I’m an Introvert Who Faked Being an Extrovert and It Led to Severe Depression

IntrovertDear.com introvert faking extroversion depression

As far back as I can remember, I’ve always felt different.

As a kid, I was really quiet and enjoyed spending lots of time by myself reading, drawing, and playing make believe in the woods behind my house. I didn’t really have any friends in school and the few people I spent time with were more like acquaintances. Plus, I would only play with them during school time. But otherwise, I was kind of a loner. I loved coming up with stories and making little short films out of them while the other kids preferred going to social gatherings and playing soccer.

To put it short: I was not one of the cool kids.

Teachers would often tell my parents that I was too shy or too quiet. Some of them would force me to sit by myself in the front row and would only have me answer their questions because they felt like I didn’t participate enough in class. I vividly remember being bullied and made fun of in high school because of my personality and my passions. People would often tell me to “man up” and “grow a pair” because they didn’t like my quiet, sensitive personality. I ended up thinking that something was wrong with me.

Fast forward to a few years later when, after a failed apprenticeship in electronics and having spent a whole year at home, being too scared to leave, I started questioning myself.

Maybe I was the problem. Maybe I was the one who had to change and adapt to the world. It wasn’t the others who were weird — because they loved drinking and partying — but I was weird because I preferred to stay home in a calm, quiet environment.

Nothing Could Have Prepared Me for Working in Sales

And it was in that state of mind that I decided to “fit in” by getting a job in sales. I got hired at a store that sold all sorts of electrical appliances. Nothing could have prepared me for being a highly sensitive introvert working in sales. Not a childhood in a little mountain village inhabited by less than three thousand souls or working for a whole year in an office. I worked there for three years, and those were probably the toughest ones in my life. Everyday I was expected to smile at customers, to greet them, and be outgoing. There was also constant noise, crowds, and extremely bright lights. My boss often told me that I wasn’t pushing customers towards buying enough. My coworkers were extroverts and they all seemed to be really content with their job. So I decided to fake extroversion and act like them around customers.

This was really hard. It made me feel like I was lying to myself on a constant basis. People had noticed that I was much more quiet the rest of the time and started picking on me for that. I wasn’t even able to enjoy a peaceful, quiet lunch break without getting hurtful comments by other employees in the lunch room. I ended up being so scared of them that I would lock myself up in a bathroom stall during my breaks just so I could get a little downtime. It smelled and felt disgusting in there but at least I could recharge my batteries.

I had lost all interest in my passions and even thought about putting an end to my life at some point.

I would come home in the evenings and, feeling so overloaded both physically and mentally, I would get violent headaches, cold sweats, chest pains, shortness of breath, and shaky and numb hands. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was having panic attacks. These would happen at least once a day at different times and put me in an even more anxious and depressed state.

After three years there, I finally did what I should’ve done much earlier — I resigned.

I Left to Find Peace With Myself

I knew it was time for me to leave. Not only my job but also the country. I gathered up my savings, bought a westbound plane ticket, and flew away to go explore the world and, hopefully, find a little of peace with myself.

I spent a year and a half traveling and saw wonderful places, met a lot of interesting people, and met a very special person who became my very first friend. She was the first person I trusted enough to open up to, and she helped me a lot in healing my damaged brain. Spending time with her brought back an old version of myself that I had buried deep down in my soul. It was a version of myself that I felt much more comfortable being, and I slowly started going back to it. My passions were something I enjoyed again, and they no longer seemed like a burden I had to hide from others.

It was around that time that I first heard of the Myers-Briggs personality test. I took it and found out that I am an INFJ personality type. Later, I also discovered that I’m a highly sensitive person. I retook the personality test a couple of times to be sure, and I always got the same result. This all made so much sense to me, and I realized there were probably other people like me out there. It brought a little more peace and relief to my soul and my heart and, when I went back home, what I wanted in life became clearer to me.

(What’s your personality type? We recommend this free personality test.)

Nonetheless, I would still get panic attacks. They were a bit more seldom but they always struck when I expected them the least. I also had constant headaches and was physically and mentally exhausted all the time. I knew I was depressed and decided that it was time for me to see a therapist.

‘You Have All the Symptoms of Severe Depression’

After a few sessions, the therapist said something that, very peculiarly, lifted a very heavy weight off my shoulders: “It seems like you are showing all the symptoms of severe depression.”

I wasn’t even shocked by that revelation. I had done some research online and sort of knew what was going on with me. We talked a lot about what I had gone through, and I slowly discovered that one of the major reasons for my depression was the fact that, for the past five years, I have been going against my temperament and personality.

Doing small talk even though I hated it, faking extroversion and being outgoing just for the sake of fitting in and pleasing people were some of the biggest mistakes I could’ve ever made.

I knew it was time for me to come back to my roots.

Don’t Change Yourself to Please Others

I am now back in my hometown and am trying to enjoy life as much as I can. I don’t force myself to go out anymore or to go and socialize with other people if I don’t feel like it. I spend an incredible amount of time pursuing my passions and am less afraid of other people’s judgement.

I’ve never been more at peace with myself in a long time.

I know that staying for that long in sales was a mistake, but I don’t regret doing it because at least it taught me what I don’t want to do in life. I am now currently working my way towards getting a job that will suit my needs in order to save some money and attend university in the next few years.

I am staying true to myself by doing what I want to do and not what I think other people expect me to do.

So this is my message to all the INFJs, introverts, and highly sensitive people out there:

Don’t ever try to change your personality, what you like, and what you want to do in order to please other people or for the sake of fitting in. In the end, you will feel bad about it. So, please be weird, be quiet, be contemplative, and daydream as much as you like. If you enjoy knitting socks for cats while listening to 1920s jazz music, then do it! Because you are the only person you have to spend your entire life with, so you better make that person a great partner.

P.S. I first started realizing that it was okay to be myself when I saw Graham Moore’s speech when he won his Academy Award for best adapted screenplay. It’s truly inspiring, and you can check it out here.

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    • Lisa Zahn

      So many of us can relate to your story. I’m glad you are so young and finding this out. I’m an INFP and fairly social introvert, so it took me even longer to figure out I can’t act like an extrovert and be happy or healthy. I’m in my mind-40s now and finally doing a job I love–proofreading and copyediting from home–and it’s made all the difference.

      • Joel Reuse

        Hi Lisa,

        Thank you so much for your comment. I’m glad you liked the article ! I’m also glad you found your way and love what you’re doing. I think that’s one of the most important parts of life. I’m starting to look a lot into working from home since it seems to be something that would suit my personality.

        Thanks again for your comment,

        Joel

    • Chandiwana Shidono

      I can only relate so much.
      One of the best articles i’ve read here.

      INTJ

      • Joel Reuse

        I Chandiwana,

        Thank you for your comment.

        I’m glad you liked it and it really warms my heart to read what you said.

        Best,

        Joel

    • Joel Reuse

      Hi Matej,

      Thanks a lot for your comment.

      I hear you, it can be really tough to feel comfortable with oneself. I sometimes have a lot of trouble with this. I’m a lot more comfortable with myself then I used to be but sometimes it’s still hard. But I found out that in the evening, when I look back at the day that just passed by, I feel more at peace if I stayed true to myself then if I didn’t. I’m also glad my article helped you !

      Thanks and best,

      Joel

    • Joel Reuse

      Hi Charlie,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m not really sure what you mean by that but I’m guessing you’re asking if this is every introvert’s story. I can’t really answer for sure but I think every introvert out there has a different story. They all seem very similar on the outline but are probably all very different in details and personal experience.

      I hope this answers your question a little bit.

      Best,

      Joel

    • Shrutika Umralkar

      Hey Joel!
      Thank you for sharing your story and expressing your insights.
      It is tough to be true when you are still bothered about other’s judgments and use of words for you. It is tough to remind oneself to be authentic when you are around people who just do not understand you. I am still struggling to be happy with myself and with my way of life. Sometimes I think I am just a plain bore when people relish themselves in small talk. Sometimes I feel, deep, thought provoking talks are rare and not liked my many people. I would like to know how you deal or feel about such situations.

      • Joel Reuse

        Hi Shrutika,

        Thanks a lot for your comment.

        Well, this is a tough one. For years I’ve been bothered by other’s judgement but I have come to realize that I don’t need these people in my life. It’s fine with me if they want to judge me but I stopped feeling bad about it. There is so many people out there and not all of them are like that, and if someone judges me or criticizes me for who I am then I don’t think I need that person in my life.
        I do struggle a lot to find people with whom I can have deep, thought provoking and sometimes taboo talks. So far I’ve only met two people with whom I can have these talks and they both live more than 5’000 miles away. I have found that writing helps me a lot to “vent” my thoughts and ideas. Also, in some places you can join an introvert / INFJ (or any MBTI personality type) club where you can meet up with people who have similar interests and ideas to talk and share with. Of course, as an introvert it could be hard to join a club like that. I myself haven’t found the courage to do it yet. As for the small talk I just try to do my best and get through it. I probably hate it as much as you do when people have some kind of fascination for the weather or the new curtains they put up and their living room. Most of the time, when there’s people relishing themselves in small talk around me, I often end up lost in my thoughts and inner world and stop listening to them. It might sound impolite to do but I just can’t help it.

        I hope I gave you some insight on your questions and don’t hesitate to reply if you have more questions or would like to get more insight on one of them.

        Best,

        Joel

    • Katie

      I really loved reading this article. I can truly relate to it as I almost started making the same mistakes not knowing that I am an INFJ. I can totally relate that I had made acquaintances in my life but not friends. I always thought I was just weird and something must not be right about me. I hated hearing people say to me that I am too shy or too quiet when in fact I just liked being social with only a few people and not everyone. People kept telling me that I should talk more, socialize more, be more of an extrovert and I tried doing that and I had the same panic attacks and started feeling more and more depressed too. I finally realized that as an introvert, trying to be an extrovert is against my nature and who I am. I think I stopped just in time but it still took me a long while to understand myself. All I knew was that I am an introvert but didn’t know what kind. Only recently I discovered that I am an INFJ (I thought I was an INTJ at first but the test accurately showed that I am an INFJ, also had to take it several times just to make sure) and also now know that I am highly sensitive too. It helps to know who you are because then you accept yourself and know that instead of fighting against it, embracing it is so much better and healthier. I can build a better career path and follow my passions and interests and be a contented and happy introvert and that makes my heart all warm and glad like a good cup of hot tea:) I like being who I am and that makes me stronger and I am happy that I am not alone and hearing your story is amazing! I still have yet to find a job that will suit my introvert lifestyle (it is pretty stressful) but reading your article gives me hope that I will find what I need!

      • Joel Reuse

        Hi Katie,

        Thank you so much for your comment.

        I really enjoyed reading it and am glad that you were able to avoid some of the mistakes I did. As you said, it is a real relief to realize who you are and understand that there’s nothing wrong with you and that you are your own beautiful self. Embracing introversion is, indeed, a sheer pleasure and much more healthier than lying to your own self by behaving differently. I too am still trying to find a good career path but at least now I know in which direction I have to go. I hope you will find something that suit your lifestyle pretty soon.

        I loved how you compared happy introversion to a hot cup of tea, that is so accurate !

        Thanks again and best,

        Joel

    • Alex Reuter

      I love this and completely relate. I met another INJF, a guy though, and he’s a lot more secure in his personality than I have been. He’s a good friend and it’s shown me I have done much the same things as you as far as “faking it till you make it” goes. I do love being around people, but I don’t feel the need to engage in conversation all the time or even be mentally present. Sometimes I just tune everyone out to recharge, wherever I am. I am sorry to hear people were so unkind and thoughtless toward you. Thank you for sharing this! It was beautiful and great to know I’m not alone in the personality struggles!

      • Joel Reuse

        Hi Alex,

        Thank you so much for your comment. I’m glad you liked the article and really happy that you too found someone who could help you through these tough times. Just like you, I do appreciate people’s company but after a while I just need to shut everyone out and leave the room for sometime so I can recharge my batteries.

        Thanks again and best,

        Joel

    • Shanna Dayton

      I’m an INTJ that works in sales. It’s inside sales so most of my interactions w/ customers is via email. If it wasn’t for email, I wouldn’t be able to do it. I still cringe every time my desk phone rings or if I have to call a customer. When I first started this job, 12 years ago, I would get physically ill before I went into work. That lasted for a year. My anxiety has improved more and more over the years. I still won’t do cold calls, but I do send out cold emails and contact customers over social media. I guess I faked it until I made it. It was difficult, but I’ve learned a lot and greatly improved my social skills.

      • Joel Reuse

        Hi Shanna,

        Thank you for your comment. I can relate a lot to most of what you’ve said. I would also feel physically (and often mentally) ill before going into work and I would also cringe every time the phone (or an actual person) walked up to me.
        I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on that period of my life and I’ve found out that, as you say it, some of my social skills have improved and I’ve learned a lot about human interaction during that time. So I guess that, even though it was a really bad experience, I’ve gotten something positive out of it.

        Thanks again and best,

        Joel

    • Nana N Chris O’Brien

      Wonderful article Joel, thanks for sharing your experience 🙂
      Thankfully introversion is becoming a little more understood and accepted although as you realised for our own peace and sanity (and no matter what others think of us), we need to find our own boundaries and suitable enivironments in which to thrive-sometimes a difficult task when you still need to make a living and exist in a largely extroverted world!
      Best wishes in your search for work that makes your heart sing and University 🙂

      • Joel Reuse

        Hi,

        Thanks a lot for your comment. You’re right, people are starting to accept and understand introversion a lot more than they used to just a few years ago. I still bump into people who act weird when I have to explain my “weird behavior” but I just stopped caring about what they might think. It’s my life, not theirs 🙂
        As you said it, the world is largely extroverted and can be quite a challenging place for introverts. My advice would be to just live with it and live how you want to live. I stopped feeling guilty for not doing something a “normal” person would. I’d rather feel good about taking care of myself than feel bad because I didn’t do something I didn’t want to do in the first place.

        Thanks again and best,

        Joel

        • Nana N Chris O’Brien

          Hey Joel,
          Excellent advice thank you and totally agree 🙂

          • Joel Reuse

            You’re welcome 🙂

    • Secret

      Hi Joel! Thank you for this piece. I’m an INTJ, and lately I’ve challenged myself to do the only thing I’ve never really been able to–increase the level of my social skills. So I’ve been doing this thing with a Social Sorority at my university. All the girls are really nice, but I always have anxiety going to events, and even though they’re always fun by the end, it’s still really tough in the meantime and feels like I’ve learned to sort of… lock my true self away? At least for the moment, to get through whatever event is happening (group events, games and such mostly, so far). That said, I keep noticing that I’m getting small bouts of depression and I’m wondering if it has anything to do with this. It’s odd because I feel like I’ve had a good time by the end, but I’m increasingly anxious going on and I believe the bouts are getting worse as well. Then again, this is my first time being in a place where there’s nobody at all that I’m close to, and where everyone has such an extremist political view, so I’m wondering if that could be it, too. Just wanted your input, really, sorry for the long, drawn-out message and thanks again for sharing your story!

      • Joel Reuse

        Hi,

        Thank you so much for your comment. I’m sorry for the late reply but this one needed a little bit of thinking 🙂

        I’ve been going through the same kind of situation lately. I started a new job as a librarian (which is most likely every INFJ’s dream job) and have been really anxious about the whole thing before it even started. I was so scared of meeting new people and having to socialize that I did the same mistake I had done when I was in sales, I started pretending I was someone else.
        But this time I was aware of my “inner signals” and when I realised that my anxiety and depressive levels were increasing, I was quick to realise that I was about to do the same mistake. So I decided to stop pretending and started going to work being myself. I don’t really know how this worked out but things got better after only a couple of days and now I feel almost no anxiety at all before going to work and every morning I’m excited to get up.

        I don’t really know how the whole “be yourself” thing works but if I have one advice it would be to stop locking your true self out. Just act how you would act and do things the way you want to do them. I always spend my lunch hour and my breaks alone reading and nobody even seems to care. I think the fact that I feel comfortable in that environment has a lot to do with it, though. But, as you mentioned in your comment, if you don’t like the environment then I wouldn’t force myself to go there. Finding the right place takes time but sooner of later you will find it.

        So try as hard as you can to stay true to yourself, do your own things how you want to do them and don’t let anything have a bad influence over your choices. It’s your life, and only you can live it.

        Thanks again for your comment and best,

        Joel

    • Nathalie Poltera-Mesot

      hello my dear, I’m learning English,so sorry for the mistakes, thanks for the article and I’m Swiss as well living in the Uk and InfJ. Regards and bravo for your 4 fluent languages.

    • Nick

      Hi there Joel,

      I just saw this article being shared on the Introvert, Dear group on Facebook. I can relate so much to your story and thank you for sharing it. I’m an INTJ btw (like many here for some reason)!

      I worked in our national parlement before, and my family and friends were so proud on me, but its the most unfulfilling job I ever had. I was surrounded by extraverts in the entire political group. Especially during lunch breaks, those were the worst. I could never recharge. To use my favorite quote from the movie Titanic: “I saw my whole life as if I had already lived it. An endless parade of parties and cotillions, (…). Always the same narrow people, the same mindless chatter. It was really that bad. I had to drag myself to work and was so unhappy. I faked my personality many times and its really the worst you can do.

      I was so glad when I left there, I also returned to my home town, a small town way up north and it feels so peaceful. I have had several temporary jobs now btw, still working to finding my ultimate job. Probably have to leave my home town again to find a better job.

      btw I loved your sentence that said: “If you enjoy knitting socks for cats while listening to 1920s jazz music, then do it!”. Haha. I love 30’s jazz music when writing. I love history and really like bringing myself into different time era’s and read about great persons from the past.

      Thank you so much for sharing and love to talk with you some more some day.

      Regards from the Netherlands,

      Nick