The young girl stared at the book clutched in her hands on the desk in front of her. “Don’t pick me. Don’t pick me. Don’t pick me.” The litany went around and around in her head. “Don’t pick me. Don’t pick me. Don’t…”
She heard the teacher say her name. Hands shaking, a new litany began in her head. “Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Don’t cry.”
She stood, almost unsteadily, locking her knees stiff to stop them from shaking, staring down at the book. She risked a look and seeing the teacher staring at her, quickly looked away, embarrassed.
She began to read, her voice barely a whisper, conscious of the tremor but unable to prevent it. She reached the end of the assigned passage and sat down, relief and mortification intermingled. Even as the teacher thanked her and congratulated her on her expression, she continued to stare at the book on the desk before her, wishing she were somewhere else.
That was me, before my current incarnation. Those who know me personally but have only ever known the Current Me, would be surprised, perhaps even bewildered, to believe that public display was such torture to me once.
I am an introvert, with the added bonus of genetically inherited shyness. Ask anyone from my Earlier Life and this concept of Me will be confirmed. Ask anyone from my Latest Life and they will laugh and tell you, “She’s no introvert!”
People tend to think of introverts as shy and retiring, socially awkward, even anti-social. This is often not the case. My Fellow-Introverted-Friend recently shared an article listing the attributes of introverts (see Related Articles below). It is me to a T. Or an I, rather. (Thank you, Myers-Briggs.)
So, if I am a Tick All The Boxes Introvert, how is it that I am now mistaken for an extrovert?
I wear hats. Imaginary ones. If I am invited to a party, I put on my Party Hat before I leave the house. If I need to stand up in front of an audience and make a speech, I wear my Speaker’s Hat. Teacher Hat, Actor Hat, Traveller Hat, Protester Hat… I’ve got an invisible wardrobe full of them, for all occasions.
Wearing my hat, I can be whatever I need to be, do whatever I need to do, say whatever I need to say.
I actually have quite a collection of real hats too and sometimes they can serve the same purpose as my invisible ones, helping me believe I am someone else.
There are places I go hatless. Places where I feel safe, like home, or places where I know in my heart that to gain all I can from the experience, I need to be the Real Me. Going hatless in public places can be risky. As long as I am left to be the Real Me, in all my introverted glory, I can cope. However, throw me unexpectedly into another role – ask me to announce something without warning, for example – with no opportunity to find and put on the appropriate hat, and I am left tongue-tied and embarrassed.
So next time you’re at a party, take a look around. There may be introverts among you. Try looking for their Party Hats. No, not those ones. The invisible ones. (Did I just tell you to ignore the real party hats and look for the imaginary ones? Boy, we must be at soooome party.)
- 23 signs you’re secretly an introvert… (huffingtonpost.com)