How I Stopped Faking It and Embraced My Introversion

When I was in high school, I remember many days of trying to get out of my head. I was happier inside my mind, and every time I talked to people I felt a little drain of energy. My adrenaline spiked and my heart raced. I thought there was something wrong with me, so I forced myself to talk in class every day. I wanted to be like the kids who seemed to be able to talk to anyone and make friends with everyone instantly. I also wanted to be like those “smart” kids who could challenge the teacher and analyze things off the top of their head. By senior year of high school, I was getting there, so I thought. I was trying to “pass” as an extrovert.

The Cost of Faking It

There was a cost to my new personality, but it would be years before I realized it. I repeated my performance in college. I forced myself to sit with random students and socialize during my meals. Morning, noon, and night, I was with people. I improved immensely socially, and all my new friends thought I was an extrovert. But my marathon attempts to force myself to socialize took such a toll on my body that I collapsed into bed every night. It’s like I was sleeping off an adrenaline hangover.

It continued into my career. After college I interned at a TV station, and my coworkers thought I was extremely extroverted and social. But I was hiding my true temperament—and my constant energy drain. Every night I would spent hours reading books at home or editing my own videos that I shot on the weekends. Those were some of the most comforting hours of the day. Then I would fall soundly asleep. I was so wiped out that I could sleep through one roommate’s video game battles and another’s loud sex noises.

My years of trying to build up extroversion were already taking a toll on me. The hair on the side of my temples was already receding in my 20s. With no history of hair loss on either side of my family, I was making family history and I didn’t know why. I trooped on and kept up my attempts to extrovert. I even saw a dating coach to learn how to talk to women.

This couldn’t last forever, and it didn’t. The tipping point started with a phone call.

A “Friendly” Chat

My TV station was extremely focused on Facebook strategy. I worked grueling 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. days, and the first thing I had to do in the morning was put together news stories we could post on social media. I had to hit my desk writing every day when I came in.

Unfortunately, another coworker got in at 7 a.m. Just as I was getting into my groove writing stories, he started his own day a little differently—by calling me.

“Hey Jerry, what’s up?” he would say in his overly energetic voice. He would make small talk for a bit and then ask me what stories were available for posting on social media. He called every morning with no regard for how busy I was.

I tried asking him to email me. There’s no reason to make small talk and over-discuss when a simple email would suffice. But he disagreed with my assessment. To him, it was easier if he just talked it out with someone. He had to hear it to process it. I tried compromising—call later in the day, try emailing first—but he kept calling.

So every day the phone rang at 7 a.m. sharp and hit me like a spear in the head. It punctured through my concentration and focus. I just couldn’t understand why he couldn’t see my side of things. I knew it wasn’t true, but I felt like he took sadistic pleasure from disrupting my morning routine. (You can check out a video I made about this experience here.)

Making My Break

It took time but I started realizing that my temperament was horrible for television journalism. The constant disruptions and inability to concentrate on one task made me realize that I needed work I could concentrate on for hours. I decided to quit.

My last week there, I finally did something about my phone friend. He called me one very busy day when I’d already asked him not to. I told the morning manager my problem and she called him immediately to tell him to stop bothering me. Later, he came upstairs and jokingly acted like he was scared of me. I couldn’t believe that he still didn’t understand.

I got out of that job, but I never forgot his behavior. He was a very kind person in general and helped me out many times. Why would such a nice guy also be such a nuisance?

Discovering My Introversion

My answer didn’t come till much later. I was at a bookstore one day and I saw the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. I picked it up and immediately found the answer to my question. My years of trying to be an extrovert made me forget who I really am deep down. This nemesis coworker was the stereotype of an extrovert. And since neither of us understood how personality types differ, we were forever talking at different wavelengths during our time together.

Once I discovered Quiet, I started embracing my introversion. I learned to take breaks at parties, to be alone when needed, and most importantly, I stopped trying to extrovert all the time. I no longer felt guilty if I was eating alone or if I avoided the nightclub at night. Alone time is good. It’s how introverts like me recharge. I had years worth of recharging to do.

Later I took a test and found out that I’m an INFP personality type. The description matches me perfectly—and it’s something I wish I had known much sooner. I’m much more comfortable in my own skin now.

PH circle 2What’s your personality type? Knowing your personality can help you leverage your natural strengths. Take the free personality test from our partner Personality Hacker.

I wish companies understood the differences in human personality. If getting hired included HR training about personality type, I would have known that my phone friend was an extrovert, and I would have been more prepared to handle his small talk/external world processing. Equally important, he would have understood why his actions disturbed my thought process.

Now that I know who I am, I’m much happier with my life. If I could offer one lesson from this, I would say: understand yourself first before you try to change yourself.  retina_favicon1

Read this: 12 Ways to Own Your Introversion


  • As a numerologist I understand that half of the humans alive on this earth are introverts! So why do we feel like the minority and we are the “wrong” ones? Add all the numbers in your birthday (2/22/1950 2+2+2+1+9+5+0= 21) Keep adding until the result is a single number (2+1= 3) All odd numbers are introverts! The 3 is a creative, intuitive, thoughtful introvert. I loved this article. My goal in life is to help people (especially children) understand themselves instead of trying to change. Good for you Jerry, I can use all the help I can get!

  • SaraM says:

    During my teen years I felt completely misunderstood. Almost all of my peers saw me as “shy” and this drove me crazy. I didn’t know it then but I wasn’t really shy, I had little self confidence so I tried to blend in by effectively making myself practically invisible. I then started my chameleon phase in my early twenties. I still didn’t possess much self confidence but I learned by watching others how to appear like an extrovert. It worked. My life was completely different. I felt like I had reinvented myself. The first time that I took the Myers Briggs personality test in college I chose answers that were more extroverted because I actually felt like there was something wrong with being introverted. It definitely wasn’t socially acceptable. I lived like an extrovert imposter for years. The problem was that I wasn’t any happier and I was exhausted. My anxiety increased and I was depressed. It wasn’t until a few years ago when I picked up the book, Quiet, that I started to embrace my introversion. Blogs like this as well as the podcast,Personality Hacker, have helped immensely by explaining the wiring of introvert/extrovert minds.

  • Amber says:

    I really enjoyed reading this. I am an introvert, and I have learned to embrace my introversion, and I am happier because of it.
    Lucky for me I also have an extroverted boss that completely understands introversion, which is fantastic right now. But I don’t know how much longer I will have this boss, and I’m afraid my next job won’t care that I’m an introvert or my introvert needs. How do introverts find a job where introversion is okay?

  • Meloogly says:

    As a manager of twenty people in eight stores, I feel like I always have to be “on” and it is exhausting. I think I am losing my hair too! Thank goodness I can occasionally close my office door, breathe and get some alone time.
    Even when I’m “off” my brain is still working…thank goodness for my kickboxing classes! I think I’ll try meditation next.

  • Liam says:

    I am a performer. Both music and acting. People often assume that I am extroverted. However could I get up in front of so many people and perform if I wasn’t? Because, it’s not really me; it’s a character or persona that I put on.

    I, like the author, tried to be an extrovert. But, the only way I could really let go was to have alcohol- then I was good! But, that lead to a drinking problem and going in 17 years of sobriety. Now, I also embrace being an introvert. I am, though, an extrovert enough to tell people I’m an introvert.

  • Gazelle says:

    Here i thought i will fit in a family full of extroverted, here i thought i can run away from them, here i thought maybe if i gain a lot money i go and make my own quiet home in peace.. So i went and faked extrovertedness, went in law school.. Education was silent i fell in love with it, but after education it a living hell. All the extroverteds family members have a say nonsense i quited being a lawyer. My concentration snaped like author said. Thank you very much im going in theoretically in quiet.

  • Dwight Murray says:

    Train Wreck @ 67. OMG! You young’uns caught it in time. Kudos to you. Now I’m officially a piece of work. Figure that out! One thing I have learned is this. No matter how far down the track you might be, or think you are. Remember the old school story of the LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD. All aboard!

  • mgs says:

    I started faking it to advance my career about 25 years ago. Now, my skill set and experience has zero alignment with what I WANT to do career wise. I can’t get past the 1st level screen because I don’t have the prerequisite experience, or people look at my resume and recommend that I go back into the field that I hate. Or, even if I do get past the 1st screen I can’t get hired at a lower level because they believe I will leave as soon as “something better” (higher pay) comes along. I’m not surmising this, these are statements made to me during the actual interview. (Apparently I don’t interview as an intravert.) I am an INxP, and always have been.

  • M. says:

    I only just discovered that I was an introvert, HSP and INFP last year, but it was an eye-opener indeed. Particularly because I was very unhappy after finishing my degree. I’ve always felt out of place because I liked being by myself and easily got overwhelmed. That didn’t really fit into the customs of a society that is always ‘on’. It really hit me from when I was about 18 years old. Ever since then I tried to follow the customs. Extreme socializing, living in the fast lane, constantly having something on my schedule, stuff like that. It wore me down more than I want to admit – I was quite tough on myself. Why did it have to be so hard, when it seemed so easy for everyone else? When I finished my degree and had a few months off for the first time in 6 years, that’s when I discovered the reasons for my unhappiness. I simply fought against who I was to fit in. I’m still learning. It takes a while to understand how to deal with the challenges that comes with being who I am – particularly the highly sensitive part. But I feel that I’m finally going in the right direction!

  • AH says:

    I spent my whole life wondering if something was wrong with me. I’ve went through depression, nervous habits, being called shy and antisocial, haven’t problems with anxiety, you name it. I’ve worked in jobs that weren’t suited for me. I current work in a job that forces me to be extroverted, and as a result I’m really stressed and have developed health issues. Being a guy I think it’s harder because we are looked down upon for being sensitive. I always thought something was wrong with me and that I should be more like other people. Now I know that there are other’s like me and there is nothing wrong with me. I’m really glad I stumbled upon this site and this article.

  • snowjin says:

    I’ve always known that I am a natural introvert, though I didn’t have the words for it when I was younger. A shy bookworm ever since I could remember, my parents have always worried about my ‘antisocial’ behaviour and reluctance to ‘come out of my shell’. It has affected my self-confidence, as I do not feel comfortable being myself, and often feel guilty for needing to carve time alone to recharge and unwind. I am still struggling with confidence and self-esteem issues, and the need to seem ‘normal’, i.e., extroverted. Having depression and anxiety does not help either. I am now trying very hard to fake being an extroverted ball of energy for interviews, because this often comes across as confidence – and sometimes that feels like it is all employers are looking for.

  • Londiww says:

    I have only recently found out that I am an introvert and my therapist recommended the book by Susan Cain.The rest is going to be history soon! I am also anHSP as well as an empath! I thought there was something drastically wrong with me.I am now learning to accept myself and I am losing the fake friends along the way.I can not get enough of the introvert sites and books.Thank you and hi all

  • PP says:

    I just cried after reading this article and the comments. Not because I feel sad, but because I feel relieved. I have believed more or less my whole life that there was something wrong with me and that I was different, and that I should ‘develop’ myself into something I am not. I have been ‘helped’ in this process by many people, some who actually love me and care about me, and have meant good. I have forced myself to make friends (that have not felt like real friends to me) and to be social in an extroverted way, and I have been working in jobs where I have exhausted myself doing things I tried to convince myself that I like to do. After reading this and finding out there are more people like me, I feel like I am free to be what I am, and I can be a good person the way I am. Now I just need to find a way to steer my career more towards a direction I actually feel comfortable in. Thank you for the writer and for everyone, and good luck for other introverts in finding and accepting yourself!