If you’re an introvert, I’ll not be surprised if you, just like me, have heard the following things from your more extroverted friends at some point in your life:
“Why are you so quiet?”, “you should speak up more”, “it’s hard to get to know you”, you’re boring”, you should relax more”, “you’re quite awkward”, “that’s not how you talk to people”, “you are quite weird”, “just chill for once”, “you should talk more”…
If you’ve heard these things many times before, chances are that they’ve made you believe that something is wrong with you and that you should change. At least that’s what I thought I should be doing and I’m not even fully convinced that I’m an introvert — more of an ambivert probably.
But I do share the majority of the characteristic traits that introverts share. For example, more frequently than not, I will prefer to spend my time alone doing the things I like instead of hanging out with other humans. I can, however, go out to meet people and appear to be quite extroverted — loud, gregarious, and talkative. If I don’t meet them on a regular daily basis, I will naturally appear quite extroverted as I will make an effort to interact with people and be friendly. But if people see me every day, then chances are they will view me as an introvert just because I generally prefer doing my own thing than have a small talk with those around me.
In the book “Quiet” I’ve read that introverts are capable of acting like extroverts for the sake of work that is important to them, people they love, or anything that they value highly.
Or course I don’t need to tell you that frequently pretending to be the kind of person you aren’t will not make you feel happy or be emotionally or even physically healthy. You will get tired, you will lose yourself, and you will feel unhappy. However, in a society that values and respects extroverts so much, being an introvert means that you’ll need to take on the role of a pseudo-extrovert from time to time.
As it turns out, many people, especially those in leadership roles, engage in a pretend-extroversion on quite a regular basis. Pretending to be an extrovert is neither good nor bad. It should neither be applauded nor criticized.
Some introverts will find it quite easy to behave as extroverts when it’s expected of them, while others, led by their moral compass, will treat such behaviour as deceptive. Whatever it is you believe the right thing to do is, many career roles that introverts choose still require to showcase some extroverted personality traits.
So when should you, as an introvert, pretend to be an extrovert? Then, when you know what your core personal project is and how this pseudo-extroversion can help you achieve what you want.
DISCOVERING YOUR CORE PERSONAL PROJECT
Your core personal project is something that you care deeply about and believe that it’s what you should do no matter what. It may be your true calling, career or something that will make you feel fulfilled and/or proud of yourself.
In the book “Quiet”, Susan Cain identifies three steps to finding your core personal project:
- Think about what you wanted to be when you were a child. If you wanted to be, say, a firefighter, then what did a firefighter mean to you? A good man who rescues people? A daredevil? Or maybe you were more excited about operating a truck? You may have known more about who you are back then than you do now.
- What kind of work are you gravitating towards? Do you ever volunteer to do something specific or spend extra time to research something out of pure pleasure?
- Pay attention to what makes you envy. We tend to be jealous when others have what we desire to have. You may be having a great job at a prestigious company, but feel envious of your friend that has a meaningful and fulfilling job at a non-profit that tackles problems that are close to your heart.
If you’re working towards something you truly believe in, you will feel motivated to act out of character when needed and will view it as a means to achieve your bigger goals. However, if you don’t have a core personal project to focus on, then faking extroversion will be very difficult and exhausting to you.
Just imagine living a life you don’t like trying to achieve the things you don’t care about because that’s what you think others expect of you. It doesn’t paint a good picture, but many of us may find ourselves doing.
FINDING YOUR RESTORATIVE NICHE
Even when you are on a mission to fulfil your core personal project, be sure to not play the extrovert for too long or too ofter. If you feel the need to act out of character too frequently, without having enough time to recharge, you will experience burnout.
Find a place and/or time where you can hide and be fully yourself in between of acting like an extrovert. It can be a physical place, somewhere where you can go and do the things that make you feel at ease and feel yourself. If not possible, try to get regular breaks in between the tasks that require you to act out of character, such as breaks between sales calls.
When possible, you should even evaluate whether there are any restorative niches at the company before accepting a new job offer. Think whether your job will allow you to spend some time on activities that are more in-character, such as reading, writing, researching, strategizing, etc. If not, then think whether you will have enough free time to do these activities after work.
Are you an introvert that needs to act as an extrovert as part of your job or maybe as part of your core personal project? Please share! This phenomenon is very interesting to me and close to heart too 🙂