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Overcome Feeling Like a Fraud

Quiet Revolutionary Melissa Renzi’s story 

A couple of months ago, it dawned on me that I could be a fraud.

I was asked to teach a workshop at the Lotus Rising Women’s Celebration at Stonehouse Farm, west of Chicago. Lotus Rising draws roughly 150 women together for an annual weekend of camping, yoga, meditation, dancing, singing, art, and connection.

I immediately said yes.

My experience that weekend was incredible. I departed that Sunday with my windows rolled down, chanting “om namo bhagavate” with an ear-to-ear smile.

I was fully energized and rejuvenated. As soon as I realized this, my smile dropped. You see, my partner and I recently launched InnerConnected Retreats. As self-proclaimed “introverts,” we offer group-travel experiences specifically designed for individuals that lean toward this side of the personality spectrum.

Introverts supposedly get their energy from being alone—this is one of the defining features. Meanwhile, I spent a weekend being almost constantly with others, and I left buzzing with barf-worthy joy.

A few years ago, I began to understand introversion better and identified with a lot of traits (a need for alone time to recharge, distaste for small talk, preference for small groups over parties, social time limits, etc.). It gave me a place where I fit, where I could understand myself better and feel comforted that there are others like me.

But a lot of people in my life don’t see this part of me, largely because I have done a good job of hiding it and disguising myself in a way that fits into the extroverted world. I remember an ex-boyfriend saying, “What? I can’t understand this. When I met you, you were so full of life and dancing.” He constantly thought I was depressed when I retreated into myself—classic.

But I got to thinking: maybe I’m not so introverted. I mean, I have been known to break into interpretive dance all by myself at a wedding (alcohol changes lots of things for introverts). Maybe I don’t know myself. Have I glommed onto this label in an effort to connect more with my deeply introverted boyfriend or to create a passion project together? What if I don’t know myself well enough and I am not who I say I am?

I thought back to the weekend and the moments leading up to it. There was a part of me that was excited and a part that was hesitant. I was nervous about teaching a workshop to a large group. And a bit of anxiety crept up as I thought about who would be there, if I’d fit in, how much engagement would be required, etc.

When I arrived, a wave of social anxiety washed over me, and for the first hour or two, I thought I made a huge mistake coming there. I began thinking up all the ways I could get out of leading my workshop on Saturday morning and go home. But I was stuck.

I even texted my boyfriend, saying that I didn’t know what I was thinking. He firmly said, “You belong there just as much as anyone else. That’s your place, and you just need to give it time.”

Most women that weekend didn’t know the thoughts that occupied my mind space. They didn’t know I considered what kind of ailment I could come down with to avoid teaching. They didn’t know that this woman who appeared social was also very insular at times and needed copious amounts of alone time. They didn’t know it took effort to find the energy for Bollywood dancing after dinner when I initially just wanted to retreat to my tent. They didn’t know because I barely showed it. I socialized. I participated. I danced. I sang. And I left with a new network of sisters who lift one another up. I ended up loving it. 

So, how introverted am I really? And why do I feel a need to claim this label? What do labels really do for us? Am I an ambivert—partly introverted and partly extroverted, depending on the context? I don’t know, and I’m okay with that.

I guess I am a woman with diverse aspects of her personality, which gives me a great ability to understand those of others. And maybe that’s all that matters.

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  • Eva Liu, DC

    Thanks for this. It is exactly what I needed to hear today. 🙂

    • Revangel Flow

      🙂 Thank YOU!

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  • Yes, it is definitely a spectrum, Jesse. But unfortunately, we sometimes live in a world in which we want to place people in boxes… and I have sometimes been guilty of doing the same to myself. Thanks for sharing!

  • Elley J

    I really identify with this, Melissa. I believe that others will feel I am a fraud because at work I hide in my cubicle then at a company picnic I’ll force a small group of work friends to get up and dance with me. Those who don’t know me well are all very confused by this behavior (likely because they initially and erroneously labeled me as being shy), and part of me thinks that’s funny, and the other part of me indeed feels like a fraud yet has no desire to explain herself to anyone. I figure that if coworkers are interested in knowing what makes me tick, they can come to my cubicle and quietly do so. However if they expect to have that chance at a boisterous happy hour, they will wait a very long time. 😉

    As introverts I feel we are deeply inspired then driven to act, such as with dancing, or spending a fun time with awesome people that can even end up becoming somewhat raucous. Then of course we need that precious down time to reflect and recharge. I do feel like a fraud when I can’t find the energy to be with those same awesome people I just felt inspired by the day before (if that makes any sense). It’s kind of like, “well, we had a really fun time yesterday, but UGH… I hope she doesn’t expect that same energy level from me today. Maybe I’ll just hide from her”.

    I could go on and on about it, however I just want you to know that you are not alone. I think I’m an ambivert with more introverted tendencies, and for me it depends on the context, as you mentioned, and I’m OK with that too! 🙂

    • Yes, yes, yes, Elley!! The context often determines what we feel inclined to engage in at any given moment. And dancing, for example, is something that I find cleansing and healing for my soul. That said, dancing in a social environment often requires weeks of quiet time before and I need weeks after to recover from a crazy evening. I visited some friends from Spain a few years ago and stayed with them. They thought I was unhappy a lot of the time because I didn’t have the same energy for a whole week that I had on the occasional evenings when we would go out together when they lived near me.

      Thanks so much for your share!

      • Elley J

        I am so grateful to Susan Cain for bringing us all (quietly) together. It had been exhausting thinking most of my life that something was wrong with me. It has been so great reading about other people’s very similar experiences and feelings. 🙂

        • Yes, I agree. My partner and I recently led our first retreat with introverts. We didn’t know how it would turn out, but it ended up being an incredibly safe space for everyone to be themselves and quietly connect in a meaningful way. It’s a nice to have those reminders that we are not alone in the world!

    • LOz

      The company makes all the difference in the world. You obviously felt some level of comfort with them. At those times, you WANT to share. It’s exciting. Makes up for all those situations in which you wouldn’t say a word because you felt no “kindred spirits” around.

  • juan m Cerda

    Hummmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, Beautiful Share Melissa. As Your Boyfriend Said, You Deserved To Be There, I AM A Huge Introvert and When I Share This With People I Let Get Close To Me, Their Jaw Drops and They Say, Youuuuuuuuuuuuuu!!!!!!! No Way!!!!!!!!! That Always Cracks Me Up. As A Devout INTJ, I Also Float Towards ENTJ, This Has Transpired As I’ve Grown Deeper From Within and The More I Have Accepted Myself, Nooooooooooooo Matter What.

    As Awareness Expands, Seeing From Within,More and More, That We Are All Beautiful Pieces Of This Great Joyus, Divine Puzzle, We Call Life.

    Wishing You All The Best, Thank You Melissa

  • This describes me exactly, Melissa. Although I consider myself an introvert, I don’t fit neatly into that category. But I wouldn’t consider myself an ambivert either. I think I’m a “Karen-vert!”

  • Frauke Weber

    Very well written, Melissa. I have similar experience of asking myself` “am I really who I think I am?” Wondering if I more likely ” get” or ” become” what I want in life if I consciously avoid calling myself an introvert. Rather simply being aware that I act like one at one – even if most of the time.

    Do we not all have the freedom of being ” ambiverts – partly introverted and partly extroverted, depending on the context?” I salut you to be an ambivert – and be free! 🙂 Frauke

    • Thank you, Frauke! I do think we have the freedom to be whatever it is we are. My boyfriend and I just led a group of introverts on a retreat in Mexico. I was very curious to know what everyone would be like and I found such diversity on the spectrum that was really lovely and some were probably closer to ambiverts. Yet, I think it was helpful to use the label of Introvert for this particular trip, as it attracted people who wanted a certain type of experience and set the stage for a sense belonging and permission to be ourselves.

  • RevMarkatVU

    As a clergyperson for 37 years, I can say on my own authority, and that of a hundred or so colleagues, that feeling like a fraud is an occupational affliction. Being an INFP on the Myers-Briggs, I tend to feel the disparity between what I represent or symbolize in people’s minds and what in my own mind I know myself to be: a flawed human being under construction. But I have come to embrace imperfection and go easy on others who succumb to this syndrome.

    • Ah, yes, I see that in myself big time (I’m also an INFP). Yet, it makes sense that you’d be in such an occupation. 🙂

  • Manini

    I feel the ambiguous too, sometimes. I can be highly talkative and effusive at small get togethers. Except my need immediately after to retreat into my reading or my music /t.v. time reaffirms to me, that my “label” is definitely an introvert .

    • Yes, indeed, Manini. I think it’s important to remember that introverts do tend to light up when it comes to small groups and good conversation!

      • Manini

        Yes, don’t get me wrong. I do love the occasional weekly get togethers with friends and they are great fun and stress busters. But I do need the eventual retreat into myself for a battery recharge. 🙂

      • Revangel Flow

        That’s true!

  • Marlana Sherman

    I really liked this. I know every time I do a talk for my health coaching business or an essential oil class. I get nervous before but afterwards and while I am educating people I feel so much joy. Thanks for sharing!

  • gbacoder

    Nice story. I can relate to that. If you read this I think you are still likely much more of an introvert. A weekend is fine if not going in too tired. I have noticed after quality time connecting with people with similar interests – I go away feeling great and enjoy it even more afterwards. Yes I enjoy it after it happened! It does indeed give a great buzz to have connected and the memories seem better than it likely was at the time, if you get me.

    • Ah, yes! Our remembered self… I agree with you wholeheartedly. I often feel myself loving the present moment too in these situations, but yes, it is also that feeling after the fact… like you lived a meaningful time of connection, but can now return to solitude. 🙂

    • John Hopper

      Yes, I can feel energised in such situations, but know I have the solitude afterwards to enjoy the memory of those positive feelings.

  • 看了一遍原文,不懂;又看了一遍原文,还是不懂。再看了一遍原文,实在不懂。最后看了一遍回帖,懂了我为什么不懂……于是我懂了,人有时候要学会放弃。

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