Do you have to be ballsy to succeed?


How would you describe yourself? Introverted? Extroverted? Perhaps a bit of both? Do you thrive in big groups of people or prefer an intimate one on one setting? There are a million and one articles and personality quizzes out there claiming to decipher your personality type, and even more telling you to ‘fuck da haterz’ and just be yourself, usually accompanied by a couple of Beyonce gifs and Lena Dunham quotes to make you feel more sassy. The idea of everyone working cohesively by tapping into each other's assets is everyone’s workplace utopia, but the more I read and hear about the stories of CEOs, Editors, millionaires, heck, even the President of the United States, the more I wonder whether this notion of personality-type equality is just idealistic, and society is fundamentally designed to make ballsy, brash, extroverted people the most successful.   

I would describe myself as an extroverted introvert, by which I mean I am chatty and sociable, but often feel a bit overwhelmed by larger groups and nervous about voicing my opinion (talk about being more of a blogger cliché, sorry). In an exit interview from a recent internship, the feedback I was given was pretty bloody positive, but I was told I could afford to be more confident, speak up in meetings and generally be a bit louder. This pill is a difficult one to swallow - I'm constantly concerned about coming across as an annoying, precocious millennial knob, so I only speak up in meetings when I really feel I have something genuinely worthwhile to contribute (and to be fair, by the end of a meeting I’m usually desperate for a wee/cup of tea that I’ll do anything to get out of there). As a result, I'm in danger of coming across too chilled and not hungry enough for the job. The thing is, I am hungry, VERY hungry. In fact, I'm STARVING, ravenous - whatever word in your hunger-based lexicon, you name it, I really bloody want to be a writer so much but my stupid personality says otherwise. So, in order to succeed, do I need to be more ballsy? 

 Evidence in the media would seem to suggest 'yes'; I wrote this news story at The Debrief about a study claiming that 'nasty, assertive' women get paid more than 'less dominant' women (the 'nasty' women STILL get paid less than even less dominant men, but this is an entirely separate issue that deserves a blog post in its own right). Similarly, we need only look at old Donny Trump (I’m still not ready to call him ‘President’, so Donny will have to do), to see that experience is seemingly irrelevant when you've got the confidence to talk your way into becoming the most powerful man in the world. It's depressing, and when you're not a natural extrovert in can be easy to think you'll never be as successful as the ballsy types. 

 I refuse to accept that this is the case. In my search for evidence on the contrary, I also watched this TEDx talk by Cosmopolitan UK Editor, Farrah Storr, in which she discusses her journey to one of the most coveted jobs in women's journalism. She discusses being in her first writing job in her early twenties, which she adored, but although she worked hard and got on with the job quietly, a few months in she was told by an editor that she didn't appear 'hungry' enough for the job, and if she didn't buck her ideas up, her position would be 'reviewed'. Devastated by the comments, she decided to make a concerted effort to be louder more assertive and brash, despite it not coming naturally to her. 

 Here's the thing, in her words: 'it worked like a dream.' She worked her way up, fast, and became one of the youngest editors in the country. Career-wise, she was at the top of her game, thanks to a bit of conscious personality-tweaking. Unfortunately, once she got there, maintaining her adopted hard-edged personality worked against her; much of her workforce resigned, and she was forced to soften herself once again in order to create a harmonious, productive working team. 

 What I think is interesting about this story is the idea that neither being too hard or too soft work in your favour. It's clear from the way our society rewards confident, go-getting people that, hard as it may be to accept, you need an element of these qualities to go far in certain fields. However, we can also assume that being too brash, over-confident and talking over those who are a bit quieter doesn't work either. So, what can introverted people take from this? 

Well, unless we fancy sparking an upheaval of our societal hierarchy, which, let's face it, isn't a five minute job, the answer is making an effort to be more outwardly go-getting to show you're a genuinely determined sass-pot that means business. However, I don't think we need to lose ourselves in the process; I've discussed with a couple of people the idea of having a 'work personality' - basically you, but with your actions a bit more considered. So going into future jobs, I'm going to push myself to be a little more 'ballsy' - it doesn't make you a dick, just someone who knows their worth and is serious about making themselves a success. If we could all adapt our personalities by focussing in on our strengths and working on our weaknesses, how different would our careers be?

Side note: I realise I've said 'ballsy' a lot in this post. I hope it hasn't made you think of private parts too much x


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2 comments

  1. Great post! I'm very introverted and since starting work and thinking about my future career, this has been on my mind a lot - worried that, although I am driven, other people may not think so because of being an introvert. Love the 'work personality' concept! x

    Summer, www.thetwinswardrobe.com

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  2. Loved it! I could relate to every word written in your post. I like to make noise when I feel it's necessary but I've seen the noisier crowd getting much ahead. With that said, there is always a need for people who do more than just talk, and I'm sure you'll go far with your positive originality to just be who you are and excel in that shell! x

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