What am I Even Saying

Musings/Rants

You know what’s the most frequently asked question in my life?

“Why are you so emo?”

It comes in several different forms: “Why are you so angsty?” “Why are you always so mad?” “Why do you never smile?”

The answer is very simple: smiling is painful. It literally hurts my face to smile more than a minute straight, even when I’m having a good time around people I like. Who the hell decided to make curved lips on full stretch the universal expression of happiness? It’s physically exhausting, like holding a coffee mug in your palm for an extended period of time. But some people can smile for hours on end like their jaws were born ajar. I used to think those people were phony as fuck until I got to know a few of them and discovered that they’re the sweetest people ever. That’s when I realized that I’m the phony one, baring my teeth like a fucking vampire when all I wanted to do was curl up in my bed and cry. And it made me wonder: are introverts just inherently more depressed and cynical than extroverts?

That’s a difficult question to answer because most introverts are camouflaged among extroverts. We all lie somewhere on the introvert-extrovert continuum, and the more heavily you lean toward the introvert side of the spectrum the more excessively you have to lie. Pretending to be outgoing and outspoken people has become our defense mechanism. Obviously some of us are better at lying than others. I suck at lying. I drop my smile when it gets even slightly unbearable. I stop socializing with people as soon as I detect the emergence of an headache. I flow in and out of my own reality when conversations get awkward. I retreat back to solitude the first chance I get. The longer I dwell in my own head the more depressed I get. So if all introverts are like me then yes, maybe we’re just a bleak species. But I can rarely distinguish the hidden introverts in a sea of extroverts.

Amazingly, even I have managed to fool some very intelligent people. A classmate said she didn’t believe I was an introvert. A relative complained that I was “too gregarious.” If an atypically shy introvert like I can convince people that I’m “too gregarious,” imagine what normal, less awkward introverts could do. Regardless of how good a liar an introvert may be, I’m sure we’re all sick of putting on a bloody mask all the damn time.

Sometimes I just want to start over. I’m not talking about going back to a particular moment in my life. I don’t want to rewind the clock because I don’t need more regrets gnawing at my messed up mind. I just want to be in a different place, like Budapest or something, with a different name, preferably something asexual like Alex or Taylor or Jaime. I’d reset, find my place in new surroundings, among people who can never unearth my past transgressions. As much as I love some people in my life right now, there are just too many others I can no longer deal with. Remember how Forest said life is like a box of chocolates? For me it feels more like a box of Bean Boozled jelly beans. You know, the ones containing both nasty and yummy flavors, except my box is 80% the former, so I’d get three boogers every time I get a strawberry.

Anyway, I’m well aware that life isn’t all rainbows and butterflies and sometimes it’s compromise that moves us along (lol thanks Maroon 5). I know it’s mostly my own fault that I’m so unhappy with myself, and I know that I can fix my situation without ditching everything I’ve come to know. I also think fate is bullshit. Your life’s not gonna be some perfectly structured skyline with proportionally distributed peaks and troughs, interrupted by occasional periods of dullness. Who knows? Maybe my life will turn out to be some downward sloping curve that gets steeper as time goes on.

But right now it isn’t. It doesn’t have to be. As I said before, I don’t know how many of you out there are introverts going through the same identity/life crisis I am, but if you’re reading this then this next part is for you too. Maybe self-pity and self-doubt is something we’ll always have to deal with, but we will work through it and it will get easier. And here’s a crazy thought: maybe we need that pang of self-pity and self-doubt to remind us of who we really are. Lying is a skill that can be improved, even perfected, through practice. The more we pretend to be the extroverted, outspoken individuals this fucked up society pressures us to be, the more we’ll be convinced that that’s who we were made to be. We’ll start to believe that introversion was an illness that we have finally cured.

And that’s absolute bullshit. It took me almost twenty years to stop hating my preference for self-reflection over social interaction. Introversion is not a problem. It’s a personality trait that’s every bit as beautiful and important as extroversion. It may not thrive in this stupid 21st Century world, but it needs to exist.

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31 thoughts on “What am I Even Saying

  1. Your post is very thought-provoking. Having been defined by others since being virtually a toddler as either ‘shy’ or ‘very quiet’, after many years I came to accept myself as I was and stop trying to become something I was not. Having said that, I don’t believe that people are either introverts or extroverts. I embraced the idea of being an authentic person, being who you really are, not trying to act a certain way to please others. But I am different when I have different roles in life but I don’t see that as being fake. Sometimes there is a paradox in how I am but I have come to accept that and enjoy life and let people accept me how I am. It’s what makes us individuals. I was recently asked what my 16 year old self (in the distant past!) would say to me, and the first thing that came to mind, don’t worry about what other people think. I worried for too long. As the years have gone by, I’ve realised that most of the time it really doesn’t matter what other people think, it’s what you, and those you care about, think that really matters. Kay PS I too get asked why am looking so serious – often it’s because I am contemplating something and being a thinker that’s important to me! It doesn’t mean I’m not happy – and I do smile too …

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I’m introverted, perhaps to a fault in many ways, but there is something to a smile: http://theatln.tc/1ScIlPL

    TL;DR: forcing yourself to smile relieves stress…maybe there is a social reason for why smiling is valued so much.

    Susan Cain’s book “Quiet” opens with a manifesto for introverts I think one might find useful to return to intermittently:
    1. There’s a word for “people who are in their heads too much:” thinkers.
    2. Solitude is a catalyst for innovation.
    3. The next generation of quiet kids can and must be raised to know their own strengths.
    4. Sometimes it helps to be a pretend extrovert. There will always be time to be quiet later.
    5. But in the long run, staying true to your temperament is key to finding work you love and work that matters.
    6. One genuine new relationship is worth a fistful of business cards.
    7. It’s OK to cross the street to avoid making small talk.
    8. “Quiet leadership” is not an oxymoron.
    9. Love is essential; gregariousness is optional.
    10. “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” -Mahatma Gandhi.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Great post. I’ve been there where you are. I stopped caring and just did what I felt. Talk when I felt and rolled up in my ball when I felt like it too. You have to do what’s right for you at the end of the day and the people who disapprove will have to accept or move on.

    It’s true there’s very few places for an introvert in society. In business mostly extroverts are promoted and hired for leadership roles so you have to turn on the tiring extrovert switch to match up to your peers. It’s life I suppose. Keep writing my friend.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Oh! You should totally watch a TED talk by a lady named Susan Cain called “The Power of Introverts”. She wrote a book called “Quiet” you might enjoy as a read as well. I think it would totally resonate with you. I know it did with me.

    I find the need to play my inner-extrovert on a daily basis during the week a draining experience personally. It typically means my “free time” (weekends etc) are spent recharging in silent reflection… maybe with one or two close friends having access.

    I really enjoyed hearing what your experience is like – funny how you feel less “abnormal” when you know you’re not the only one who’s had an experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yea, I feel you on that. I smile easily. I love to laugh but I am an introvert too. A moody one. And sometimes I don’t feel like to smile or laugh. But I know it cheers people up, make them feel better about themselves, their situation, or whatever so I’ve become a hyena. Laughing uncontrollably when I’d rather not just to cheer some people up. I think that’s why I’m hiding out in my room today. Just staring at the sky and writing and reading and a little social media.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Interesting. I kind of hover. But I know that I’m an extrovert. I have those days when I feel like robbing a bank and a gun store, and just killing anyone who tries to talk to me. Something out of a Rambo movie or something. But mostly I’m social. So I don’t really get what you’re saying, but it’s cool. Be yourself, and screw the world!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for your post.

    We (and I am an introvert) are who we are and cannot become something (extrovert) that we are not. In may ways regarded as being “introverted” is a label and a category that is applied to those of us who are inner focused. As far as I am concerned there is nothing wrong with being inner focused. The more I know myself the more I know others. The more loving I am towards my self the more loving I can be with others.

    We can get to a place within ourselves where we are comfortable with our selves, our own company, enjoying solitude and being serious. Being acceptant of who we are, not pretending just to “fit in”. What matters to me is that I am treated with respect for who I am, in fact I demand that from all and sundry even though I might be conducting an orchestra while listening to music as I walk or reciting pieces of poetry as I relax. Those that respect me for who I am are in my life, those that don’t accept me for who I am, and that includes family, are no longer in my life. For me its as simple as that.

    The inner world is a beautiful experience once we get past all the shit we tend to accumulate over time.

    So from my own experience I can say that not all introverts are bleak people, that we can reject the label and simply be who we are and enjoy the richness of our inner world without feeling that we have to pretend or lie.

    Ainslie Meares wrote a book called “The Introvert” some time ago. I regard it as very illuminating.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. This definitely got me. I have been in this situation, often facing a choice of pretending or simply being myself and taking the consequences that come with it. I am, as my family and close friends call me a basket case introvert. Being within a social setting, whether its in the classroom or at work, has always drained the life out of me. My friends at some point had to learn that I wasn’t someone who wanted to hang out all the time, that I needed space in between to be in my solitude.
    As a teen, I was angsty. Like you, smiling took all the energy in me. I was however decided that I couldn’t pretend. I had to be myself and that meant saying no to all those normative social activities. It was tough at the beginning, but at the same time more freeing to be myself. There were consequences, However, as I weighed it all and now being in my 30s I am more at ease with myself. There is power is accepting who I am, in being introspective and more self-reflective. Also, it allowed me to only be with people that mattered without the need to fit myself into the definition of the world.
    I read in the comments that you are reading Quiet by Susan Cain. I remember reading that and feeling relieved that finally someone put it out there.
    Thanks for this post. I would be thinking about this for the rest of the day. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. As an introvert and someone who gets told to “smile more”, I found this clip to be hilarious: https://youtu.be/3v98CPXNiSk

    I once had a professor tell me that thinkers are more prone to depression, and I completely believe it. And since introverts are thinkers, well, it makes sense that introverts could be more prone to depression. However, like a previous commenter, I don’t believe they have to go hand in hand all the time. If you are depressed (pardon my reach but just going off of your writing it seems like you could possibly be) I would urge you to get treated… it makes all aspects of life so much better.

    If you aren’t, then disregard that I said that. However I do speak from my own experience, and wish the best for you too. xoxo

    Like

  10. I’ve been an introvert all my life too. In fact, my brother and I are the only two introverts in the family of wild, outrageous, laughing extroverts. We are both painfully shy and were always given a lot of grief over it. I did have that fresh beginning you wrote about, in a new country where nobody knew who I was. After the first few days, it didn’t really work. I was back to who I was. But I have noticed that when I’m unhappy or depressed over something, my introverted tendencies get to the extreme. I retreat into my shell and would refuse to talk or smile or interact at all. When I’m happy, I talk more than usual simply because I want to. If you get a chance, do read this post on my blog I wrote about my brother and his introverted nature, and what I wish for him.

    https://notesfromcedarhills.wordpress.com/2015/05/23/a-man-of-few-words/

    Like

  11. You are absolutly right! People ask us to smile, when we maybe havn’t even recogniced that we are looking sad. It’s not about shuting out the word, it’s about being a part of the world, about being us. I think it’s a pity thay we have to change ourselves in order to be accepted by society. Why can’t we be sad if we want to? Maybe because we don’t really want so. Maybe being an introvert is something like an illness and prevents us from being who we want to be. To be honest, when we lie in our beds, alone, what is it that we want? Isn’t it somehowe to escape our selves and be someone different? Someone more outgoning? Don’t we want to have fun? We are standing in our own ways, prevent us from being happy. As far as I am concerned we are afraid. Afraid of being someone different. So we stay “ourselves” pretend to be happy, while we are crying as soon as nobody is watching us.
    I hate those feelings, I hate it to be my own blocking, but I also love it. If I could get back to those days when I really felt depressed, I think I would go. I miss those times, miss the pain and the fear and I really don’t know why. Is it just me?

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  12. Well said, would never think you were introvert from how well that was wrote and expressed. Very good! Certainly sparked thoughts in my head.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I am definitely an introvert. But I’m also an extremely convincing liar. Even from young childhood I was extremely content being alone. I’d walk alone on the playground, but after concern from teachers and counselors I learned to fake extroversion. I’m extremely good at it too. I’m an extremely good actor with the ability to laugh through extreme exhaustion and pain as well as cry when I just want to smile. I know this may come off as sneaky or manipulative but since I’ve been faking extroversion for my whole life it comes naturally. It’s not like I don’t feel these emotions the same way anyone else does, but there are so many situations where the emotions of an introvert and extrovert are opposite. An introvert might smile and sigh in content at being left alone at a lunch table, while an extrovert, especially a child, might cry. An introvert might cry at giving a speech while an extrovert will be happy. It wasn’t until college that I started to openly accept my introvert nature, but sometimes I still have to slip on that extrovert mask for the sake of my job, I’m a tutor, or a grade. I guess this is just the nature of our society though.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. “We’ll start to believe that introversion was an illness that we have finally cured.” -for a long, long time I kept believing it is an illness and all my attempts to ‘get over it’ went to vain.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I only signed up for WordPress yesterday and accidentally stumbled across your blog. And let me tell you, that was one of the rare good things that happened to me these last few days. Sounds a bit pathetic, right? I’ll push my self-pity and identity crisis aside for a moment to tell you that I love your posts and thoughts, even though I’m categorized as an extrovert by others. Maybe I can’t empathize completely with how you’re feeling, but I completely agree with the part about smiling and socializing. It gets tiring sometimes, to be surrounded with people, to laugh and smile when all you want to do is to get into your inner world and just spend some quality time with yourself. It’s a mask a lot of people wear in order to satisfy others, to fit in, to feel accepted. I’m not going to lie, I also put on that mask sometimes despite the fact that at that moment all I want is to re-watch Lord of The Rings or re-read my favourite book in the company of my dear self 😛
    Anyways, maybe I’m a bit late with this comment, but I felt the need to tell you that I love your writing style, your thoughts and a bit of humor I find in your posts. Between all the introverts, you’re one of the awesome ones. 🙂

    Like

    1. We all lie somewhere on the extroversion-introversion spectrum. I emphasize with extroverts too, and even though I’m an introvert I do possess extrovert qualities. Maybe you have introvert qualities too. It’s completely okay and you’re awesome 🙂

      Like

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