk to your teacher separately to see if they can help you overcome this.)
That said, calm people are often great listeners and can come up with the best ideas. Maybe you work better in a different environment, maybe you like to think, plan and come up with well thought out solutions. Work environments are very different from classrooms. You have much more flexibility and provide opportunities that allow you to contribute in ways that showcase your potential. However, you should always remember to keep the lines of communication open, whether through the written mode or one-on-one conversations, to determine what is best for you. As long as you make sense for your team and it makes sense for you, there will be a million ways to succeed in life, on your own terms.
Sask. : Even if it doesn’t seem like it, things will get better. Education wasn’t supposed to happen this way, nothing was. It can be helpful to separate cause and effect to make sense of the impact your confidence has taken – your reluctance during online classes is in no way a reflection of who you are, your abilities and what you could do in the future. There are two things you can do here: you can either push that feeling away, deliberately try to talk (even if you know you’re wrong), confide in a friend who might be supportive, or even talk to a counselor about the best way to handle this. Or, you could just let it be, you know? I can go on about how the introvert is pigeonholed and seen as something “less than”. But what you need to know is that it’s okay if you’re not the one jumping on every question. It’s okay if you’re a passive observer and learn better that way. There is nothing wrong with sitting in silence, observing the discussion and absorbing the knowledge.
In the end, we all choose our fights. But for what it’s worth, you will be bounce back and feel like yourself again. Regardless of how much – or how little – you speak in class.