When I was young (in high school and late teens), I wasn't just shy or hesitant to talk to people/find new friends, I also got most of my energy by staying at home and chilling out in front of the TV. I was a true introvert, though not as introverted as some. I enjoyed hanging out with people, going to parties, and even craved relationships, but I still needed my alone-time to recharge.
I'm not like that nearly as much as I used to be. Sometimes, I like to be alone to recharge. Watch TV, play video games, or read a book. But more often than not, I'd rather be around people. Human connection, relationships, community: these things help me recharge more than alone time does. I was thinking about this the other day because I USED to be an introvert and now I'm more extroverted. And I wondered if I was the only one. I also know that there are people who want to become more extroverted, so maybe my process can help them (though I sincerely doubt it since people are SO different, and there may be more to my transition than I realize).
So where did it start?
I got a job in retail. As a kid, my first job involved human interaction, but not in a way that forced me to be proactive about approaching other people. And, yeah, I was geeky in high school with friends who didn't always go out of their way to include me, which left me COMFORTABLE with being alone. But in retail, as a sales person, I was required to approach people. Over and over again, even if I sounded dumb, even if they judged me, even if I embarrassed myself last time I talked to them and they might think I'm an idiot now. I didn't have a choice. Either talk to them, or starve.
After three years of that, I got more comfortable with myself. I found it easier to talk with people, and when co-workers were hanging out and doing something that sounded like fun, I didn't feel like I was intruding if I asked them if I could join them (which would've been odd, anyway, since they made it clear that I was welcome to hang out). It also helped that most of those people genuinely wanted me to go out and hang with them, but I still felt a bit awkward about it. Like I didn't belong.
Nine years later, I don't hang out with most of them anymore, but that's how life goes sometimes. However, one of those guys is my best friend, and I drive 45 minutes every Monday to hang out and play D&D.
But back to the transition.
My wife helped me more than I can imagine. I had a couple of bad relationships that ended poorly, and my self-esteem was shot when it came to the relationship department. Granted, those girls weren't the only ones to blame, and it took me two years after the last breakup to realize that I was an immature, selfish jerk. But that realization helped me to understand how to love my wife selflessly. And now that I'm married, I have a better understanding of how I'm supposed to interact with other people. Therefore, I feel more comfortable around other people.
The final ingredient in this recipe is my writing group. They were extremely welcoming when I first joined. And they included me pretty quickly, asked me questions rather than waiting for me to approach them for conversation, and pulled me out of my shell. That was almost four years ago. Now, I can walk into one of those events, and if I don't know anyone, I can find at least one person to talk with. Yes, we have something to talk about (one of the perks of sharing a passion like writing), but the idea of approaching them doesn't terrify me.
I have an event to go to this weekend. And I'm really excited. Spending time with other writers will get me pumped up to write again.
Then there's Denver Comic Con. We HAVE to talk with people while we're there. Or else we're wasting our time. I'm looking forward (as intimidating as it may be) to walking up to some of the guests, introducing myself, and asking them if they'd be willing to sit down with us for a brief conversation. I may be exhausted by the end of it, but I'm more excited about this than I have been about anything for almost six months.
That's my story, for what it's worth, and I hope there's something in there that encourages a few of you. Feel free to ask me questions, and I'll see if I have helpful answers. Also, we'd love it if you shared a bit of your story. Are you an introvert or extrovert? Do you enjoy conversing with other people about topics you're unfamiliar with? How do you approach public events?