October 1, 2011
Must Hide Before They Figure Out They Hate Me!
I used to think I was pretty outgoing, but I feel like I’ve gotten a LOT less so over the past few years. I think my friendliness has been sabotaged by my own insecurity. I’m so convinced that people won’t (or don’t) like me that I shrink into myself and don’t even try. I mean, surely they’re thinking that my clothes are so three hours ago or that my house smells like baby diapers or that they’d rather watch their hair grow than listen to my stories or that I’m too conservative or that I have the sense of humor of a toenail or the intelligence of a toothpick or…. So since I’m feeling insecure, I don’t act friendly, so I don’t feel friendly, so I don’t act friendly…. Could there be a pattern here?
I read a research study where they took groups of three people, put them in a discussion group, and told one to act extroverted, one to act introverted, and one to be neutral. The people who were acting like extroverts were told to act “bold, spontaneous, assertive, and talkative,” and the people acting like introverts were told to act “reserved, inhibited, timid, and quiet.” When they finished, each person had to report their mood. Next time they came in, the roles were switched and they again had to report on their mood.
You might think that the natural introverts in the study would have found it stressful to act extroverted, but interestingly enough, the participants reported a higher mood when acting extroverted, regardless of their natural tendencies. The writers summarized the findings: “This suggests that regardless of your natural level of extraversion, just acting in an extraverted manner can make you feel better than if you act introverted. *” This is in no way a criticism of introverts–I would consider myself an introvert because, while I love people, I’m worn out by too much interaction. But the point is that, even if we’re naturally rather shy, we can still act friendly and it will probably make us feel less stressed and more confident in the end.
Sometimes I think being outgoing just boils down to being others-focused. Think about it: Out (away from myself, towards others) Going (taking the effort to move towards someone else). When I’m sitting there, focusing on myself and worrying that everyone hates me, the message I’m probably communicating (especially to anyone else who might be insecure) is that I don’t like THEM! Seems a tad counter-productive. I think the people who are easiest to like are the ones who (regardless of how bubbly or soft-spoken they may be) just plain act like they enjoy being around me. That takes just forgetting about myself and showing interest in the other person, but I can’t do that if I’m constantly worrying about myself!
The point to myself (especially as we’re about to move to a new state) is to stop worrying and just act friendly. Smile. Ask questions. Think more about the things I like about the other person than the things I’m sure they don’t like about me. Listen. Get over myself. As my mom used to tell me growing up, “Everyone is too worried about their own zits to notice yours.”
(*Study was in: Feist, J., & Feist, G. (2009). Theories of personality (7th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill)