In sixth grade, I played on the soccer team and secretly hated it. But all my friends were playing, and there had to be something wrong with me if I didn’t like it. I didn’t enjoy the constant worry of letting my teammates down, and if I’m being honest with myself and you, I equally disliked being gracious if a teammate let us down. What I hated the most was the danger of getting kicked by fullbacks twice my size and smacked in the face with the soccer ball.
Yeah, not my sport, but I showed up and did it because I thought I had to.
In college, Friday and Saturday nights almost always meant going out to bars, socializing, and dancing. I secretly loved the nights my roommates called it a “night in”. We’d sit around playing cards. But I went out because they did and there must be something wrong with me if I didn’t enjoy it.
This is not a story about peer pressure. It’s about the lack of a language to understand something that would have changed the story I tell myself and thus, my behavior.
I am an introvert and didn’t know it.
An introvert is not a shy person. It’s someone who prefers quiet and alone time, who likes one-to-one and small groups over large groups. An introvert is fed by solo time, not party time.
It would have been nice to know this when I was about six years old and finally broke down in tears to tell my mom I didn’t want to go to summer camp. Can we cancel? When I quit soccer (and traded it for track), I wouldn’t have felt like a failure. And well, all those years, I forced myself to go out to bars hoping 2 am wasn’t too far away. Well, I could have been curled up in my living room with a good book. Who knows how different things could have been?
Decades later, nothing has changed. I still choose a small dinner party over a festival or concert. I block out time on my calendar for writing and thinking. I go on solo “artist dates” (see Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way.
In an Aspen Ideas podcast, New York Times commentator David Brooks said that we see seven colors in a rainbow, but Russians see eight because they have two words for blue. Sometimes we just need the language to see things differently and change the story we tell ourselves about who we are. (As in, there is absolutely nothing wrong with me. I’m an introvert.)
And now, I look back on many things I would have done differently but instead feel grateful for knowing because it has become something I teach to others. What might be something you have been carrying around that would benefit from a nice little reframe?
If you have an experience or story you’d like to share, please hit reply. I’d love to know. I’ll be running a workshop on this topic in June and welcome your input!
Take care out there.
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