Faking it: How to know when to act more extroverted

Susan Cain quote love is essential gregariousness is optional

“Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.” ~ Stephen R. Covey

Extroversion is often seen as the ideal standard to strive for. As a result, we introverts practically come out of the womb hearing about how we should be more extroverted.

We’re made to believe that putting on the mask of extroversion is our ticket to popularity, success and acceptance. This might be true in some ways. But the reality is that the things we achieve by ‘faking it’ often feel more like a burden than a reward.

Extroverts want different things than us. An ideal day for most extroverts probably looks drastically different from our dream day. What energizes them drains us. What feels completely natural for them can be utterly exhausting for us.

When it comes to acting extroverted, faking it ‘till you make it could be a one-way ticket to a life you hate.

So. Now that we’re clear on how I feel about introverts faking it, let’s go over the caveats and exceptions.

The most important question to ask yourself before faking it

Before you even think about getting your extrovert on, I implore you to ask this one very important question:

Will doing this move me closer or further from my long-term goals and values?

If the carrot is big enough, acting like an extrovert for a while can be worth it. In other words, if faking it gets you to where you actually, truly, honest-to-goodness want to be in this life, go for it.

I strongly recommend doing some soul searching first to make sure your desires are really your own. In a society that worships the extrovert ideal, it’s all too easy to adapt our dreams to fit into that ideal.

Consider the cost

There is a price for faking it. It costs us precious energy and time. The other day, one of my followers commented on how difficult it is for her to do creative work after she has spent time acting more extroverted. I know exactly what she means.

Every little drop of energy we put into acting out of character means that we have less mental and physical energy for other things. These other things might be activities that bring us great joy and fulfillment.

Consider whether the price is worth the outcome. Is behaving more extroverted giving you a big, fat, juicy payoff? If not, why bother?

Go with the flow

Sometimes acting extroverted feels natural. Many introverts go through cycles of lots of solitude followed by short bursts of social activity. When our energy levels are at their peak, we might enjoy playing the role of social butterfly for a while.

Perhaps, you like to store up all of your innie energy during the week and then get your extrovert on every Saturday. This is my modus operandi. Sometimes I’ll even go weeks at a time with minimal human interaction and then spend a week or two going out and socializing.

Bottom line: If it feels good and natural, it doesn’t qualify as ‘faking it’.

Final thought

Any introvert whose soul goal is to become more extroverted is aiming too low.

The world will be a better place when introverts stop trying to be something they’re not and start embracing the gifts of their introversion.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. How do you feel about faking extroversion? Have you done it in the past? Was it worth it?

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7 Comments

  1. I’ve always found that work is worse for faking it. One job in particular involved a lot of networking and corporate hospitality. I didn’t realise at the time how much it took out of me but looking back, it really drained me. Never had a problem in my social life although I’ve been called anti-social on more than one occasion!

    Reply
    • Thanks for posting a great comment, Keith. I think a lot of introverts struggle with networking (unless its the online kind, which we <3). It is amazing how things start to make sense once we understand introversion a bit more. Oooh, that’s why I was exhausted and cranky all the time!

      Reply
    • I am actually at this point in my life work wise. I have being told my manager that I have to fake it until I make it. I absolutely wanted to quit at that moment. I can’t fake it I don’t like it I’m not good at it and I refused to do it. But it seems like I have to be fake in order for me to keep my job I am a retail banker so I have to socialize with I hate I still do it, but for extroverts bosses it’s not enough idk what to do? I have a 2 year old , I’m pursuing a career as a nurse and I don’t get any financial help with school, so I have to work, I’m lost

      Reply
  2. My introversion runs deep enough that faking extroversion isn’t really an option for me. I *can* do it, but at a great personal cost. As I’m also a HSP, I’ve found that there’s a very thin membrane between my emotional content and others’. And all it takes is enough tension and hyper-awareness of their feelings to override mine. It’s honestly not something I like about myself: how easily I mirror other people’s feelings if I sense it’s expected.

    And when that happens, I’m a different person. The outcome is always the same: meltdown. For me, faking extroversion is a slow burn, because I’m just not wired for working a large room of people. I’m not wired for long periods of socializing. My solitude vs. social engagement balance is something like 70/30.

    Even if I may get something out of it, it’s not worth putting my energy reserves on tap. I can’t handle demands on it for very long at all.

    That said, my passion does genuinely emerge when I’m excited about a new idea, something I learned, or when I’m focused. And I do come alive when I meet someone with an interesting perspective and life. These two things are enough for some to walk away with the impression that I’m extroverted.

    The trouble comes is when it sets the expectation that you’re *always* like that. And when you dial back down to your standby setting and all that outward energy is directed back inward, some people are like “what’s wrong?” That’s why I can’t really do it anymore.

    I’m either all in or completely out. Any attempt to stay in when I’m clearly out has just led to misery for everyone involved. No matter how many reasons I’m given, no matter how beneficial I’m told it will be. I have to understand the benefits intrinsically.

    Every feeling becomes simpler when it comes from inside. Pressure to feel or act a certain way that comes from the outside will at best lead to a halfhearted imitation of that proposed ideal, and at worst it will lead to war between your public and private self.

    So as you say, it’s *absolutely critical* to decide if the cost of acting counter to your nature is justified on your own terms. *No one else* can make that decision for you whether you’re introverted or extroverted.

    I was overwhelmed by this for years, and I hope what I’ve shared will help someone else.

    Reply
    • Hi Chatman, great insights. Thank you for sharing your experience with faking it. I also find that I’m ‘all in or all out’ a lot of the time. And you’re so right that no one else can make the decision for you about whether you should behave out of character. 🙂

      Reply
    • What a great comment and thank you for posting it! You And Michaela articulated very well what I have felt for so long. It breaks my heart to know that after all these years it wasn’t just me being a weirdo. No, I was introverted, or rather, I was an introvert. I devoted all of my energy into being an extrovert or becoming more extroverted, and it resulted in social anxiety disorder. Now 25 years later, I have no idea what my my talent is because I spent all of my creative energy on creating a false personality in order to fit in better (and sucked at that). Your generation is very fortunate to have good exposure to this kind of understanding and self-awareness. … Please keep up the good work! It’s helping to make the world a better place. 😃

      Reply
  3. I love your insight on introversion!

    Reply

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