For most of my life, I have been seen as an extrovert, by myself and by others. A big “E” on the Myers-Briggs. A Sanguine on the personality types. Comfortable on stage, anxious to be in front, wanting to lead, with a strong need for attention and, I hoped, approval. Loud, boisterous, story-telling, carried away, life of the party, annoying, raucous, fun, never met a stranger — I answer to all of them, and have, pretty much all my life.
But that’s changing.
It’s interesting — as I get both older and more emotionally healthy, I am finding a different person inside. Quieter, more withdrawn. Actually happy being by myself. Content to sit off to the side, observing, perhaps journaling or reading. Actually resenting being engaged in conversation, or being asked to be a part of the group.
Not that I’ve become a recluse, or a total curmudgeon, or a misanthrope. Far from it. I still enjoy hanging out with friends, a nice dinner party, a good time at a sports game. I still enjoy leading a group (if I’m prepared), I still enjoy performing (sometimes), and I still enjoy people in general.
But I am finding that the old Bruce mask that I seemed forced to wear is falling away. I don’t feel compelled to do some of those things from before, like be the center of attention or get my opinion heard. I don’t need to be the life of the party. I don’t have to tell a lot of jokes or stories all the time — I can actually listen instead.
In fact, I’m wondering if I’m even an extrovert at all. Maybe it was all an act, an attempt to get the attention I desperately needed to make up for my woundedness. Maybe I’m stuck with the residual reputation from those times, trying to live up to the expectations of others as to how I should act.
When I sit by myself in the back of the church, quietly writing or worshipping, people ask me what is wrong. Nothing’s wrong — I’m enjoying being by myself, thinking and writing. If I wanted to talk to someone, I could. I just don’t want to. In fact, sometimes I find I’m actually shy. There’s a word most people wouldn’t associate with me.
I think, also, that I have an increasing desire to get into my head and get what’s there onto the page. Keeping up a facade of extrovert-ism takes energy that I could be using to write.
Or maybe, the truth is that I’m finally becoming comfortable with myself, and I don’t feel the need to get energy from others — I get energy from within. (I know, that sounds all new-agey, but it’s the best way I can phrase it for now.)
I don’t think I’ve done a good job of saying this, but perhaps you will understand. And if you are a “false extrovert,” take a moment and ask yourself why. Is it your nature, or your need, that is driving you? You’ll know the answer as soon as you ask it.
Thanks for reading. And if you see me out somewhere, don’t wonder if you should say Hi — I still love my friends. But if I’m sitting by myself, don’t worry — I’m OK. < g >
Change is the only constant.
I wouldn’t necessarily assign the appellation "false extrovert" to your former self identification – your past was and is and will always be a part of your "you." If you were an extrovert then you were, in fact, an extrovert and not a false extrovert.
People do change – there is nothing inherently wrong with change. In fact, it takes a little bit of extrovert-ism (I think extrovertedness is the appropriate word) to admit that you are changing. An introvert would never do that.
Robert Frost’s fabled "road less travelled" (except he used one "l" in that last word) is in all likekihood quite a well-worn road. And, like Frost, it will likely make all the difference as you begin this part of your life, whatever that might be.
Thanks for the thoughtful comment back. It may be that "change is the only constant," but it is nevertheless surprising to observe yourself changing at 56. You sort of don’t expect it, especially at such a (seemingly) fundamental level.
Nevertheless, I welcome it. Our pastor said something a few years ago that means so much to me, even now: "You seem a lot more at ease in your skin." It really captured what I was feeling, and I was glad someone else noticed.
Now about that run for office …