Growing up, I was always trying to make myself the center of attention. My family has this horrifying old 8mm movie in which they are trying to record my delightful 2 year old brother doing something super cute, but instead, I jump in the frame, push him out of the way (by out of the way, I mean to the ground) and start singing and dancing. Terribly. It’s so embarrassing. The good news is that I did not grow up to be an asshole, I just played one on tv.
As I grew older, the need to be the center of attention became more of a defense mechanism than it was my true self. Honestly, I grew into a bit of a loner. However, I vividly remember my first day of High School when my defense mechanism reared its ugly head, and ruined my chance to have people like me. We were all called into the auditorium for a “welcome to high school” speech. It was the first time my class, coming from 3 different middle schools, would all be together as one. The principal said she would like to introduce some classmates as potential leaders in the school, or as I remember it, future targets for hatred. She introduced the team captains of various sports and members of student council. I was announced for Cheer-leading and Student Council. As I heard my name, a very awkward and uncomfortable feeling happened inside of me; I wanted to crawl under the chair and hide. Instead, I decided to exude a fake confidence, and I did something so stupid that it has haunted me over since. I jumped up from my chair, put my hand high into the air, faked the biggest smile you ever saw and gave a huge parade queen wave. Everybody else that was announced stood up awkwardly and quickly sat back down. Not me. I waved and waved. I even turned my body around to be sure to wave to EVERYBODY in the auditorium. All the while, my inside voice screaming, sit down you asshole! But no, I didn’t sit. I kept waving and waving until I saw the looks of disgust staring back at me and classmates jaws literally dragging on the ground. I felt how much people hated me in that moment and I was not wrong. People really did hate me. I would have hated me to.
They did really shitty things to me. One day, I walked through the main lobby of the school and saw that somebody had taken a playboy centerfold and glued my face to it, and then stuck it in the main showcase. Everybody laughed and pointed at me as I walked past. It was mortifying. Another time, a rougher group of girls decided to vandalize my house. They didn’t just tee-pee my house, nope. Instead, they took ketchup and mustard and wrote “slut” and “whore” on my parents house which, if course, stained the paint. So, we all got to read the words for weeks until the house was repainted. My parents were so proud. You get the drift….
I started pretending like I needed to take a nap during the Friday night football games, so that I didn’t have to endure any name calling. I had friends, don’t get me wrong, but I became accustomed to going places by myself. I would meet friends out rather than drive together, so that I had an easy escape if the situation became too uncomfortable. Introverts always need as escape. I was fun….it just had to be on my terms. Herein lies the biggest misconception about introverts; we aren’t all socially awkward. Actually, I was often the life of the party…just as long as I could escape if needed.
The whole experience definitely had a very lasting effect on me. I continued to be able to fake that confidence, but in less annoying ways. At some point, fake confidence grows into real confidence. I still need to take a breath to calm my nerves before a date or walking into a sales call. Don’t we all? But, if I had a choice between going out or staying home, I would really rather be home reading a book or binge watching a show. (Broad City currently…it’s ha-larious).
Today, I’m a great public speaker. I love to perform. I can work a room (if I have to). I hate large crowds. I can handle meeting strangers, but prefer to be with my own crowd. When I do go out with friends, I meet them out, in case I feel the need for an easy escape. I enjoy coccooning all winter and emerging again in the spring. I’m an extroverted introvert and that’s ok.