In which one extroverted tie dyer muses about the introverted nature of making and selling tie dye apparel online and the beauty of self discovery.
Do you find yourself energized or drained by crowds? Do you prefer large groups and small talk? Or small groups and deep conversations? We humans would do well to consider in which camp we find ourselves. One is not better than the other… But we ARE different, and that’s what makes us beautiful. Of course there are folks who seem to toe the line… But we do tend to lean towards one or the other. I, for one… am an extrovert. Which can make selling tie dye apparel online rather complicated! I have my introverted days, but in my deepest heart of hearts, I crave and thrive off of interaction with others.
I have my most brilliant epiphanies when in conversation or collaboration. And it’s usually not because of what someone else has spoken, but rather my own thoughts that weren’t realized until voiced to another.
When I first learned the word “Synergy” as a 16-year-old struggling to fit in and appear older at community college, I realized this was what I had lacked in my high school experience. All of my learning up until that point had been individual. I took tests by myself, I wrote reports by myself, I studied by myself (Okay, I didn’t really study much at all – couldn’t really focus!) What my high school teachers called cheating, I called collaboration. And I can’t think of one thing I learned and still retain today from that former education at my public high school. But when given the opportunity to attend community college in its stead, I came alive. Group projects, collaboration, study groups… I excelled. I went from a failing ne’er-do-well high school slacker to a successful college student with a part-time job at the campus coffee shop. All at the ripe, young age of 16.
Now, I’m no super-intelligent genius. But when I was allowed to be the extroverted external processor that I was created to be, my learning improved, my retention of information improved, and ultimately my grades improved.
Fast forward to 2014 when I was sitting in a meeting with co-workers where we needed to make a major decision. This team was a mix of introverts and extroverts (as all good teams are) and the leader of the group suggested we give a couple minutes of silence so we could all think about the decision. I protested, “But I can’t think with my mouth shut!” After we all had a good laugh about our differences, we decided to take a few minutes for the introverts among us to process their thoughts, and then we opened up the discussion so that the other extroverts and I could process ours. Giving space for both the introverts and extroverts to process allowed our team to reach a decision that benefited everyone involved.
As you can imagine, starting Miss American Dye was a bit of a challenge for me. Sure, selling tie dye apparel sounds like an extroverted occupation. I mean, just wearing tie dye apparel can be a statement of loud-and-proud extrovertedness. But, you see… I work from home tying material by myself, dyeing by myself, washing out tie dye by myself, uploading and resizing photos by myself, posting new products to my website… by myself. It requires a lot of focus and self discipline, but I’ve figured some ways to manage that. Social media posts allow me to stay connected online and scheduling interaction with friends has become a necessary and productive part of my work day. Whether it’s walking with the neighbor ladies or having coffee with a friend, conversation always produces better insight for me. A lot of my ideas for tie dye apparel stem from conversation with friends.
This past weekend, my inner-extrovert came out in all her glory as I interacted with visitors at the Country Life Fair. I was happy with how many people bought items, but I was more impacted by the conversations I had with those who ventured into my booth. I was able to engage with my customers (and potential customers) in a way I never have online. I was able to hear feedback (like the many requests for more plus sized clothing and children’s tie dye apparel!) But I was also able to process my thoughts on my tie dye process in real time. So, thank you to all of you who came out to visit my booth. And thank you to those who interact with me either online or in person and help shape me into a better dyer, a better business person, and a better human. I’ve come to love both aspects of selling my tie dye apparel – the introverted world of the interweb and the extroverted world of vending.
Bringing it Home
Finally, I’d just like to say to all of you introverts out there, I don’t understand your need for silence to think. I don’t get you at all. But I celebrate you and recognize that this world needs you. I’m sorry you have felt steamrolled by extroverts like myself. I’m sorry that your voice has not always been heard. I’m sorry people have misjudged you as stand-offish or snobby. I’m sorry for the cat lady or agoraphobic jokes. You take your time. Spend that alone time and get refreshed, collect your thoughts, just be… you are a valued and needed member of society and it does no good (for anyone) trying to be an extrovert if you are not. You have an ability to think and care deeply. You slow down and are the wiser for it. You probably have one or two close friends and they are better people because of your presence in their lives. You bring stability. You are wildly creative. The world needs you to be you. Beautiful, introverted you.
And to my fellow extroverts… I do get you. I know your frustration of being called intimidating. I know the fear of being overwhelming or annoying to those around you… because you’ve been told you are these things. I know the shame when your teacher told you to stop raising your hand and let someone else answer. I know the embarrassment of speaking thoughts out loud that should have never been spoken… and not being able to take those words back. I know your longing for interaction with others and the loneliness you feel when that interaction is lacking. I know the accusations of being shallow. I get you. And guess what? Just like the introverts, the world also needs us extroverts. The world needs us to be who we are and to stop trying to be something we’re not. We have an ability to think and act on our toes. We engage people in conversation, inspire relationship, and create community wherever we go. We say what’s on our mind and wear our heart on our sleeve. So go spend that break talking with your co-workers by the water cooler. Attend that party and don’t feel guilty about the small talk being small. The world needs us to be… us. Beautiful, extroverted you. (And me.)