How I Learned To Embrace My Inner Introvert
I always thought I was an extrovert.
In retrospect, I always tried to be an extrovert, because I thought that was the correct way to be. Who doesn’t want to be the life of the party? Introvert, for some reason, had negative connotations to me. Shy. Unapproachable. Anti-social. All things that I was taught from an early age were disadvantageous to be. So I made myself loud and boisterous–– the center of attention. It took me way, way too long to realize that in almost every situation where I was forcing myself into that role, I was wildly uncomfortable.
As I’ve gotten older, I developed pretty bad anxiety. It had to do with a lot of things–– my brain chemistry, some pretty long-ingrained perfectionism, and my Crohn’s diagnosis, to name a few. But it was far too hard with my rising anxiety to pretend to be the most outgoing one in the room all the time. This was both a blessing and a curse: I was self-conscious that others would view my new “personality shift” as weird, but I also felt so much more comfortable in a middle ground.
Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy attention as much as your next narcissistic writer. But as I’ve grown into myself as an adult (especially an adult with a chronic illness), I’ve enjoyed shifting that attention to a more behind-the-scenes approach. Rather than needing to be the one yelling out a funny story at a party, I’m content to express myself through writing. Instead of forcing myself on stage, I wrote a web series and cast some friends as the leads. It’s been all about finding a happy medium. I still love to talk and meet new people, but I’ve realized I don’t need to force myself to command a room.
But then my illness got worse, and things got a bit more extreme.
For someone like myself who’s often been self-conscious about my introvertedness, being forced to stay in due to illness can really get my anxiety going. My thoughts can go from zero to doom-spiral in 60 seconds flat: do people think I’m just rude? Anti-social? God forbid, boring? And when people say things like “I’m so jealous, I would love to lay in bed all day!” Or, “You went to bed how early? That sounds great!” It can make those anxious thoughts even worse. Even though, as an introvert, I love staying in every once in awhile, staying in because of my illness isn’t a choice I’m making–– and believe me, most Friday nights, I’d way rather be doing anything but going to bed at 8.
But thanks to some nice friends and paid professionals, when that doom-spiral comes a-knocking, I remind myself of one simple fact: people don’t think about you nearly as much as you think they do.
The attention-loving part of me has a pretty intense imaginary audience complex, as we all do to an extent, that believes that when I miss a party or a night out at the bar, everyone is sitting around wondering (and discussing) why. In reality, when I miss a night out at the bar, most of my friends wish me well thoughts and then go down a few tequila shots and make some bad decisions. For good or bad, I am not the crux of their thoughts for the evening.
The shitty thing about anxiety is that it’s not also simple enough as remembering logical thoughts like that, because anxiety is, by nature, illogical. But it has helped to remember that the real friends I have are never going to bail because I stay in on a Friday night. In fact, some of them might join me. With puzzles. And ginger ale. And season five of “Scandal.”