I have finally come to a point in my life when I accept my introverted self, even celebrate it, and certainly no longer apologize for it. If I don’t want to go to a social function, I don’t. If I don’t want to talk after nine o’clock at night, I don’t. If I want to sit in the back of a room by the door during a conference, then spend lunch alone in my car, I do.
But I also do want to attend social functions sometimes, and I’m here to share with you how I handle those events. Because, yes, there are times when I want to go, I want to be social, I want to be liked and remembered, and I want to go home feeling a sense of accomplishment (because that is what every single social event is to me—did I pass or did I fail?).
What, you may ask, do I do to get my mental self ready for two-plus hours of socializing?
I pretend to be someone else.
This may rub some people the wrong way, but give me a minute to explain. I don’t always want to be the wallflower, the one who didn’t show, the one who left too early. Sometimes, for my mental and emotional well-being, I want to connect with other humans.
So I act like an extrovert.
Go ahead, mull that little idea over.
It can be an actor trying on a role.
It can be a beach bum trying on a suit.
It can be an introvert who wants to attend the party so she puts on her dancing shoes, dons her “extroverted” hat, and heads out the door.
What would this look like, you ask? Let me create a scenario:
It’s the fourth of July, the quintessential day for summer fun.
The scent of the grill firing up permeates the neighborhood. Children can be heard screaming either at the pool, or as they dash through the water hose in a backyard. People are either leaving homes to attend a party, or people are hosting parties at their own abodes.
Wine coolers (does anyone even drink these?)
Most people I know would like to do something with friends or family on a holiday like the fourth of July. Most people I know, including me, wouldn’t want to be the person who stayed home alone because of the fear of the exhaustion that can come with a social event.
Here is your challenge (and this is what I do):
Get up off that couch, you lovely introvert you, and put on that extrovert hat.
- Shower and get dressed in clothing that not only flatters and is breathable, but that you can also be comfortable in. I loathe uncomfortable clothes and will high-tail it away from any situation in order to change.
- Comb the hair, brush the teeth, take a deep breath, release, then smile into the mirror. You think actors and actresses don’t try out their new roles whilst gazing at themselves in the mirror? They do. And you can too.
Don’t worry. No one will see you. This is your secret. This is your moment to be alone and try on a new persona.
- Practice breathing. This is a big one. I tense my stomach when I’m in a social situation, and my breath is shallow to say the least. Sure, it helps my stomach look flatter, but it prevents me from true and proper, and relaxing, breathing. If you’re taking nice, deep and regular breaths, then you will automatically take your stress level down a notch or two.
- Stop by your local alternative health store, book store, any store, and buy a crystal. My favorite is a rose quartz worry stone I purchased in Florida. It fits beautifully into my hand, and reminds me to breathe. To be calm. It also reminds me to love myself and others.
Those we’re socializing with are not the enemies. We are not the enemies.
- Keep your head on straight. What do I mean? If you’re going to drink alcohol, think about pacing and your limit. Is it one glass of wine each hour, or one glass of wine for the evening?
Let’s be serious—alcohol can be a social lubricant, but it can also a) make you so tired you leave early, which we’re trying to prevent or b) make you start acting like…well…someone you don’t want to act like. Prepare yourself before you go. Sometimes sipping a cold Coke or Pepsi can be great in place of alcohol. A little sugar. A little caffeine. Keep yourself alert and on-track.
- Have an escape plan. I find that if I know I can leave, then I am more prepared to stay. If you’re going with a large group and you’re all riding together, that can create a problem. Can you take a taxi, Uber or Lyft home if you need to leave? Can someone else give you a ride? Can you, and I’m shocked I’m saying this as someone who is socially anxious, go by yourself and meet others there?
- Be realistic. In the end, all the preparation you do to try on the extroverted hat for the day will dissolve and you’ll be your beautiful introverted self once again.
And that’s the way it should be.
There is nothing wrong with pretending. We started playing make-believe as children and it is applauded as an important part of growth. You can also pretend as an adult, and doing so can help you create memories and have experiences you might not have otherwise had if you had stayed home.
We all want enriched and rewarding lives. I have cultivated my life as an introvert as quietly and appealing to my sensibilities as possible. But I also know when I need to force myself out of the house and into the middle of that party.
Everyone needs to break out of the mold, so go ahead. Try on that extrovert for size, and have a blast. Then huddle under your covers the entire next day, because in the end, you will always be an introvert and that is just fine, thank you very much.