When I was dating my husband, I told him the legendary story of my 27th birthday.
I had invited several of my female coworkers from National American University – where we worked as academic advisers – to go out for cocktails after dinner. We ended up at The Brass Rail, Rapid City’s famous dive bar.
After a couple glasses of Sutter Home Merlot – which is the extent of Brass Rail’s wine list – I decided to climb on top of our table and dance.
My dance moves attracted the attention of everyone in the bar, and before long, I had people clapping and recording video of me on their phones. Think Katherine Heigl and James Marsden’s performance of “Bennie and the Jetts” in “27 Dresses” – mine was just as epic.
During my performance, I started sweating from the heat (my birthday is in June) and off came my jeans. The entire room cheered – even though I was wearing a long hot pink tunic dress over my jeans, so I was completely covered up.
“I can’t believe you did that,” my husband said after hearing my story, his face registering true disbelief. “I mean, you’re way too shy.”
I cringed. Shy. It’s been the word classmates have used to describe me since I was 5 years old. Yes, I was always the quiet girl throughout school – but it didn’t mean I was shy.
I have never thought of myself as a shy person, and I think my night at the Brass Rail proves my point. Although I had been drinking, I wasn’t drunk. I had simply shown a different – but very real – aspect of my personality. I can be very outgoing and fun-loving when I’m in the company of close friends.
Instead of shy, I prefer to describe myself as introverted. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I would choose to be by myself rather than to be around other people. I crave alone time.
I’ve also never been one to speak up in class or at public group meetings. I have never felt the need to make myself heard. But I’ve always enjoyed listening.
Over the years, I’ve learned how to embrace my introverted personality. Here’s what I’ve discovered:
- As I mentioned, being an introvert doesn’t necessarily mean you’re shy. In my opinion, being reserved (which is how I describe my personality) and being shy are two different personality traits. Don’t allow people to stick you with the “shy” label if you really aren’t. Stand up for yourself, and explain to them that being quiet, reserved and introverted doesn’t mean you’re shy.
- On the other hand, sometimes being shy and introverted do go hand-in-hand. If you are suffering from shyness, it’s time to jump outside of your comfort zone. “Gilmore Girls” actress Alexis Bledel has spoken publicly about her shyness. Her parents enrolled her in community theater as a child to help her overcome it. Take Bledel’s lead and immerse yourself in a new activity like theater, art or dance to express yourself and meet new people.
- Once you’ve identified yourself as an introvert, be sure to give yourself the alone time you need. Even if you’re in a relationship, have dates with yourself! I have spa nights where I slap on a mud mask, run a warm bath, drink wine and read Vogue. My husband knows not to bother me during my alone time.
- On the other hand, don’t isolate yourself completely. Since most introverts I know are completely happy being left alone, they also have a tendency to over-isolate at times. That’s why I make an effort to go out with friends and socialize from time to time, even though I may not always feel like it.
- Embrace your personality for what it is. Whether you’re introverted or extroverted, just be yourself. And remember, no one is entirely introverted or extroverted all the time. That’s the beauty of being human.