The Extrovert Mask
This world is designed for extroverts. Public school is designed for extroverts. Work environments are designed for extroverts. Summer camps are designed for extroverts. So what should introverts do to enjoy the world without becoming overwhelmed by it?
A few weeks ago, I was a counselor at a week-long summer camp. I was in charge of a cabin of seven little girls, led activities, and talked to kids all week long. I was an extrovert all week long.
For two and a half years, I worked in a busy movie theater. One with lots of people and loud music in the lobby. Every shift, I greeted customers with a smile, interacted with coworkers, and sometimes trained new employees. I was an extrovert every shift.
I hated public school. I hated group projects, reading aloud, and being around that many people. I hated it so much that I took online classes and graduated a year early. It forced me to be an extrovert every day.
But that’s just the way life is. I’m not going to stop going to camp because I’m an introvert. I love camp; I’ve been going for thirteen years. I’m not going to quit my job. And yes, I graduated high school early, but I didn’t drop out and I’m still in college.
I still need to function as an introvert in an extroverted world. Specifically, an introvert with social anxiety. I needed to figure out what I needed in order to do that. Here’s what I found.
Introvert time. When I’d get home from work, I needed time by myself. I couldn’t go right from work to another event. I need a day after camp to recover. I need time after class to be by myself. Introvert time is whatever I want it to be, but I need to make sure it happens so I can recharge.
Water. I carry my water bottle everywhere. Drinking water helps calm me down and you can't talk if you’re drinking water so you get a few seconds of a break. Plus, the more water you drink, the more bathroom breaks you’ll take. Win-win. Which brings me to the next one.
Breaks. People really don’t care if you step out for a few minutes, and the bathroom is always a good excuse. At camp, I take kids to the bathroom all the time, or I give myself a breather between events. At work, I’d be the first to volunteer to grab something from the stockroom. At school, I’d say I had to go to the bathroom or refill my water bottle when I felt overwhelmed, then I’d go on a short walk down the hallway. Which brings us to…
Walks. Personally, I can't think unless I’m moving. Walking helps me recharge and even a short walk down a school hallway works. When I worked at the movie theater, I walked two miles there and two miles back to my dorm every shift. I could have gotten rides, but I needed those walks. I needed that half hour to think before and after each shift.
I can pretend to be an extrovert when I need to, but I can't forget that I’m not. I have to remind myself to take breaks, walks, or breaths. I have to let myself recharge enough to have the energy to make it through the shift, class, or camp.
It’s possible to be an extrovert, or to fake being one. The key is to check in on yourself. If you’re overwhelmed or drained, step out. Recharge for a minute and go back. Recharge before you leave. Recharge when you get home. Let yourself recharge and don’t let yourself be drained by the rest of the world.
You can be part of it and you can enjoy it, and you can do both without running yourself ragged.