How to Stay True to Your Inner Introvert (When People Assume You’re an Extrovert)

An introvert relaxes on the lawn

I’ve always felt like a contradiction, a mixture of two personalities, but now I know that friendly and bubbly introverts do exist.

Introverted cheerleader — two words that are antonymous and typically don’t belong in the same sentence. 

The prototypical cheerleader is someone bubbly with high energy and a megawatt smile brighter than the glitter bows wrapped tightly around ponytails. As a teenager who donned both these bows and a wide smile, I was instantly assigned many stereotypes that didn’t necessarily align with who I truly was. 

Everyone thought I was an extrovert

Sure, I loved the sport of cheerleading, and I was a happy person by nature, but that didn’t mean I was an extrovert. I did not love the assumptions surrounding what it meant to be a “cheerleader” — don’t even get me started with the tight skirts and horrid obsession with spray-tanned skin; that is a whole different rant! 

More moments of hatred that accompanied being a cheerleader included: going out on weekends with an entourage of screaming girls, thriving in high-stimulus situations, and traveling on a Greyhound bus while Bring It On competed to be heard over teenage gossip. Pretty much an introvert’s nightmare. 

And cheerleading competitions were an extrovert’s dream — boisterous music and a mass crowd of humanity that seemed to inspire claustrophobia. I would do anything to escape the loud noise and hide away with my mom at the nearest coffee shop while waiting between performances. 

All of this caused me anxiety, and one thing was for certain, the cheerleader lifestyle was not my scene. 

Yet I felt like no one understood me. In fact, I still feel misunderstood. These were aspects I hated about all-star cheerleading, and if my love for the sport wasn’t so steadfast, I probably wouldn’t have made it past the first season. Honestly, I am shocked I survived in that environment for almost six years.  

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People Still Think I’m an Extrovert… But I’m Not

I still face similar struggles regarding people assuming I am an extrovert based on these first impressions (although these impressions no longer take form in a sequin mini skirt with a sky-high ponytail). As an adult, I still feel like that cheerleader, struggling with a disconnect in myself. I am a bubbly, happy person at heart, but I still don’t consider myself an extrovert. After all, being in a good mood and being nice to people does not make someone one!

Yes, I smile often — it is a misnomer that all introverts are aloof and cold. Yes, I am good at small talk (even when I try to avoid it), and, you guessed it, I am still very much an introvert

I am proud of these aspects of my personality… but, at the end of the day, I understand how it confuses some people when my outward tendencies don’t align with how I actually like to spend my time — alone or in a small, calm environment. 

At times, I shame myself for feeling like I almost lead people into believing I am a social butterfly, when in reality, I am not much for large social interaction. With most people, the exception being my husband and family, my social battery gets burned out quickly; fellow introverts, you feel me on that?

I’ve always known myself to be a contradiction, a mixture of two personalities fighting for room inside the same being, an inner dissonance that is murky and difficult to sort out. But I know who I truly am at the end of the day — because friendly and bubbly introverts do exist.

P.S. Society, introversion does not have to be synonymous with unfriendly

We can be bubbly and happy without leading others into believing we want to party and rave every weekend, especially as an adult who gets super slangry — sleep-angry, can we make that a thing? — after getting less than seven hours of sleep. 

For my fellow introverts who struggle with the same inner conflict, and are often interpreted as extroverts, please check out the tips below.

How to Remain an Introvert (Even When You Appear to Be an Extrovert)

1. Don’t change your personality for anyone.

It is easy to become what other people want us to be, even without realizing it. Other people’s perceptions of us may spark some thought that there is something wrong with us if we’re different from them. So, during my cheerleading days, I may have subconsciously become more of an extrovert to try to blend in. 

However, people will soon figure out whether or not they can adapt to your truly introverted ways once they get to know the real you. If this is a problem, they aren’t the right fit as a friend.

2. Enact boundaries and be firm with saying no.

Most introverts are no stranger to the guilt of saying no. Ugh. 

I despise feeling like a bad person when I decline an invite or large social function. But I notice that when I commit to an event and actually want to stay home, I end up resenting the people hosting, which is totally unfair! It’s important to stay true to our core values so no one gets hurt on either end of the relationship. 

Becoming used to saying no takes practice, but once mastered, it’s a game-changer. 

Say no. You will be glad you did.

3. Find fellow introverts who “get” you.  

Finding other introverts who “get” you can help you alleviate some of the misconceptions surrounding who you truly are. Having all different kinds of friends challenges us and helps us grow; I truly believe we need that to flourish. At any rate, there is something so soothing about having a core group of friends with interests that match yours. 

These are your people. Find those introverts and grasp them tightly! 

Do you ever struggle to know what to say?

As an introvert, you actually have the ability to be an amazing conversationalist — even if you’re quiet and hate small talk. To learn how, we recommend this online course from our partner Michaela Chung. Click here to check out the Introvert Conversation Genius course.

4. Connect with your inner introvert by scheduling moments all to yourself.

Sometimes when we come across as an extrovert, we naturally play that role for others without even realizing it. Try to avoid exhausting yourself and don’t try to be something you are not. In other words, keep your inner introvert happy by spending the night reading poetry at your local bookshop or library. You could also carve out time to journal about your day and sit with your thoughts.

Schedule these moments for yourself and stay true to your identity, even when the world thinks you are something you are not. You will be glad you did.

5. Pick a career that matches your introverted ways.

From my experience with being an introverted cheerleader, I’ve learned that it’s important to avoid situations that will cause you discomfort. Where you spend most hours of your day should not be in an environment where you feel uncomfortable. 

While I don’t regret being a cheerleader, as an adult, I certainly want to make sure I don’t feel that same daily disconnect in my everyday life. So be strategic with your work; after all, most of us spend a lot of time there. 

6. Practice yoga to help you realign with your thoughts.

When I feel overwhelmed and out of control, I turn to yoga. Let me tell you, it is all it’s cracked up to be. It helps me realign with my thoughts and what is important to me. 

Whenever I feel depleted or like I am putting on a show for others, I engage in a quick 20 to 30 minute yoga session. Being in tune with your body is essential to remembering who you truly are. 

P.S. Yoga With Adriene is great for beginners and is easily accessible through YouTube. 

7. Communicate your feelings to those who think you are an extrovert.

It is essential to properly communicate with the people who assume you are an extrovert. Now, this may be awkward, seeing as you don’t want to come across as rude. However, when you find a moment to bring up your personality in a conversation, slyly remind people who you are. 

For example, if you are engaging in small talk with a friend or colleague and they ask how your weekend was, say something like, “It was good and pretty low-key. I spent a lot of time relaxing, which is how I prefer most weekends to be.” 

Small, little reminders like this give you an opportunity to be transparent and not hurt people’s feelings. Hopefully, they pick up on the subtleties. 

You can also come right out and say you’re an introvert and what an introvert is, how you recharge and get your energy from being alone. There’s nothing like being honest — with them and yourself.

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