I’m not a bitch. Really.
But a few friends told me before they knew me, they thought I was a bitch. I wouldn’t say hi or smile when I passed by. I guess I really do have “resting bitch face.”
Now my friends know that I would rather eat worms marinated in sewage sludge than have someone dislike me. Too much of my self-worth comes from how others see me.
As much as I strive to make others happy, I struggle to begin friendships. Is there some sort of friendship manual that tell me exactly when a relationship has moved from acquaintanceship to friendship? Can people wear signs over their shirts that read, “Go ahead…say hi to me!” so I know I will be acknowledged for my greeting? At what point do I stop ignoring a person’s existence?
Sometimes, I would rather just put my head down and watch my shoes hit the pavement than make eye contact with someone. I momentarily panic trying to decide whether to smile and wave. Then I end up doing a half-grin and timid hand-raise that the person reads as a convulsion rather than a hello. At least that’s better than the devastating embarrassment of visibly saying hi and getting ignored, and the whole world watching it happen!
Ever since Myers-Briggs told me I am an INFJ, I’ve begun to accept that I can protect myself from social discomfort. I would much rather keep to myself than engage in a conversation with someone I don’t know that well. I mentally exhaust myself trying to come up with what to say next. So I stopped pushing myself to please others. Hence, I’m labelled a bitch.
I read an essay from KJ Dell’Antonia for The New York Times titled “Am I Introverted, or Just Rude?” It made me question whether I avoid others for my health and sanity, or whether I’ve just gotten lazy.
In the essay, Dell’Antonia tells how he went against his introversion because he had to.
“I came to the party. I made the small talk. And because I was raised in a world where manners mattered, I did more,” he said. “I introduced myself to strangers. I approached the lone older family member at the wedding for a talk about the bride. I was a good guest, and when necessary a good host. I did my mother proud.”
He said when Susan Cain’s book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” came out, society began to accept introversion, and therefore, so did he. Dell’Antonia began skipping work fund-raisers and leaving school functions before anyone could talk to him. He even stayed in his car to read while his children “attended a family-oriented athletic function.” He became “rude.” And, he concluded, self-care becomes selfishness when we care more about our needs than the needs of others.
So now I’m stuck. For most of my life I pushed myself to talk to people to make them happy, but I felt uncomfortable. Then I discovered I felt uncomfortable because I’m an introvert, and society now says it’s okay to be an introvert. As Dell’Antonia says, people now consider an introvert “a deep thinker with a rich inner life.” So I avoid situations that give me discomfort. I ignore texts when I don’t feel like talking to someone. I stay in on the weekends when I need quiet. When I’m surrounded by too many people I get cranky.
But people don’t know I’m an introvert until they get to know me. Until then, they just think I’m a bitch.
So at what point am I just using my introversion as an excuse to avoid people? That’s something I still have to figure out.