Me trying to figure out if I should go online or not. Just kidding!
Okay. Maybe that’s an exaggeration.
But if I recount several days of going without showers, mood swings, loss of interpersonal skills, my snarky attitude towards anyone bearing any gifts of positive criticism, and months of self-loathing, my judgment is right.
Living as an extrovert shares the scale with some of my worst decisions in life.
First, let me clear the assumption that introverts are as shy and as demure as hello cats. Or that they only speak when they are spoken to. Or that when they are spoken to, they respond in a singsong voice that puts even the most aggressive baby to sleep.
I am the exact opposite of all these things. I can be as loud as my Nigerian genetics can offer. I am also quick to confront any act of injustice and won’t take rude comments lying down. I also don’t have a singsong voice. In fact, I cringe when I listen to playbacks of my recorded voice.
Yet, this doesn’t negate the fact that I am a true introvert. I love my solitude more than you can imagine. Nothing sparks my imagination and creative spirit more than a quiet afternoon with a book in hand, a recliner close to a window, and a mug of coffee on a small coffee table. If I want to, I might also tweet several quotes from the book I’m reading. You know, just to maintain some contact with the outside world.
Friends? Yes, for sure. We can hang out. But on my terms––inside a coffee shop discussing the current affairs and secretly analyzing pop culture. We would follow celebrities and their shenanigans but meet every 3 months to release all that energy. Over coffee, of course.
That’s my true nature.
But sometime last year, deep inside, I decided that I wasn’t enough. That people weren’t seeing me enough. That I wasn’t visible, and that I needed to play up my skills so that I would be respected.
Thus began my 12-month experiment and trial of living as an extrovert. Here’s what I learned in the process.
1) I hated myself
I hated the way I sounded when I made comments that should have been left brimming inside my head during meetings. Because the moment they left my lips, I couldn’t take them back, and I was left with a haunting vision of what could have been had I embraced my quiet nature.
I disliked the things I once enjoyed. For example, I dumped reading in favor of social media consumption. Periscope, Instagram, Twitter…you name it, I became an ardent follower. I stopped writing in favor of trying to personally connect with everyone I knew. Everyone I came across.
But guess what? The conversation never stopped. I was always trying to catch up with conversations as they were happening. This became so overwhelming that by the time I got home, I was too tired to engage in any productive interaction with my family. My personal relationships suffered. But I tried to sleep it off only to repeat the same cycle all over again.
2) I needed my space way too frequently
So I spent a good portion of last year attributing my insolence and fatigue in general to being depressed. Of course, I was depressed. But 95 percent of this depression came from trying to be someone I wasn’t.
It was like I was constantly trying to push a secondary character to become the main character. Sometimes I succeeded. But every time I did this, I was confronted with the true image of the person I was: someone who favors solitude, contemplation, and small group conversations.
Oh, the dichotomy and identity struggle that ensued! What started as a way to gain more influence among my peers became the very thing that threatened my health. It became very challenging to engage in debates without getting emotional. I needed my space to recover from all that acting. But it wasn’t enough because I threw myself in the throes of extraversion again before I recovered.
3) I lacked empathy.
Being an extrovert demanded way more than I had imagined because of the erroneous understanding that I had to be a charismatic leader with a booming personality.
My empathy slowly slipped from my consciousness. I remember being unmoved by several tragedies and being a hurry to click away from news about social justice. Something about the news required me to be human, to be real, something that I hadn’t been in a while.
To be fair, years of working in the healthcare field have desensitized me. From code blues to code 21s, code browns to getting hit by patients, nothing about the human experience rarely fazes me. Such is life.
But something definitely is wrong when the first reaction to tragedy is to brush it aside as if it were just another mess that needed cleaning. Call me the female iRobot.
Perhaps the worst of it all? This.
4) I felt far away from God.
In my bid to seem more extroverted, more “out there” and what not, I felt like a stranger in my own body. And because I know that being in the presence of God strips you of all pretenses and layers, I ran away. I hid from His presence.
There was a never-ending suite of excuses: I needed to study for an exam. I worked last night and overslept, or I have a group meeting.
Finally, I became tired of excuses.
So, this year, I made a promise to myself: to find out where I went wrong and wholeheartedly find my way back into my introvert cave. I’m listening more than I speak. And loving it. I’m writing more and connecting with my feelings…and appreciating moments of vulnerability here and there. I’m more honest about what I can possibly do for humans. Surprise, I’m no superhero who is on-call 24/7.
Of course, I’m still as loud as my Nigerian genetics can offer. I am still quick to confront any act of injustice and won’t take rude comments lying down. I also don’t have a singsong voice––yet. And I still cringe when I listen to playbacks of my recorded voice.
But living as an introvert hasn’t been bad at all. It’s why I can write this post as honestly as I can.
Now you. Have you been hiding?