A Wallflower’s Perspective

It may be difficult for some of my readers to believe, but I’m an introvert. Unless I am around someone I know with whom I can say anything without worry of lack-of-filter, it takes a great deal of focus and energy to don my extrovert mask. Maybe not to don it so much, but certainly to maintain it in its place.

Whether the group of people I am amid counts 12 or 120, I don’t tend to be comfortable with most of them. Again, I can don the mask and be “Chatty Cathy” but it comes as a cost to me mentally and physically.

I’ve never liked being the center of attention. I remember a surprise birthday party thrown for me some years ago by a group of my gal pals. I remember requesting that the 4 of us just get together for lunch and to go see a movie. And I remember walking into the party, hearing shouts of “surprise” and turning right back around and walking back out the door as tears ran down my cheeks. I did manage to pull myself together enough to re-enter, but I was SO GLAD when it was over! It was a decade birthday, and I love my gal pals for diligently pulling off the event, but I was so uncomfortable being there that I went home afterwards and cried myself to sleep.

Thank God that’s true!

Lately, as I’ve started spending time in the streams of my Mixer family, I’ve discovered just how difficult it is for me to be the center of attention. I mean, I enjoy chatting with others, but when the chat becomes focused on me, I feel totally inept and awkward. The focus is always positive – don’t get me wrong there – but I don’t see myself as more special than anyone else who is there!

I had a ‘light bulb’ moment of self-discovery and realized that this thing that I do is done in internet chat rooms but also in real life. When I’m ready to leave, I tend to want to just fade into the background and disappear, and I realize I do that because I also don’t want all of the attention as people rush to say “good-bye”. When you announce you’re leaving, people want that opportunity and, once again, that makes me feel like I’m the center of attention.

Now, I have two choices to make. The first is to actually publish this post. Generations back in my family tree, there was this idea that, if you didn’t say something aloud, you could pretend that it doesn’t exist, or at least isn’t true. I remember my grandfather having cancer – in his throat and in his stomach – and, if cancer was even mentioned, it was whispered as “the big C”. My mother was also good at pretending things she didn’t want to handle didn’t exist. In my head, I’d often labeled her as “the queen of denial”. The information in this post is something that makes me feel very vulnerable, and perhaps if I don’t say it aloud, I can pretend that it doesn’t exist. I mean, I know it’s there, but does everyone else have to know, too?

My second choice is to process this truth and decide if it is something that needs changing in me. Being a wallflower fits perfectly in my comfort zone, and do I really need to climb out of my comfort zone for this? Part of me wants to fight changing, telling me that I have every right to be just who I am. Another part of me wonders if I’m doing a disservice to others by just “fading into the sunset” without saying anything.

That decision is going to be more difficult and will be a process of some deeper internal introspection.

In the meantime, if I seem to “fade into the sunset” around you, please know that it has NOTHING to do with YOU and EVERYTHING to do with ME! The only promise I can make is the promise that it is something to which I will give great thought. Meanwhile, thanks for not holding my need to fade against me!

Extrovert or Introvert?

How about both? A fellow blogger, Kate Crimmins, recently posted what I quote here as part of her post at Views and Mews by Coffee Kat (you can follow her at https://coffeekatblog.com): “An extroverted introvert – Yes there is such a thing. I get energy off of people but in large doses they make me cranky, irritable and homicidal. The past ten days social engagements have piled on top of each other. That’s a lot of being nice. Way over my limit. This past Friday was the first day without a scheduled people event. I was ecstatic. I don’t like to go too long without people interaction but I love my alone time. Next week is all about me, me, me!”

I’d never have thought up that label, but it fits me pretty well! If asked to choose, most people who know me would classify me as an extrovert because they have always seen me appear confident in social settings. (Note the word “appear”). My career in the hospitality industry made it necessary, so I learned to don that mask and perform well with it. Yet, and especially as I get older, I’ve never really had much tolerance for crowds. Even team-building exercises with a small group always made me uncomfortable. Yet I learned to be able to express myself because it was expected.

And yet, I feel very shy around strangers. Beyond the hello and nice to meet you line, I struggle to initiate a conversation. Fortunately, I learned early on the idea is to ask questions and get the other person to talk about themselves. And fortunately, most people are more than eager to talk about themselves. I can walk away from a conversation with a stranger and all they can tell you about me is that I’m a good listener. I’ve never liked to talk about myself except in private conversations with people I trust. I detest being the center of attention for any reason (even with friends I trust).

Even my Zodiac sign, which I don’t put much stock in, says I’m an introvert!

And yes, I like being alone. I like being alone a LOT! Like Kate, I need to feed off the energy of others from time to time, but I’ve become very content with my own self for company. My tolerance for crowds of people continues to diminish as I age, as well as my tolerance for high levels of noise.

And yet, if you read my blog, you find that I have strong opinions and the ability to put them into words. Talking is the sign of an extrovert, while listening is a sign of an introvert. And that’s why I’m so ecstatic to find out that I’m not the only one with some of both. Of course, in this case, talking actually means writing…performing these words orally for others would have me petrified!

So, from now on, I’m going to label myself as an extroverted introvert – or maybe an introverted extrovert – allowing myself to be some of each.

What about you? Do you clearly classify as one or the other, or are you also some of each?