When I was in high school, I participated in musical theatre. This required being on stage and in front of people. You’d think that as an introvert, this is the last thing one would do. But I came from a musical family, and singing, dancing and acting was how me and my siblings often entertained ourselves. For as long as I can remember, my mom would make me sing or dance for anyone who stopped by our house…her friends, neighbors or any visitor.
As a kid, I hated it. But as a young adult I enjoyed it because it allowed me to become someone else. Someone other than me. When I acted in theatre class, I played a character (and the character was never an introvert, mind you). Becoming the character meant I could be confident, self-expressed, gregarious and open. None of which I considered my real self to be.
Soon I was adopting the same philosophy in life. If I played an extrovert, or any other character for the matter (confident, self-assured, intelligent), everything would be alright and I would fit in. I didn’t know back then what I know now about introversion so I never understood why it was so easy for other kids to make friends and have a full social life while it was so hard for me. I was not unpopular. I had friends but I often spent my break time in the bathroom or in the library.
My pretending often got the best of me. I felt completely drained by it all. It drained my energy and often left me feeling small. As a result, my self-esteem was not great, even though my make-believe world often worked to my advantage.
Many years later, I read the book called The Introvert Advantage by Marty Olsen Laney, and it finally gave me a definition for what I had thought was a permanent flaw of mine. I learned that my inwardly focused nature was hardwired from birth and that there was nothing wrong with me. It helped me recognize my inner strengths, analytical skills, ability to think outside the box, and strong powers of concentration. It dramatically changed how I viewed myself and gave me the confidence to be unapologetically real, stop pretending and be intentional about the life I wanted to create for myself.
Now I know that sometimes I am called to be a “situational extrovert” but I am deliberate and intentional. I am not pretending, rather I draw in what is required in the moment in a particular situation. I am in full control and not pretending. This is especially helpful in business social settings when I have a goal in mind.
Have you ever felt like you were pretending to be someone you’re not in order to cover up your introversion? Now you know you don’t have to. By giving yourself permission to be yourself and honor your introverted nature, you can create authentic connections and relationships with anyone you meet AND feel good about yourself while you’re at it.
By the way, if you haven’t read the book, go and get it HERE.
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