“But I guess it’s easy for you,” he said. “You’re so outgoing.”
The table talk at the cafe was about the Karaoke the night before, how I’d led the dancing to the songs I’d chosen: The Time Warp, Tic Tok, Macarena. And how afterwards some of us had gone out to a club and danced till 3 am.
It didn’t surprise me as much as the first time I heard a similar comment. That was 30 years before, when I was out with a university friend and I confessed to her how I was such a shy person. She burst out laughing.
“You! You’re one of the most outgoing people I know!”
But actions and temperament don’t always have to match. When I was young, they did. I buried my nose in a book, to the disgust of my family, and the world I lived in there was much more interesting than a real life that was both chaotic and boring. “Painfully shy” was an expression I heard regularly. It didn’t really bother me.
One day, though, it changed. I was in high school, grade 9, I think, and walking down the hall. Someone I admired was going the opposite way, and as they passed, they said hello. I don’t even remember if they were male or female, but they were a senior and I was amazed they even noticed me, and desperate to impress.
I couldn’t even squeak out a reply. And that’s when I decided that my shyness was holding me back.
I put myself on a program. I stood in front of the mirror and practiced smiling and talking. I made up fake conversations and played them out. Slowly, I started trying them out on actual people.
I’m sure there were setbacks that I don’t remember now. But the more you practice, the better you get, and when you get better you start to receive positive feedback that encourages you further.
Most people would not guess I was an introvert, because I am now very social. My children as teenagers were appalled at my willingness to start conversations with strangers. Many people know me from positions on the parent committees at my children’s schools, or because I organized staff social gatherings. The parties I held were considered events. I dance, heading to the floor with the confidence that others will follow, and if they don’t I will still dance, by myself.
So why do I even say I’m an introvert? Because I recharge by being by myself, and I need to do it after I have been in groups. Because I need to remind myself why I enjoy being with people as I work myself up to something social. Because some mornings the only thing that gets me out of bed is telling myself how good my shower will feel, and the only thing that gets me out of the shower to face my day is by turning the water to full cold.
And the person who asked about karaoke? They were surprised when I told them I had been in my room until 5 minutes after it had already started, trying to convince myself to go downstairs.
But I went. Because sometimes you need to be brave.