Thursday, August 30, 2012

Yes, I Fake It!

I had a haircut yesterday in pursuit of the perfect pixie cut (and by perfect I mean   Michelle Williams’ cut....Is there really any other kind?).  So off I went to a a new salon and tried a new stylist.  I like my cut.  I still don’t look like Michelle Williams but then if I did, given that I’m Filipino, that would just be creepy don’t you think?  Anyhow, I did not come here to talk about my hair, and sorry to disappoint some of you but I also won’t be posting a picture of how my cut turned out.  Suffice it to say that I am booking my next appointment with the same stylist in a couple of months. 

Now here’s the thing.  It’s common knowledge that going to your stylist is pretty much like having a chat with your therapist, right?  Or is it just me and my penchant for over sharing?  Crap.  But really I don’t think it was so much as over sharing as just making decent effort to connect.  How about that!

Anyway, during my ‘therapy’ with my new favorite stylist JB, I casually mentioned that I consider myself to be quite reserved and more of an introvert.  This was after I had barraged her with questions and have spoken about my experience with IVF, having a miscarriage at some point, and that I had a whirlwind marriage.  Naturally, her reaction to my 'I'm-actually-shy' pronouncement was, ‘REALLY??!!!’, coupled with a genuinely perplexed look as if to say, “You’re pulling my leg, aren’t you?”

Then it hit me.

Dang!  What a good faker I must be!  It was obvious that she thought of me as someone friendly and funny, and quite possibly psychotic (which I’m sure added to my entertainment value really).  But reserved?  Introverted?  Nooooooo......No way!  And looking back now, I think that she's probably not the first person I've surprised with my self-labelling.

What people have to realize is that on the other side of that introversion is also a person afraid of failure.  Now what does that have to do with it again??  Well, the point is that though I'm still an introvert to the core, I force myself to step up.  When the situation calls  for it, I force myself to make the effort and show up (or maybe even show off, but not in an annoying way, I assure you).  I just make the effort to make sure that I minimize people's discomfort level, and trust me when I say this is not me being utterly considerate and self-sacrificing.  Because really experience has shown me that people seem to be quite uncomfortable when they find themselves around painfully shy people.  And when I sense their discomfort (which I very easily pick up on), it ends up further heightening my sense of discomfort...and then I panic, I could stutter, which then makes me feel like an idiot, then get lost in self-judgment and endless criticism in my head, self-loathing and in the end find myself wishing I had a cocktail of anti-depressants in front of me.  

I know that some of you are probably thinking that I should maybe consider the possibility that I may not really be faking it; that maybe I'm not an introvert after all and that this self-definition no longer holds true.  I assure you I've thought about that too but still believe that nothing has changed.  I will still choose being left alone over being in social situations.  I am still extremely self-conscious, edit my thoughts a lot before speaking (or writing) and will never really be the 'life of the party'.  I am still more internally oriented and will always find social situations, especially ones that are unfamiliar, draining and inexplicably stressful.  And understand that the stress is made even more real because English is only my second language.  Though I speak it well and on multiple occasions have had Americans tell me that I hardly have an accent, the truth is that I still find myself translating words in my head before I utter them.  It all adds to making social interaction real effort for people like me.

I'm not telling you all this to disillusion you, to make you wonder about the authenticity of every single person you interact with. When I show up, it's still me.  My thoughts are my thoughts, same beliefs, same values, same heart.  But I think it would be nice if we all put more thought into our interactions, gave it more value, and recognize that we are with a human being, with real stories, tensions, angst, struggles; that what we see are not just plain mindless proprieties.  It would be nice if we could consider the possibility that really each interaction involves REAL effort and that they are well-choreographed dances and even well thought out gifts for some of us who still need to take deep breaths before facing the world.  It's not effortless for everyone so let's make the efforts count.

Is there something similar you are 'faking' as well?  What takes effort for you which people perceive as effortless?