All of us behave differently in different circumstances. For introverts, the gap between our private and public personas can be especially vast. While we might be reserved, quiet and serious around acquaintances, we can be quite the opposite with our most cherished friends. Does this make us two-faced or fake?
A couple of years ago, one of my closest friends told me that a number of our acquaintances said that they thought I was shallow or snobby when they first met me. You would think that hearing this would make me upset, but my reaction amounted to little more than a shoulder shrug and a “meh, nothing I haven’t heard before.”
Like most introverts, I am accustomed to people misreading me. It started in elementary school when a supply teacher assumed I was an ESL (English as Second Language) student because I was so quiet, and continued throughout adulthood.
People have also consistently underestimated my intelligence and capabilities because of my quiet, reserved nature. Being underestimated can be one of the greatest challenges we face as introverts. We all have an innate desire to be recognized and appreciated. If we’re not careful, we can become preoccupied with gaining approval from others. We want everyone to like us before we even consider whether or not we like them.
At times, I wondered if I should try harder to show everyone my other dimensions: my silly side, my soft side, my deep thoughts and emotions. Here is what I realized:
It is impossible to reveal the depth of our beautifully multi-faceted personality to each person we meet. This would be exhausting. Furthermore, not everyone is deserving of our vulnerability. Our vulnerability is a gift we share with a trusted few. As Doctor Brene Brown puts it, “You share with people who’ve earned the right to hear your story.” In other words, we shouldn’t go around flashing our emotional underpants at just anyone
Being selective with who we share our deepest emotions, thoughts and dreams with does not make us shallow or two-faced. It means we value quality over quantity and loyalty over popularity. If that leads some people to misunderstand or underestimate us, so be it.