By Alyssa Berkowitz, Real in Return
Growing up, I was the child who preferred a good book to a birthday party. Teachers were always urging me to “break out of my shell” or would come up to me to express concern when I would sit quietly by myself during group activities. I was called “shy” and “awkward” well into my teenage years. I had a small group of close friends, and never yearned for the popular limelight. I felt uniquely me, and I dealt.
It wasn’t until college, where bored nights led to the discussion of the popular Myers-Briggs personality typing, that I learned there was a name to describe the way I felt as a child, and still feel today. I am an introvert: a person who gets energy from inside herself, as opposed to an extrovert who gathers energy from external stimuli. As an introvert, I am someone who is almost constantly streaming an inner monologue through her head and someone who prefers to stay out of the center of attention. However, I also happen to be an entrepreneur. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about being an entrepreneur, it’s that we find our success through our voices.
The idea for Real in Return occurred to me early last summer, but I let the fear of my own idea keep me from initially sharing my idea. I was concerned about the judgement of others and the possibility of all the eyes in a room being focused at me. The own weight of my idea kept me bottled from talking to anyone about it. My own introversion was holding me back. And at PresenTense’s first idea slam, with friends by my side to encourage me, I shared my idea, and people responded. A crowd surrounded me to listen. I felt the weight of possibility as opposed to the weight of my own idea.
I applied to PresenTense knowing it could provide the megaphone for my often muffled voice. I knew PresenTense could give me the courage to get my idea out of my head and into the lives of other people.
Throughout the PresenTense fellowship, I have been working, on the one hand, to get Real in Return off the ground and making a difference in the Jewish community, and, on the other hand, to not fear my own voice or ideas. In a room full of brilliant entrepreneurs, each working to achieve a different goal, my voice can feel small. But, at that moment, I remind myself that the quiet entrepreneur gets their idea nowhere. My passion can’t resonate with others if I don’t give them the opportunity to hear my idea. I have to talk if I want other people to listen.
So very slowly, I am learning. I’m pushing my comforts knowing that in the end, my voice will be heard and my power to enact change will multiply. Instead of fearing the weight of idea, I approach every person and every conversation as a chance to grow my idea and broaden my horizons.
If you, too, are struggling to find the courage to share an idea, I encourage you to find your voice. You never know what difference you’ll make.
For more advice on “getting yourself out there,” read this article by Susan Cain, introvert goddess and author of the New York Times bestseller, “Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.”
PresenTense NYC Fellowship
Igniting social change in the NYC Jewish community.