Whenever I'm around other people, it feels like I have to put on a mask.
The strength of said mask can vary from anything between just being more energetic than I'm feeling like or going into all-out people-pleasing, entertainer model.
The latter normally happens in front of groups of people, and I have noticed myself do that recently on a couple of occasions - even though it's something I have become a lot more aware of over these last couple of years.
I think I struggle enough with regular small-talk even 1-on-1, let alone when there's a group of people and I feel like I go into Uber-pleaser mode to subtly compete for attention and validation, and not feel left out like I used to as a child, teenager and young adult (... and even now). That's something which has never really gone away, perhaps it never will. It's a part of me.
A couple of instances that occurred recently:
- Around my brother and his friends, I went into jokey mode and started to tease me brother and another one of his friends (who I'd met before, but still)
- At a big family brunch, I found it quite energetically-exhausting as it's just full of small-talk, small-talk, small-talk #uuuugh. Luckily I left there before I became totally depleted, and I penned this post from the cosy lounge area of my yoga studio.
As someone who naturally craves depth and connection, find small-talk *so* difficult and cumbersome. I feel like I've mentioned small-talk three times already in this post alone, but I cannot emphasise this enough. Yes, small-talk may be a necessity to act as social lubrication, but I've never found it a hoot and I'm pretty sure that I never will.
Inevitably, the capacity for connection and moving beyond small-talk gets trickier when you had a 3rd person to a 1-on-1 scenario, and even more difficult (impossible) as the size of the group gets bigger.
I think that's pretty much why, these days, I prefer just to stay in my own space where I don't have to make this forced, small-talk effort. It's why I like these quiet space where I can tuck myself away into a corner, headphones on, and just write - the truest form I know of self-expression and authentically being me.
For us introverts, it's widely said that we need to develop an "extrovert mask" when we're out in the world and I can completely relate to that. It's pretty much what I've gotten used to doing my whole life, at school and then in the world of work. I have become adept at flicking the switch "on" when needed, but I'm realising more and more how joyous it is *not have* to flick that switch on so much and just stay wearing my own "me" skins for as much of the time as possible, without having to put on any act.
Of course, that mask is always going to be there when it's needed - we all need to wear masks at different times - but it helps to be aware of it and limit to what extent I wear it.
Ultimately, it's when I'm really myself, chill out and relax, and gradually let my walls down, that real connection happens and meaningful relationships form.