Meeting My Extroverted Self
This past week I was given a glimpse of a part of me I never thought existed. I’ve long known that I’m an introvert who needs ample time to herself to regenerate and look inward, but over these past few days where I was in situations that called on me to be extroverted and social, I realized with astonishing clarity that I am on a spectrum of introversion and extroversion like everyone else. I’ve often used my introversion as an excuse to play it safe in life, to not take risks socially. My aversion to social situations was exacerbated by my anxiety which often grew ten-fold in situations or settings where I knew I would have to be the center of attention. It was common for me to have a panic attack when I needed to give a presentation at work or when I knew I’d have to be in a social situation where it would be expected of me to mingle. I would begin sweating profusely, and the pace of my breath would quicken as if I’d just finished running all out for several miles. My voice would catch and I’d have to stop to catch my breath. I’d then lose my train of thought and rush through my presentation just so I could finish and not be the center of attention any longer. I’d want to hide and I often did, secluding myself in the restroom or some other solitary place until I could calm myself.
Something shifted for me this week. I began to wonder if my personality has changed or if there's always been this hidden extroverted side of me. For the first time, I did not feel anxiety when I was the center of attention. In fact, I felt engaged and even a bit charming. It was like an out of body experience where I watched this new version of myself talk with people like I had something they needed to hear. I was witty and people engaged with me. I felt alive in a way I haven’t before. I could feel energy radiate from me to other people and the energy they received from me was reflected back to me. I didn’t sweat. My voice was clear and strong. I cracked jokes. I sought out the spotlight. I found myself wondering who this person was and where had she been all of this time. Perhaps this part of me has always been there but she’s been buried beneath anxiety and a fixed notion of myself as fully introverted.
What allowed this version of me to present herself? I believe the answer is presence and authenticity. I was fully present and in the moment. I didn’t have a chance to move toward fear and anxiety, which were my old companions in these situations. I didn’t give myself the opportunity to go inward and find the fear in the situation. I was in the moment and when I’m in the moment anxiety doesn’t exist, it can’t exist. Anxiety is fear of the future and fear of the unknown. If I’m truly in the moment then I know everything I need to know because nothing exists outside of that moment. I don’t think about outcomes or perceptions. I’m just acting; just being me. I’m engaging with the moment and I found it a gloriously freeing place to be.
I also believe that as I live a more authentic life, the authentic parts of me that were buried beneath the expectations of others and my own self limiting beliefs are seeking the light of day. If I get out of the way and stop thinking about every detail of every situation, I free myself to live in the moment and in the moment I can be my truest self. I’m not worried about how others will view me or what the outcome of every word that leaves my mouth will be. I’m free to be my full self and getting a glimpse of my whole self was amazing and invigorating and inspiring.
I’m fully aware of this extroverted part of me now and I want to give it more attention and honor it because I was able to feel joy from extroverted expression which I never thought possible. Joy for me until this time has come in solitude. To think that I can also experience it with other people is beyond anything I’ve ever considered possible. I’m going to try and honor this newly realized part of myself by giving it more light and attention. It’s true I’m still an introvert, but there is a part of me that wants to seek the limelight and truly engage with people in a new way. I can’t wait to find out what this new part of myself will do and discover next. I look forward to getting to know my authentic self more and moving past my fixed beliefs about myself.