My best friend in high school was a pretty, outgoing, talkative extrovert. Not only did she have gorgeous skin, a cute figure, and shiny brown hair that fell practically to her bottom, she was also flirtatious, opinionated, and quick to laugh. Boys were irresistibly drawn to her, and it seemed to me that she could get the adoring attention of anyone she wanted. At parties, she was the center of attention, the one laughing the loudest and flirting the hardest, and enrapturing everyone she met. In social situations, I felt dumpy, clumsy, and dull next to her.
About 400 years later, when through the modern miracle of the Internet I reconnected with people from high school, I was dumbfounded to learn that I hadn’t been nearly as invisible as I’d thought. People noticed me; boys noticed me; even one of my secret crushes noticed me and admitted that he’d had a little crush on me too. (Too bad neither of us said anything at the time, but that’s high school.)
This realization forced me to recast my whole high school experience and, to an extent, my own self-image in a different light. A softer one.
Here’s the point: Sometimes we imagine that to get attention, we have to compete with extroverts’ glitter and sparkle, and that can be discouraging. But it’s also not correct. Remember how your mom used to tell you that if you just be yourself, the right person will come along? For what is probably not the first time, your mother was right.
The reality is that you are not competing with extroverts for attention. Extroverts and introverts are apples and oranges. Extroverts sparkle—introverts glow. Extroverts are fireworks—introverts are a fire in the hearth. Extroverts attract people who like razzle-dazzle—introverts attract people who want to bask in their warmth. Remember that, if you’re looking for a one-and-only.
If you come from a family where introversion was not appreciated (or even if you didn’t), you might set out on your quest for the right relationship with a one-down mindset, imagining you will be easily overlooked or will have to behave like someone you’re not in order to get attention. But that’s not the way to go. People are drawn to others who are comfortable in their own skin, which for you means knowing yourself and liking who you are.
Besides, trying to be who you aren’t in order to attract a mate can backfire in many ways. First of all, there’s a matter of truth in advertising. My husband still brings up the very sexy top I wore to the party where he finally asked me out. “I never saw it again,” he says, with a hint of wry bitterness. It was the first and only time I ever wore that thing. It just wasn’t me. It was a blouse for an exhibitionist, not an introvert. While Tom has forgiven the deception (sort of), it offers a lesson: Don’t misrepresent yourself, or, even if everything else works out, you’ll never hear the end of it.