Monday, August 16, 2010

Coming into the Light: A Shot at Opacity, by Mehnaz Thawer

All my life, I've been invisible to some degree. For those that already know me, you'll know I have a penchant for complete candour, and you can hear my rambunctious ramblings from a mile away. This isn't what I'm talking about.

Much like many introverts, I take a liking to "behind the scenes" types of work. I used to be in a choir and subsequently, a stage manager, a communications manager and all kinds of managerial posts that required that I be behind the scenes. Given that these were supposed to be fun endeavours, it was always a lot of work. When I was thanked on stage - as often is the case when you have a big blow-out-end-of-the-year concert - I would have to come onto the stage, under a spotlight, which would cause me to blush (given my naturally dark skin-tone, you can imagine this might have been quite the feat)!

It's not so much that I didn't want my work recognized, and that I didn't appreciate a thank you here and there; it's just that I worked really hard to appear invisible when I could. Call it a natural aversion to attention or what have you, but I have to say, after a while, it started to get old.

Recently, I spoke to a woman who pointed out that I very much liked being alone, and being recognized meant taking responsibility for myself - something I appear not to be completely comfortable with.

I got to thinking about how this connected to my life. I noticed that I tended to bury myself in work until nobody could really find me. I make excuses for my invisibility (and not strangely, I know a lot of people who do).

While being okay with your invisibility is fine (we're not spotlight-mongers), we tend to miss out on opportunities that really benefit us, when people recognize who we are and what we do.

As lame as it sounds, my concerted effort to walk into the light is going to be by joining something - for fun! It has to be something where I'm not working, where I can use my skills and my language to network, and to be grateful for praise and attention.

If you're anything like me, and spend your life hanging out "behind the scenes", make an effort to do something where you are forced into the light. Might sound like it's on the lighter side of being too XYZ, but you'll be surprised how difficult it is.

At the risk of sounding frivolous, be opaque, so that people don't look through you, so that they remember to recognize you properly for your contributions, your humour, your brief moments of endearing stridency.

What have you done lately to come out into the spotlight?

Mehnaz is a professional writer in Vancouver and the owner of "Speak Softly and Carry a Red Pen".

5 comments:

Olga said...

This is a great post. You bring up a topic that I have struggled with, ironically as an extrovert. I tend to take 'backstage' on my efforts as well despite my open personality. For me it has come from a place of humbleness coupled with not being sure of myself and fear of being arrogant. As I have grown in my career and confidence, I realize that one can be in the spotlight and humble without seeming too boastful. I really enjoy your take on being 'opaque'. I am going to add that tenet to my young career toolbox.

Jamie said...

Interesting as I'm on the other end of the spectrum, or at least I used to be. I was always in the spotlight, had to be the center of attention, etc. What I found is that being on the other end isn't good either; not only are your mistakes highlighted, but similar to introverts, we not only hide in our work - we run away from being "alone". I actually did learn to be a bit more introspective / introverted and I did so by forcing myself to be alone...all day, from 8 am - 6 pm, 5 days / week. It was tough at first and still is at times, but I've learned to do things FOR ME as opposed to doing them to 'get attention'.

I wish people did not have to be categorized as introverts and extroverts; does anyone ever here someone say, "i'm balanced" - wouldn't that be the goal?

mehnaz said...

Olga - I'm glad you found value in my categorisation. I know that a lot of extraverts face the same sorts of issues, but on the opposite end. They can be equally hard-working behind the scenes. And I think it's always nice to strike a balance between humility and acceptance of recognition - Something I'm working on as well.

Jamie - good on you for learning to spend time by yourself. It's difficult to be okay with being alone, and we have to understand that alone doesn't mean lonely. It's a goal to be as balanced as you can (and if you're not, then at least try and push yourself to do the opposite of your habit once in a while). Sadly there will always be categorisation - it's just much easier for the world, and I think we offer unique perspectives therein. I like "I'm balanced". I'm going to have to start using that!

Ty Unglebower said...

In groups and schools of which I have been a part, I have often been called upon to give the speeches. I usually don't mind giving them, and giving that I am writer I tend to write pretty good speeches. I am also good at impromptu speaking.

At the end of speeches, during the applause, (which was sometimes sustains), I would often nod once turn and sit down, or walk away or whatever. It was only later that I learned to both be able and willing to stand in place and acknowledge the audience for as long as their appreciation of my efforts went on.

I think in the end they appreciate being able to appreciate ME. But I felt it was best for me to not bask in that too much, at first. Now I realize that I don't have to be a "public" person in order to partake in the applause. (Being an actor helped make me more comfortable with that aspect as well.)

I guess before that, I felt it was somehow vile to enjoy the applause over my accomplishments for too long.

Jen Gresham said...

Yes, I resonate with Ty's comment. One shortcoming I've been working on is learning how to gracefully accept compliments. I'm learning to just say thank you and mean it. Not easy for us introverts, but sooo important.

Thanks for a great addition to the AuGuest theme!