I call it the Introvert’s Dilemma (#692) … the “Everyone’s-Looking-at-Me-and-is-Judging-Me-and-is-Going-to-Interrogate-Me-and-If-I-Don’t-Have-the-Right-Answers-They-Will-Evict-Me-From-The-Human-Race” syndrome.
As introverts live so much inside their own heads, they conduct most interactions with imagined versions of the people they may (or may not) encounter. As a result, they often overestimate how invested the other party is in any given situation, because they are playing both roles… and fully committing to them. Trust me, I have played entire 3rd Acts in my head for which I deserve a Tony.
However, reality rarely measures up, and if we are not disappointed by the other person, we are often relieved at how BRIEF the actual interaction is. This is especially true when ordering food at a restaurant, conducting business at the post office, and going in to speak to one’s supervisor when they call you into the office.
However, although survival in these circumstances is worth celebrating, is it any wonder that most introverts (myself included) then feel the need to retreat and recharge? After all, 90% of my energy was spent in the hour before I went somewhere: I conducted 15 interviews in my head, mentally repeated the facts 50 times, anticipated the joke I would tell if the situation became awkward, AND had Exit Strategies Alpha through Echo all ready to go.
… and all that was even before I triple-checked my look in the mirror.
Despair not, for I have found that the solution to curtailing this massive waste of energy is to pretend like I know exactly what I am doing.
You see, as I mentioned earlier, most human beings we encounter daily do not give two figs about “the other guy”. As my dear colleague quips, “Copernicus called; You are NOT the center of the universe.” And you know what, fellow introverts? THAT’S GREAT!
The truth is, the more I look nervous, the more I fidget at a party, the longer it takes me to say “Hello” … the more attention I draw to myself. However, if I stroll into a reception with my head held high, shoulders back, and smiling… people tend to leave me alone because they assume I am exactly where I am supposed to be, doing what I do. And, because I have my eyes open instead of glued to the floor, I am better prepared to exchange a greeting with someone else or accept their offer of a drink (or, as much as one may wish to avoid it, a hug).
This is true not only in social settings, but also business ones… people respond to good carriage; in fact, they admire it. I don’t know why… probably some innate biological response that says: “this lion knows how to stalk about properly; I don’t think I’ll try to eat her.”
Thankfully, my training as a singer has enabled me to conquer my inclination, as a tall girl, to slump… and as I progress in my profession, I am thankful for it. Whereas I used to be very self-conscious of being taller than the boys in school, when I wear high heels now I get compliments from the women and men (over whom I am towering) alike.
* Shoulders back
* Chest slightly elevated
* Spine straight
* Eyes forward
* Move with purpose
Not only will you look better but, because you are opening up your airways, you will literally breathe better and think more clearly (oxygen to the brain and all that).
Is it work? At first, until your body remembers how good it makes you feel, and then you will start to make these physical adjustments reflexively.
In any case, it is a far more valuable investment of your time than rehearsing for the encore performance of “Chow Mei–wait, I Meant Fried Rice! and Orange Chicken.”