My own selfish ego aside, I genuinely look forward to her posts which are insightful and funny, and I will be buying her book when it comes out this fall. Clearly, she knows a thing or two about networking and how to win friends and influence people, because I think she’s great, and I don’t even know her. Of course, now she may think I’m a weird, internet stalker, but my favorite way to find out about blogs is recommendations from other bloggers, so go to her site and like her too. Now!
Carrie posted recently about a subject that I think is dear to the hearts of many writers regardless of their level of experience or number of WordPress followers. Social Networking and Introversion.
I have had this on my list as a potential blog post for a while, and with my goal to out my blog and myself to the public this week, today is as good a day as any to address it.
I would describe myself as the worst possible combination of shy and introverted. Shit-troverted in my mind, because, in my life, it has been debilitating to be both.
What is the difference between being shy and being introverted?
Quite a bit really, but they tend to be viewed as the same thing and both labels carry negative connotations in a world where extraversion seems widely preferred. I’m not going to get into all of the differences because I don’t have time and you will probably get bored reading it. The most concise comparison I found of the two is below:
“Shyness is the fear of negative judgment, and introversion is a preference for quiet, minimally stimulating environments.” Susan Cain
I believe shyness was both a learned behavior and one that I inherited from my father, who was described as withdrawn and sullen by many, even in his eulogy, which in theory should be the most flattering summation of one’s life. But, he never shed these labels, and it bothered me because he was funny, and decent, and troubled, with no outlet for those qualities, other than drinking a little too much. And, when he drank, everything he ever wanted to say came bubbling to the surface, but came out all wrong. I got that, and I’ve repeated that mistake more times than I care to recall. Writing is a much more productive way to express myself.
On to the funny part of the post. It can be both, relax.
Tracing shyness back to its beginning in my life is pretty easy. It all comes back to this picture and this year in my life. I grew up in the country and attended one school up until 6th grade (it only went to 8th grade and then residents of this small town were forced to transfer to the “city” to finish high school. Thank you, Mom, for making us go earlier). There were about 10 kids in my class which included multiple grades. I was blissfully unaware of myself, and this hair, and you have no idea how much it pains me to put this picture on the internet. Cheers to getting over yourself.
I received a rude awakening in the bigger school, and people made fun of me. A lot. And, I don’t blame them because I was an easy target walking around like this. I’m surprised they didn’t stone me. I retreated into my own head, and worked hard to make myself invisible to avoid scorn. I’m pretty sure I didn’t speak for most of 6th and 7th grade (most of the rest of my years there, really), and when I did, it came out wrong, and awkward, and sometimes I pissed people off. I worked hard in school, excelled in sports, and I had my groups of friends that evolved over the years as we continued to be mean and awful to each other.
Enough therapy. There are situations in my life that are extremely difficult and hilarious as a Shit-trovert–those are the point of this rambling post.
- Job Interviews: I am the worst interviewer in the world. I honestly can’t believe anyone has ever hired me. I stumble, I mumble, I can’t think of anything to say, people become uncomfortable with my discomfort, and if there is any kind of logic test, I will fail it because I’m in a fog until I leave the premises. I come across like a complete moron, every time. I still have nightmares about botched interviews (at least 20 that I can count off the top of my head), and I have a physical reaction every time I face one. Other introverts probably get this, and that is why I once had a successful career. That and email. I’m better on paper.
- Public Speaking: Fear of public speaking trumps my fear of death. Without exception. I sweat profusely, I blush, my hands pour sweat and shake. It is not within my control and I avoid holding notecards because the shaking is visible.
- First Dates: Nope. Thank you for loving me, dear husband, and saving me from any more of this torture.
- Hair Salons: Chit chat. Not my thing. If I can find a hair stylist who is content to not talk to me, I will stay with them for 12 years until they move away and force me go to someone else.
- Book clubs: I love books, I read them, I have opinions about them, but put me in a room full of women who have read the same book and want to talk about it, and I won’t say a word. I’m going to one tonight, and I’m going to try to join in, but it makes me anxious, and I don’t really want to.
The good news, is that shyness can be conquered with practice and repetition. I plan to continue putting myself in awkward situations until I get over myself. No one cares.
Introversion is a quality that I embrace. I think it makes me more observant, a better listener, more sensitive to people’s feelings and reactions (I’m still an asshole sometimes on this blog), and by default, a better writer than I might be if I processed things verbally. If you share this quality, I consider it a strength, even though I have listed it as my greatest weakness in interviews because in that moment, it is, and I try to be honest.
So high-five to introversion, and a big middle finger to shyness. Laugh it up about that hair though. It is fantastically bad, and a source of permanent insecurity for me.
Any other shy introverts out there? How do you feel about it?