I’m sure those of you who know me are going to find this a bit unbelievable. I’ve been known as a social butterfly, a networker, the girl who always knows someone, somewhere and at times, the life of the party. I’m the kind of girl who says exactly what’s on her mind and who will do things because she doesn’t care about what other people say about her. To those people, when I say I’m an introvert at heart, a closet introvert really, they’re shocked.
When I was growing up, just going to the bus stop would provoke anxiety. I was the girl who would skip lunch in order to avoid the awkwardness of the cafeteria and finding a seat. Then in high school I realized my awkwardness was going to hold me back.
Living in a world where being an extrovert is rewarded, I’ve always had to force myself into uncomfortable social situations.
I’d always craved attention, affection, and the spotlight. I had big dreams but I was just terrified to go after them and even more terrified to put myself out there in order to do so. I had to create a persona, so I dug deep and tapped into my inner badass. Whenever fear started to roll in, there she was, holding my hand and telling me that it was okay.
All anyone ever had to see was the confident, bold woman I chose to display.
How I’ve Managed to Stay in the Introvert Closet
I’ve always hated parties. Not hosting them or casual interactive gatherings like baby showers and what-not. The kinds of parties I hate are usually house parties. I can’t stand them or any type of get-together where I only know one or two people. You know, the kind of parties where people kind of stand around and talk, maybe even gather around a bonfire and reminisce. There is almost always music playing and there might be a few people dancing awkwardly to it.
I’m much more a bar/nightclub person because you’re on a level playing field. In my younger days, nightclubs were great because they were too loud for small talk and it felt like my friends and I were in our own little bubble.
How I stay in the introvert closet: While I’ve always tried to avoid these at all costs, there are times when I get dragged along to house parties. I try my best to remember to smile, especially at other women. I always make sure to have a death grip on a drink the entire time (it gives me something to do when no one is talking to me) and try my damndest not to get too drunk. Just drunk enough where I might actually loosen up and have some fun.
Oh my god, I hate the phone. I hate the phone so much that I haven’t used a ringer since like 2005. My phone is always on silent or at the very least, vibrate. If I miss a call, my philosophy has always been: If it’s important they’ll text or leave a message. If not, I’ll call them back when I feel like it.
Picking up the phone and making important calls is borderline paralyzing. Sometimes, it even takes an internal pep talk just to call a utility company. This is a large part of the reason why I despise sales and especially cold calling. Yuck.
I also never understand why people call me just to chat. Sure, there are exceptions like my mother and dear friends that I don’t see very often, wanting to catch up. Other than that, no way.
How I stay in the introvert closet: The texting revolution really saved me. It’s so awesome that people can get to the point with a text instead of interrupting me with a phone call. I try to keep the majority of business correspondence through email and in-person meetings. Social interactions are mainly via text unless it’s something too in-depth and requires an over the phone discussion.
I hate not knowing people (hence why I try to avoid parties), but when I’m faced with a cluster of people I don’t know, trying to figure out what the hell to say is stressful. I also suck at asking questions. As an introvert, I’m very intuitive and take part in a lot of observing because I feel like it tells me a lot more about people than them getting to choose what they want to tell me.
Apparently, that just makes me look like I’m not interested and self-absorbed.
How I stay in the introvert closet: Again,I try to be very aware of my face and smile. A lot. I usually let them ask me a couple of questions and will get going on a subject I’m comfortable with — my work. Eventually, the conversation evolves into them telling me things about them that relate to what I am saying. All that results in breaking free of the small talk zone.
Bumping into People
Because I suck at small talk I never know what the hell to do in these circumstances. If I’m at a bar, concert or someplace loud it’s great because I can just smile and hug them. The street is a different story. It’s like, I’m going somewhere and you’re going someplace then you see me and say, “Chrystal??” and I’m all awkward like, “Oh heyyy.”
What are people expected to do here? I would be fine with a hug and a “Good to see you — byeeeee!” but I always feel like people want more from me and I’m left awkwardly wondering what the hell to say next. I mean, I wasn’t planning to see you and yet here you are. I hate small talk but it’s not the time for a full-blown conversation.
How I stay in the introvert closet: I’ll be honest, I still kind of suck at this. Just a couple weeks ago I bumped into an awesome chick I know on the street and she told me how great I looked. I said “Thanks” and didn’t return the compliment. I seriously feel like Napoleon Dynamite in these circumstances.
Being a business owner makes networking a necessary evil. I despise how fake some people sound and how predatory the whole thing seems. I never know how to approach someone out of the blue. Also, you know what’s just as hard as starting a conversation with someone you don’t know? Ending one. Sometimes I realize that someone is going to turn into a clinger, or they want me to help them with something that I have zero interest in. Escaping them takes just as much effort as it did to approach them. (Although these are normally the types that approach me.)
How I stay in the introvert closet: Luckily, I know a lot of people so most of the time I’ll bump into someone I know and can make small talk (ewww) until they introduce me to someone else. If not I’ll scope out nametags and try to relate that person to someone I know already. “Oh you work at blah? A friend of mine, Blahblah does business with you guys. Oh you know him? Greaaaaat.”
While I absolutely love the performing arts, it took me years of longing to become involved in it. At one point, I believed that I could do a group audition and they’d give me the lead role because they could just sense my awesomeness. I finally sang a solo audition as I got older and eventually was cast in musicals. I even did improv comedy for a few years.
Every time I get on stage, speak to a group or even just sing karaoke I feel like I’m going to piss my pants and vomit at the same time.
How I stay in the introvert closet: Being a creative person, I’ve always been able to tap into an array of emotions. Confidence is one of the things I’ve just had to fake. Once I’m out there, I start to feel more comfortable.
I’ll Admit It, I’m Kind of a Sham
Like most things that require a lot of balls to do, I’ve had to force myself to do them. Whether I’m on the verge of vomiting, in tears, hyperventilating, or having a full-blown panic attack—I shove myself out of my comfort zone. Why?
Because I want to be successful more than I want to be comfortable.
As a young girl there were so many opportunities I missed out on because I was too afraid or felt too awkward. I never wanted to be known as the shy one, or the one with potential. I wanted to exceed my potential. I wanted to smash my potential.
There are times when I feel truly confident and I think that’s attributed to years of practice as well as a part of growing into womanhood. There are many things I used to worry about but no longer do.
But I’d still rather stay home and read a book than go to a party.
How do you push past discomfort and challenge yourself?
Image credit: Shutterstock