I'm good at portraying what I want on the outside but honestly, my true self is utterly spent for the sake of others.
At my job, I'm interpersonal and for the most part, clients always enjoy my service. Those I serve and even those I work with might guess I'm the "social butterfly" and am an extrovert, but that's because they think introverts can't interact well socially... Or maybe they think that because I'm not shy, there's no way I can be an introvert.
Unfortunately, it’s partially my fault. I haven’t done much to explain the difference and to help them understand how I recharge. They don’t hang out with me at home or in the community. We get along at work and that’s it. How could they know me more personally if I don’t let them?
“Hey, I’m looking for Danny. A friend recommended him to me.”
“Sure thing! He’s in the back.” . . . “Danny, a customer,” Robert (the manager) calls out.
“Hello, I’m Danny! How can I serve you today?”
This might look like a normal, professional interaction, but after a full day of cordial exchanges like this one, all I want is to go home. I hope to one day marry and have a family, but it’s just me and my dog at home and it’s my favorite place to decompress.
I will occasionally accept a social invite somewhere, but I see those decreasing due to my more-than-frequent declines and BS excuses. The pandemic hasn’t helped return much of my few personal outings, which has been a breath of fresh air, almost a break from life.
I still sometimes miss them.
I’m sure it doesn’t help me keep too many friends being this okay being alone, but I have a handful of people (my parents, my sister, and my best friend) who know me truly as the introvert I am.
And truth be told, I’m maybe 70% introvert, so it’s not like I’m a hermit. I just feel comfortable and most myself when unbothered by saying all the right things and being present for people.
But I still do it more than I prefer to. I grew up having to be places and involve myself in activities simply because “it’s what kids need to do.” And into my adult life, I can’t break the need to please my parents and perform for everyone.
Even if I’m just sitting on a couch at a friend’s party, the anxiety I sometimes feel knowing someone more naturally extroverted may come up to me to “chat” makes me not want to be friendly to anyone… but I’m so good at it. Now it would almost feel like a lie to seclude, because people still believe I’m the social guy from work… the people I’ve served anyway. I have by chance bumped into some of them in my neighborhood. I live too close to work and probably should move a little further, but I’m in a routine I can manage.
“Danny, guess who!”
I could tell by the rhythmic knocking on the door who it was, and the chipper voice of my best friend is unmistakable. Plus, he always knocks and calls out the same why! Who is he kidding?
“Jake, my man!” I respond, as Rufus licks his denim-covered ankles and his hands reaching down to pet him.
Jake is the only non-family member I get excited to see. And it’s not because we do exciting things. He just is content chilling with me and talking very little. Well, I talk very little. Mostly he has a bunch of things to say, then he can tolerate snacking in silence to a game or a show. And we can chill for hours and it’s enough human connection for me most weeks to get by.
Jake doesn’t have a lot of family and I do. I’m like his brother, so he understands my introversion, unlike most people who see me (the version of me I show them, that is).
While I love my family and get excited to see them the few times a year I do, Jake is the person I share most important life things with: changes at work, ideas of moving (which I never actually commit to), women I’m interested in, etc.
It’s never been clearly discussed, but it’s almost this unspoken rule that Jake doesn’t get to divulge how truly introverted I am to others. I maintain my appearance at work and I give of my time (in moderation) to personal things, but I feel that once people knew the real me, they’d consider me a fake.
Hello childhood, rearing its ugly head again.
Later the next week
“Danny, listen, I’m going to need your help hosting the new staff orientation. Everyone on staff agreed you’re the guy for this, and you have a natural rapport with clients I know you can spread to some of our newcomers,” Robert asserts.
Inside I’m thinking “kill me now…”
But my mouth still opens to say “sure thing, whatever you need.”
“Sweet, it’s going to be on Friday, so find a couple guys to cover some of your daily things so you can focus your attention on this the next few days.”
I am satisfied keeping my head down and smile up for people to make a living, but I’m no planner, much less a public speaker and host. I'm good at portraying what I want on the outside but honestly, my true self is utterly spent for the sake of others.
Two days later, Thursday
I’m beat from the anticipation of being at my rope’s end tomorrow. I feel it. The rope’s pretty frayed as it is… I mean, I feel like I know what needs to happen, but I wish I could pass this hot potato to someone who would be better at this kind of stuff, the execution and all.
I should talk to Robert. If I’m this tangled up just anticipating it, I may mess up this whole thing tomorrow in real-time.
“Knock knock,” I say loudly, as I swallow my pride a little.
“Danny, come in! What’s up? Everything squared away for tomorrow?”
“Yes, I have everything typed out, but I did want to speak with you candidly…”
“Don’t tell me the pizza place double charged us again for the food?”
“No actually, I still need to circle back to get that ordered for tomorrow, but it’s not about that.”
“Okay, sit down and shoot… just be gentle,” Robert jokes as he winces, expecting a painful blow of some sort.
“It’s not that bad, but I have to say I can’t do this on my own. If I can bow out completely, I’d be happy to, but if I could have someone sort of… say everything… that would help me a lot.”
“But Danny, you’re so comfortable with the clients! I’m surprised you don’t want to take the lead here. It’s why the staff picked you!”
“I hear you, but I own my part in this. I haven’t been transparent with everyone. I can get things done with a smile and quality service, but this is my job. There’s a level of insincerity here because I have to expend all my effort doing my job. I’m not a social butterfly or extrovert. And I’d much prefer to hand these detailed plans to someone who can executive them from a more authentic place.”
“I’ll be honest Danny, I am surprised I misunderstood you this way, but I’ll tell you what… I’ve got Julie itching to get her foot a little more in the door here. Let me see if she can step into this thing. Just promise me you’ll come and you’ll be available to help her as she needs?”
“Of course, Robert. It’s the least I can do for backing out this last minute.”
Friday, the orientation day (after it ended)
“Julie, thanks for stepping in for me.”
“Anytime! I should be thanking you, because I wanted Robert to see me more as a leader here and this is pushing me in the right direction!”
I was amazed at how Julie could interact with the new employees with such ease, and to be so natural and energetic… it’s not something I need to be, I see now. And Robert finally got to realize my strengths aren’t in my voice and my energy, but in my listening well and being available. Turns out, introverts can be some of the most socially mature people around by being the listeners. I knew this, but now the people I work alongside can know it soon too.