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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