I am definitely an introvert. No doubt about it. After spending many hours with people, I need to retreat, to be alone, to be quiet. If I do not get enough alone time in a day, I wind up hopelessly depleted.
My introversion is a fact and so, in my mind, incontrovertible. But then there is the story that I tell myself and others, the story of how awkward and socially inept I am. I tell this story because in my low moments I wholeheartedly believe it to be true. But also, I tell this story because it lets me off the hook to some degree. It enables me to hide, however feebly, behind the mantle of "awkward."
The revelation? That story is just that: a story, one that is not necessary based on fact, one that is not incontrovertible.
This fall, after campaigning for a political candidate (door to door and on the phone) and going to The Blathering to hang out with a whole bunch of people I've never met, I realized something major: being introverted doesn't mean I can't be friendly. It means I may have to work a little harder at it, and I certainly should rest afterwards (preferably with chocolate rewards for good behavior), but I can do it.
Maybe it means I need to make the conscious choice to do it, even more than other people. Because I don't instinctively seek out opportunities to chat, I can get lonely and isolated. Because I fear I will say the wrong thing, I often say nothing and feel excluded.
Though introversion does not have to equal awkward, I do think they are linked. A big part of what's draining about being in with other people is my own
insecurities. I spend so much mental energy worried about the lameness
of my social skills that I lose the opportunity to enjoy my companions'
company. I've been noticing that when I make an effort to smile and be friendly, right from the start, the whole interaction feels that
much more smooth.
This is counter-intuitive. I will require a lot more practice, of the fake-it-till-you-make-it variety.
Since this fall's forced meeting of new people, I've found myself a little more practiced at being friendly. At church, I've been a little more likely to walk up to someone and initiate a conversation. When I see someone an acquaintance a school function or around town, I've found myself smiling and saying hello and chatting like a.... like a.... like an extrovert?
No, like a friendly introvert.