I’m yet another introvert who tried and failed at making myself more outgoing. It left me constantly exhausted and overstimulated, but because I was unaware of my personality type, I didn’t recognize my needs. Instead, I felt as if there was something very wrong with me because I was the only quiet, emotional person in the mix of people that I knew. I felt overlooked, left out, and misunderstood.
Although I was a quiet person who loved reading and writing when I was young, I was constantly trying to “come out of my shell” and do cool things like sports and social events. I hoped that forcing myself out of my shell would eventually make me more comfortable and energetic around people. This seemed to have paid off somewhat, because now that I’m older, I do feel more confident around people. But at the time, I didn’t realize that I was neglecting my true needs as an introvert. I missed out on so many enjoyable quiet moments as a young person that I actually don’t remember much of anything about my childhood. I was constantly running on empty and it left no room for making memories.
If you are an introvert who wants to become more outgoing, fear not! It’s actually very healthy to moderately push yourself out of your comfort zone. Don’t use your introverted nature as an excuse to never try anything. I believe that everyone has their own balance, and you will find it eventually. I made the mistake of thinking I always had to wear an extrovert “mask,” and my mental health suffered because of it. Here are five things I regret about faking extroversion:
1. I could never take off my mask. If you create a mask of extroversion in public, you will be expected to keep up that mask at any time of the day. You may be making friends, but once you hang around an extroverted crowd, they will want to hang out with you at times when you won’t have the energy. If you signed up for a sport or other group activity, it is expected that you make it to all the get-togethers, ceremonies, and parties. As a volleyball and basketball player, I was constantly exhausted and overstimulated by the noise and socializing of being on a team. Even after games, there was socializing. Turning yourself into an extrovert may seem fun and rewarding for a while, but I guarantee that you will eventually hit a roadblock at some point and run out of energy.
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2. I was constantly paranoid. Forcing yourself to be someone you aren’t may make you mistrust yourself and others. When I tried to fake being an extrovert, I was often scared that I would slip up and let my true colors show. Even worse, I felt as if I couldn’t connect to people in the way I wanted. I was never happy with the shallow conversations I had with people, and that shallowness made me question whether or not I actually had true friends. If you feel paranoid and mistrustful of your friendships and of yourself, this is a sign that you should make some changes.
3. I was always running on empty. Before I realized my needs as an introvert, I was always looking for another social event to attend or extracurricular activity to sign up for. Although I did find a few friends I clicked with, that wasn’t what mattered to me. I wanted to be like the cool kids and do as much as possible to get noticed. But going from sports to choir to school dances was way too much for me. I was chronically fatigued and therefore had no energy to do things that truly made me happy.
4. I had no room for memories. One of my biggest regrets in high school was not pausing to take it all in. Now that I have been taking care of myself and teaching myself to be more mindful, I find more beauty in the world. I wish I would have taken more time as a young person to stop and smell the roses. Instead, I moved from one thing to another and rarely took time to appreciate my experiences. Because I was constantly overstimulated, I couldn’t truly process things, and now it’s hard for me to put my finger on any one memory. My whole high school experience was a blur. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Instead, tune into your experiences and allow yourself to soak them in.
5. I wasn’t appreciated for who I truly was. This is my biggest regret. Now that I have met incredible, supportive friends who know the real me — the introvert me — it saddens me to think about how my younger self could have benefited from such amazing people. Today I have friends who recharge me and respect my need for space. My high school years were made up of one disappointment after another. Faking extroversion fooled people for a short while, and when I was able to secure a friendship with someone, I would often show a bit too much of who I really was. Turns out, once those friends saw a glimpse of my true self, they often tried to get out of the relationship. Pretending to be a type of person that you’re not is unfair to both you and your friend.
Today, I am living in the best way that I can, and showing people who I truly am at the beginning of a relationship. Genuineness is something I strive for in everything I do now, whether at work, school, or in casual relationships. I do believe it’s possible to become a fake extrovert — I did end up fooling a lot of people — but I can guarantee you that it isn’t an enjoyable experience. It is so much more rewarding to find people who look at you and know exactly who you are, and love you for it.
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