People call me an extrovert. But these are people who didn’t know me as a child.
I was the sort of child that once didn’t answer the door when my friends called for me, simply because the chapter of the book I was reading was getting good. The sort of child that needed a lie down after a social occasion. The sort of child that shuddered at the thought of after-school clubs and ‘organised fun.’ The sort of child that literally didn’t understand the concept of seeing friends outside of school.
These were the days when I was a classic, bog-standard, borderline-stereotypical introvert; nose in a book, very content with my own company, and liable to groan when I had to go out and do something social.
Why was I this way? What makes people, in general, this way? It could be genetics (my Mum is a self-proclaimed extroverted introvert, and my father, though I never knew him, sounds like he was a very typical introvert). It could be the fact that I never had any siblings, and therefore was nervous of people my own age. Or it could be my social anxiety that was present in my childhood.
These days, I am completely different. I look forward to social occasions, often being the one to actually pick up a phone and organise something. I struggle to go through the week without going outside (a concept that was totally alien to me during my youth, much of which was spent wearing pyjamas rather than actual clothes). I talk much more easily with people, and totally lack the anxiety that I used to.
My best days are now when I am spending time with other people. I tend to avoid cheesy quotes but I love this one; friends are the family you choose. And as I’ve got older and realised, shit, I actually have a very small household family unit (a.k.a. my Mum) and that friends are therefore incredibly important. Probably the most important thing in life actually. (Why aren’t songs ever about friends, eh? Why are they always about how great your bf/gf is? Not even ‘You’re My Best Friend’ by Queen is really about friends like I thought when I was little. Ah. Innocence).
This huge change in my personality has prompted me to wonder; am I still an introvert who is cleverly disguising herself as an extrovert to live amongst humans, or have I actually transformed into an extrovert?
I think I am the former. People might disagree because they have a warped idea about what it is to be extroverted/introverted. People tend to imagine an introvert as a guy living in his parents’ basement, wearing a stained fleece and playing video games. Whereas they imagine an extrovert as some mad party animal with an annoying laugh and who won’t shut up. But in actuality, they can be defined as;
Introvert: Someone who gains their energy from themselves.
Extrovert: Someone who gains their energy from others.
And I think that people are naturally one or the other, and will always be that way. However, it is possible to change your behaviour around that, and your likes and dislikes, and to evolve into something that might seem the complete opposite, when in actual fact, your essence as a person will not change.
So here are some handy dandy tips for the introverts to become more extrovert.
- Act confident even if you’re shitting yourself. No matter how you’re feeling inside, if you act confident people will not question whether you are or not. As humans, we are very affected by body language, tone of voice, eye contact. These are things that we can fake, creating an illusion that we are uber-confident, even though inside we might feel like we need to change our underpants any minute.
- Don’t believe everything you think. The mind is a spinner of many far-fetched tales and possesses a large, and mischievous, imagination. Some people’s minds will naturally create the worst-case scenario. But how often have these actually happened? Probably not that often, and if it has, it’s most likely just bad luck. Therefore; don’t believe everything you think. Thank your mind for checking in and entertaining you with its tales of woe, but just laugh politely and say thanks, but I’ll find out for myself what’s actually going to happen.
- Remember that nobody is looking at you. It’s true. All humans are essentially very inward looking. Most people will be too busy wondering how they themselves are coming across in conversation, and will barely be taking any notice of you. They certainly won’t be analysing you, like you will yourself the minute you get home, replaying every single, minor, slightly embarrassing moment, whilst the people you’ve just met are probably at home doing the same thing about themselves, and also thinking what a great person you are and how glad they were to have met you.
- Make yourself do things. Sounds vague, but taking small steps is essentially what I mean by this. My first step was to join up to do a university taster weekend, living with total strangers in a flat, experiencing university for three days. I made myself sign up for it without event thinking about it, knowing that if I thought about it I would back out. I got my acceptance email, and felt sick. I dreaded it for ages, but ended up having an incredibly fun three days.
- Join something. A club or something of that variety. In the U.K there’s a site called Meetup which lets you meet with people who share common interests. It’s perfect, because everyone is there for the same reason; to meet strangers. And that takes some pressure off.
Thanks for reading, and apologies for the long absence. I’ll hopefully be more regularly contributing towards this blog. I’ve actually been brewing over some new blog ideas, including the continuation of my childhood diaries (which a lot of you seemed to enjoy) and a new blog focussed on World Music/Culture/History, which will probably be a bit niche, but a few of you might enjoy it.