Those of you who knew me before 2019, are laughing at this ridiculous proclamation. But, it is true. No one is more surprised by this revelation than I.
Shortly after returning to Michigan, I was standing in the kitchen of a lifetime friend. The conversation we were having escapes me but the gist of it was, me being surprised that she wasn’t going to attend a party that a fairly good friend was having. When I asked her why she said “That’s not my forte` that’s yours. I’ve never been comfortable in large groups talking to strangers.” When I responded with “Actually, that’s never been my thing either. I presented that way but the truth is, I operated out of my comfort zone more often than not”, she looked at me, laughed then walked away. She wasn’t buying it!
To her credit, our 40+ year friendship told her a different story. She knew me as an outgoing, gregarious, inquisitive person who would strike up a conversation with anyone anywhere.
She wasn’t wrong. I did portray those characteristics. What she and everyone else didn’t know is it made me miserable and was a programmed behavior.
I had to think back to when I began to portray someone other than who I am and concluded it was during my formidable years, my father’s message was clear, “Put on a happy face, be outgoing, say things that make other people feel good, behave in a manner that is fitting for the people you’re with, don’t be a show-off, don’t make people think you’re smarter than they are, and don’t ever be argumentative or defensive. Little Big Town’s song “The Daughters” explains this mentality perfectly.
Unknowingly, I carried this firmly implanted seed into my adult life. It was fairly common to be invited to parties because the host and hostess knew I’d make everyone feel welcome and comfortable. They never had to worry about someone feeling left out. Having the gift of gab, I’d strike up a conversation with a stranger because they were standing in the corner looking uncomfortable or lend an ear to someone going through a difficult time. It was always about everyone else, never about me. I was doing what was expected.
My behavior was the same when I hosted. There was no way a guest was going to leave unhappy or because they didn’t feel welcome. I gave 110% at every gathering and became known for hosting awesome parties. The cost of this was going to bed emotionally and physically drained. Then waking up with an immense sense of guilt and anxiety, questioning if I had put my guests’ happiness before my children. If it was an adult-only party I woke up berating myself for possibly bragging or coming across to smart, not looking good enough, or not behaving in the manner in which my guests expected. There were a million reasons for feeling like shit that had nothing to do with alcohol consumption.
I began noticing a shift in my behavior at parties two weeks after arriving in Michigan. I attended the graduation party of a long-time friend and a neighbor to my friend of 40+ years that I mentioned above. I desperately wanted to be a fly on the wall because that would give me the ability to sit back and observe. This group wasn’t going to let that happen. Hell no! It had been over a year since I’d seen many of them and they wanted to laugh and catch up. I wasn’t feeling it. The noise level seemed deafening, the expectations insurmountable and the way they looked at me said “What’s your problem?” I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of there.
I may have attended one more party after that and decided parties with large numbers of people are not my thing. I no longer wanted to be uncomfortable, operate out of my comfort zone, put others before myself or behave in a way that wasn’t true to myself.
Awareness comes at the strangest times. It was during a live virtual meeting with my spiritual mentor Whitney McNeill that she said “I’m not into small talk, I prefer to be alone or with a couple of close friends. I’m an introvert.” I was stunned. I wasn’t sure I heard her correctly. How could a person so comfortable with talking to hundreds of people virtually or speaking in front of large groups be an introvert. So, I did what I always do when in doubt, I Googled it. LOL
Sure enough, WebMd describes an introvert as “A person who feels more comfortable focusing on their inner thoughts and ideas, rather than what’s happening externally. They enjoy spending time with just one or two people, rather than large groups or crowds. Need quiet to concentrate.
- Are reflective
- Are self-aware
- Take time making decisions
- Feel comfortable being alone
- Don’t like group work
- Prefer to write rather than talk
- Feel tired after being in a crowd
- Have few friendships, but are very close with these friends
- Daydream or use their imaginations to work out a problem
- Retreat into their mind to rest
Wow, this described the transformed me fairly accurately. I always attributed introverts to being shy. According to this article, not all introverts are shy. That explained myself and Whitney.
Before I could make a conscious decision to limit get together’s to fewer than 4 people, the Covid-19 quarantine went into place. Some people call this the loneliest time of their life. I call it one of the best. For the first time, I enjoyed my alone time and time spent with my friend in Fort Myers. There was ample time for introspection, resting my mind, getting in touch with my creative side, and learning to love myself.
Today, I proudly say “I’m an Introvert Damn it!” `
All Aboard! The Transformation train is leaving the station. Next stop, “Holy Hawks.“