Thriving As An Introvert: Sarah J Pitts of Kick-Ass Personal Trainers On How Introverts Can Thrive & Succeed In A Society That Seems To Favor Extroverts
An Understanding of Who You Are: During my time in the fitness industry, I’ve seen far too many amazing, introverted Personal Trainers quit because they got burned out. This happens fast for us when we try to copy what our more extroverted colleagues are doing to make them successful. Understanding your own personality and knowing how to get the best out of yourself is key if you want to thrive.
In a world that often rewards outspokenness and social networking, introverts can sometimes feel sidelined or overlooked. The workplace, educational institutions, and even social settings can often seem engineered to suit the strengths of extroverts, leaving introverts searching for a space to flourish.
However, introversion comes with its own set of unique strengths — deep thinking, the ability to focus, empathy, and keen observational skills — that are invaluable but often underestimated. The question then becomes: how can introverts not only survive but also thrive and succeed in environments that seem skewed towards extroversion? In this interview series, we are talking to introverts, business leaders, psychologists, authors, career coaches, organizational leaders, and other experts in the field who can talk about “How Introverts Can Thrive & Succeed In A Society That Seems To Favor Extroverts”. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Sarah J Pitts.
Sarah J Pitts is a #1 Amazon bestselling author and founder of kickasspt.com. She has over 30 years of experience coaching individuals and fitness professionals worldwide. Currently, she helps introverted Personal Trainers to shine in a fitness industry that seems to favor extroverted trainers, so that they can be truly recognized and celebrated for their expertise.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us your “Origin Story”? Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Sure, thank you for having me. I grew up in a small suburb of Leeds in West Yorkshire in the UK with my older sister and both my parents. I suppose I felt different from quite an early age. My sister was always bubbly and outgoing, whereas I felt happiest when I was reading a book, listening to music, or kicking a ball around outside by myself.
At school I wasn’t one of the cool kids. I didn’t like hanging around in big groups of friends. I’d prefer to spend my time by myself or with a couple of close friends.
I come from an active family, both my parents played badminton every week, they love ballroom dancing and going hiking. Growing up, my sister and I were both encouraged to be active too. My sister inherited my parents’ love of dance, and I enjoyed playing any sport that involved a ball.
Looking back, I think sport was my safe place. It gave me a way of socializing with my peers without having to get too involved. I loved it so much that by the age of 13, I was helping my teachers in school with lunchtime and after-school sports clubs, coaching the children younger than me.
Can you tell us a bit about what you do professionally, and what brought you to this specific career path?
In my current role, I help introverted Personal Trainers discover their unique talents and teach them the skills they need to build their businesses around those talents with authenticity and confidence. Essentially, I’m doing what I wish someone had done for me when I first started.
Since I was so heavily involved in coaching sports at school, it seemed to be a logical next step that I become a Physical Education teacher, and for a long time, that’s what I thought I wanted to do. However, after failing my teaching practice in the second year of my teaching degree, I realized that I didn’t want to teach big groups of people. I preferred teaching one-to-one, so I became a Personal Trainer and began my own business in 2001.
Over the next two decades, I developed a deep understanding of sports injury. I gradually moved from being a mobile Personal Trainer to having my own treatment clinic until I began moving my business online almost ten years ago.
As an introvert, I value quality, and I give it my very best shot when I decide to do something. I followed advice from business experts with proven track records in the unwavering belief that I could succeed online, but it didn’t work out that way.
I was shocked to discover just how many new additional skills I needed to learn just to sell my services online, and some unscrupulous people badly burned me along the way. After years of struggling to figure out how all the pieces were supposed to fit together, I began to think that something was wrong with me and that I wasn’t cut out for being a business owner.
I was devastated. It was a real low point in my life, and at that time, I was doing a lot of soul-searching. That’s when I read “The Secret Lives of Introverts” by Jenn Granneman, and I realized that there wasn’t anything wrong with me at all! I just needed a few extra steps to help me cope with the things I found deeply uncomfortable about being in business online… especially in fitness.
It dawned on me that there are a lot of Personal Trainers, just like me, who don’t feel comfortable with the limelight and eventually start to think that they’re not cut out for being in business either. It’s a horrible feeling and I wouldn’t wish anyone to have to go through what I’d been through, so I decided to do something about it.
I wrote a book called “How to Find Your Voice, Your Value, and Your Va-Va-Voom!” that I made sure was filled with practical advice and the small steps necessary to help introverted Personal Trainers find their unique brilliance so they don’t ever have to feel like I did. The book became a number-one Amazon bestseller, and we have a growing community of fabulously introverted Personal Trainers on Facebook.
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion about Thriving As An Introvert. In order to make sure that we are all on the same page, let’s begin with a simple definition. What does “Introvert” mean to you?
To me an introvert is someone who prefers a quiet, calm environment, doesn’t like being the center of attention, and takes time to absorb and digest information before they take action.
Can you help articulate a few of the challenges that come with being an introvert?
Introverts treasure their personal space. We prefer deep and meaningful discussions rather than small talk and it takes a lot for us to share details about our personal lives. As a Personal Trainer who only works face-to-face with one client at a time, it’s easier to have those things, but when part of your success comes from being on social media, it’s much more challenging.
Introverts are generally more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it, sharing photos of what we did at the weekend can feel intrusive, and tooting our own horn just feels forced and fake.
These are challenges in themselves since social media takes up such a large portion of online marketing these days, but when you feel like you’re in direct competition with trainers who are not only comfortable with all those things, but actually thrive off them, it feels like you’re fighting an uphill battle.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for introverted Personal Trainers, though, is being their own worst critic. We tend to replay scenarios over and over in our heads, often berating ourselves for what we didn’t do or what we could have done better. This negative self-talk can quickly lead to feelings of not being good enough or undeserving of success.
I’m sure that being an introvert also gives you certain advantages. Can you tell us a few advantages that introverts have?
Many introverts don’t make decisions quickly, they take the time to absorb all the information they can and then decide on the best course of action. This is a super powerful advantage when it comes to Personal Training because it makes us excellent problem-solvers. Most other trainers only listen for something they can help with… and then they stop listening. This means the best solution to the issue is often missed because they didn’t listen long enough to get to the truth of the problem.
Introverts are also very good at taking their information from non-verbal clues. It could be a slight change of tone in a client’s voice, a slight hesitation in an activity, or a change in mood. Noticing these subtle clues about how clients feel allows us to adapt sessions quickly to ensure we deliver a great experience every time.
Many trainers are afraid to be different, but introverts are not. We like finding new and innovative takes on fitness, which means we can easily create unique, engaging, and fun sessions.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being an introvert? Can you explain what you mean?
I think the most popular myths about being introverted are that we are shy or that we don’t like socializing, neither of which are true. In many cases, it’s not knowing what to say or how it will be received that prevents us from connecting with new people or putting ourselves “out there” on social media.
Let’s take being on camera, for example. Some more extroverted people can make a few bullet point notes and talk for twenty minutes on a subject. Many introverts are not like that because we have a constant awareness that we’re being recorded and a dialogue reminding us how we look and how we might be perceived running through our minds… and it’s distracting!
Personally, I’m also conscious of the fact that I don’t think quickly and can easily lose my train of thought, which doesn’t work well on camera. If I’m asked to talk on a subject without notes, or I’m asked an interview question I wasn’t expecting, it makes me feel uncomfortable, but if I’ve got a script that I can read from and there’s nobody in the same room watching me, I’m generally okay with being on camera.
When it comes to socializing, it’s the amount of energy it takes to be with the kinds of people who talk endlessly about nothing or think of something interesting to say that many introverts find tiring. Most of us only have a certain amount of energy for being around other people, then we need to go somewhere quiet to be by ourselves and recharge.
Do you have any role models who are also introverts? What have you learned from them that can help introverts navigate the challenges and benefits of introversion?
My late Grandad was my role model who also happened to be an introvert. He had two favorite sayings that will stick with me forever. One was “You don’t have to do anything”. He would say this to remind me that it’s okay to step back and think before making a decision. The other was “Some people have to stand out in the rain a long time before they realize they’re getting wet”. He would say this to remind me that it’s okay that I see what’s really going on in a situation and that other people might never understand things on the same level.
Taking time to absorb all the information and understand things on a deep level is how many introverts thrive. My Grandad’s sayings always seemed to give me permission for me to just be myself.
Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the “Five Things Introverts Need To Thrive & Succeed In A Society That Seems To Favor Extroverts”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.
1 . An Understanding of Who You Are: During my time in the fitness industry, I’ve seen far too many amazing, introverted Personal Trainers quit because they got burned out. This happens fast for us when we try to copy what our more extroverted colleagues are doing to make them successful. Understanding your own personality and knowing how to get the best out of yourself is key if you want to thrive.
For example, if you get lost in the tiny details, work with advanced clients who relish the prospect of fine-tuning their performance. If you struggle with small talk, work with clients who are highly self-motivated and don’t need a great deal of face-to-face time.
For anyone, introverted or not, trying to be someone you’re not is exhausting.
2 . An Understanding of What You Care About: Introverts are deep thinkers. While we don’t like wasting our time on topics that we consider superficial, we often care deeply about topics that interest us. If we have to spend our time on topics that we consider to be superficial, we’ll find it frustrating, stifling, and disheartening, which is tiring. On the other hand, when we get to spend time on the topics we truly care about, we feel energized, liberated, and valuable.
Oftentimes these topics allow introverts to feel part of a cause that is bigger than themselves, which feeds our desire for meaning in our lives and leads to far more action, courage, and commitment, especially if the actions we must take our outside of our comfort zone.
In the world of Personal Training, introverted trainers might hate seeing people with chronic pain, or older adults having to give up their independence because of poor mobility. When they get to focus all their efforts on helping these people, it gives their lives more meaning and purpose than if they also had to spend their time with clients who just wanted to lose weight or tone up.
3 . Recognition of What Makes You Different: As we’ve already discussed, introverts bring a different skill set than non-introverts and recognizing what makes us naturally different can help us leverage that. In many cases, it’s an introvert’s analytical powers or problem-solving capabilities that help us to bring new insights and solutions to situations.
It can be a bit daunting to voice these insights if they are very different to the industry norm; however, it’s exactly this difference that can make you valuable to both clients and colleagues who are looking for cutting-edge ways to get results.
4 . Recognition of the Value & Expertise You Bring: Introverts don’t generally like to toot their own horn, and it can be difficult for many of us to understand just how much value we bring or expertise we have. Unfortunately, this leads us to compare ourselves to others, believe that we’re not as good as everyone else, and underprice our services. This encourages us to compensate for that by overworking, over-promising, or over-delivering, which simply results in us feeling overwhelmed and underappreciated.
When we compare ourselves to others, many introverts think that they have to have more expertise or bring more value than everyone else to have any at all… which simply isn’t true. When we remember that we are experts in our own experiences and that what we learned from our experiences brings value to other people, we can stop worrying that we’re not good enough and start helping our clients with confidence.
5 . Acknowledgement That You Can’t Please Everyone: Many introverts are chronic people pleasers. We’ve spent a lifetime blending in, trying not to draw attention to ourselves, and doing whatever makes others happy. I’d be willing to bet that many of us would say that we’re “allergic to conflict”! The harsh reality, though, is that we cannot please everyone, and when we try, the only person that ends up unhappy is ourselves.
The biggest problem with people pleasing, though, is that we end up ignoring the very people that we did make happy as we focus all our attention on trying to change the minds of the people who don’t like us!
When it comes to Personal Training, accepting that you’ll never please everyone is the fastest way to thrive because you can start to feel comfortable in your own skin and focus all your efforts on the people who love you for being exactly who you are.
How should an introvert navigate social relationships and networking, activities that are often touted as extroverts’ forte? Do you have any advice for introverts in these areas?
Networking is often seen as a big scary monster for introverts but surprisingly, we’re much better at it than we think. I’ve lost track of the number of messages I get from total strangers over social media that starts and ends with “Hi”. It drives me mad!
While some more extroverted people might enjoy the opportunity to connect with somebody new, introverts don’t — especially when that person has appeared out of nowhere expecting that you’ll drop everything to have a fifty-message conversation with them just so they can get to the point.
Fortunately, introverts instinctively understand that people are busy, and they also know how uncomfortable it can feel to be around new people. That’s why when we do connect with others, we tend to give more context upfront.
Most introverts wouldn’t feel comfortable sending an email that just asking to be on someone podcast for example. It’s much more likely that they’d start the conversation by introducing themselves, explaining how they came across the podcast, saying what they like about it and how it matches what they do. Then they’d follow it up with the suggestion of being a guest, probably with a comment like “if you’re looking for more guests” or “when you’ve got time”.
This context and the respectful tone give introverts an edge as it shows thoughtfulness, which most people appreciate whether they’re introverted or not.
It’s the same at a party or social gathering. Some people would simply introduce someone new by saying how they know someone whereas an introvert might go that extra mile and find something in common between the new person and the rest of the group.
What are some practical tips you can offer to introverts who want to succeed in the workplace, which is often geared towards extroverted behaviors?
Again, I think this goes back to understanding yourself. For most introverts though, having quiet time to focus or recharge is key.
One useful trick I’ve used in the past has been to wear headphones while I’m trying to focus. You know, the big over-ear ones that everyone can see. There doesn’t even need to be anything playing through them, just wearing them can be enough to encourage people to give you space.
Another one is to find a quiet place before and after meetings where I can psyche myself up and calm myself down from being around people.
I’ve also found that going for a walk outside is a great way to find some solitude in the middle of the day.
While it’s important to have alone time in the workplace though, it is also important to dedicate a certain portion of your day where you are willing to be sociable with your colleagues.
Have you noticed any specific ways that being an introvert affects mental health or overall well-being? Any tips for introverts to maintain good mental health?
Introverts tend to withdraw too far into themselves and try to solve problems on their own when things start to go wrong — and that’s fine for a while but it’s also important to remember to talk about your problems before they become too overwhelming.
While many might feel like they are burdening other people, the reality is that when you share with the right people, they can help you find more creative or innovative solutions than you could have come up with on your own.
In your opinion, are societal views on introversion changing? If so, how do you think this impacts introverts positively or negatively? Can you please explain what you mean?
I think society as whole is becoming more aware of all types of personality differences, which can only be a positive thing. Here in the UK right now, there’s a particular push for awareness around autism and big supermarket chains are even introducing specific times of the day when they lower the lighting and reduce the noises in their businesses to help people cope better.
As introverts we instinctively understand the differences in people. We can empathize and respect them. It’s great that we can now have an open conversation about it to those who don’t naturally do that, or even for those people, like me, who didn’t even know that introversion was a “thing”!
Society can be a minefield to navigate no matter who you are, so anytime we can break down stigmas, taboo subjects, or differences, it’s an opportunity to help someone else navigate their lives more easily.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I think my favorite one has to be “Common sense ain’t so common”. In fact, I tell my clients all the time “If there’s one thing that I’ve learned about common sense, it’s that other people don’t have any”. What I mean by that is that just because something is obvious to you, it doesn’t mean that it’s obvious to everyone, and oftentimes it’s the things that we find easiest that other people find great value in.
I dismissed the things that I find easy for many years thinking that people wouldn’t pay me for something that simple — and I struggled for a long time to make money, but when I started focusing my business on what comes naturally to me, that’s when things started to change.
Introverts often see things on a different level to the rest of the world. This quote reminds me that it’s okay to be different and that my difference is my superpower.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I think it would probably be helping people find their own unique brilliance. It’s my experience that once people truly find their place in the world, they are much more understanding, patient, tolerant, and giving in all areas of life.
How can our readers further follow your work online? You can find the website at kickasspt.com or find us on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube with the handle @kickasspersonaltrainers
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!
Thriving As An Introvert: Sarah J Pitts of Kick-Ass Personal Trainers On How Introverts Can Thrive… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.