Fake It ‘Til You Make It (to the Funny Farm)

There are real downsides to being an intense introvert in a highly social world.

As long are there are clear expectations and roles associated with a social scenario, I can function fairly well.  I don’t have problems giving a talk in front of a bunch of people because I know what I’m supposed to say, where I’m supposed to stand, how I am supposed to sound… I can host a party for 40+ people because the role of a hostess is clearly defined. But put me at a function at someone else’s house, or worse – at a professional networking reception – and I’m jumpy and uncertain and miserable.[1] But because I can present this façade of comfort, many people tell me I’m not an introvert.[2]

So my dread of saying or doing something wrong often comes across as anti-social or dismissive or awkward.[3]

And because I’m most comfortable working within clear parameters to function, squishy stuff like dealing with people’s feelings can be hard for me, especially in a professional setting. I feel empathy, and behind the scenes I advocate strongly for people, and I frequently tie myself in knots when I can’t avoid having to do things or give news that is to people’s detriment.[4]

But my inability to communicate my feelings easily to others often comes across as rude, or unsympathetic, or heartless.

And because I’m so paranoid about all THESE things, I’m desperate for affirmation that I’m worthy.[5] And this leads to my abject terror of being wrong, or being seen as inadequate, or worse – being seen as incapable. So I tend to be very direct and very vocal about my ideas in order to ‘prove’ I’m not useless. I’m that annoying person who can’t let any silence in a meeting or conference call go for more than like 4 seconds. If I ask a question and no one speaks up right away, I start to babble again before anyone else can talk. If someone else asks a question or for feedback and no one speaks up right away, I start to give my thoughts before anyone else can share.[6]

My need to be valuable often comes across as overbearing, or not collaborative, or not open to other people’s ideas.

It’s a total nightmare and makes me even more neurotic and depressed and anxious…

And all this when all I really  want to do in life is hide in my house, with two dozen pets, a book, and a cup of tea… and not talk to anyone.


[1] And I’m not just talking about socializing with mere acquaintances or colleagues… I’ve known most of my friends for decades, and I still get uncomfortable at social gatherings. I struggle to make casual “small talk,” even with them, so I end up feeling like I’m just babbling. I am convinced they find me annoying or stupid or boring.1a

1a No, SERIOUSLY – My best friend and I have known each other for over 30 years, and I still get nervous even with her because I’m certain I’ll do something ‘wrong’ and she won’t like me anymore. It’s totally nuts. And exhausting.

[2] By the way, one of my pet peeves – when you tell someone you’re an introvert and they say “You aren’t an introvert.” They don’t say, “I wouldn’t have guessed you’re an introvert,” they make it a statement of fact that I am not one… I’m sorry, do you have access to some part of my very being that makes you more knowledgeable of who I am than I myself am? …OMG, is it just me, or does this drive other people crazy too?

[3] Actually, I’m ALWAYS awkward. Awkward is my middle name.

[4] And being an administrator who’s responsible for communicating dictums from on high to the front line, AND responsible for creating the work schedule…. There is plenty of opportunity in my life for practicing my pretzel impersonation.

[5] I still feel like I’m back in school and hoping the cool kids will like me. 5a

5a Which being the fat, nerdy, geeky outcast type, they never did. 5b

5b I’m almost forty for crying out loud! Wasn’t caring about this kind of thing supposed to have stopped ages ago?? WTF?!?!

[6] I know, totally ridiculous that being an INTROVERT has, in this twisted, crazy, Escher-like way led to me talking MORE.

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Tiffani Panek

Wife of more than 20 years, mom, wrangler of a houseful of furbabies, and certified crazy person... Writing has always been a passion. I'm also an avid reader of everything from sci-fi/fantasy to historical accounts of creepy medical history. My first book A Home For Baby Acorn can be found on Amazon and Blurb, and my first adult venture - Wait, What Were We Talking About - will be available (hopefully) in 2018.

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