It may not always be apparent, but I am an introvert, I find social interaction exhausting and I feel very awkward a lot of the time. I think being an only child meant that I was used to making friends for myself and exerting myself to interact with people if I wanted to not feel alone. But my ‘confidence’ has always been a front. I’m not a confident person, I’m horrendously insecure, I get anxious and worried about what my friends think of me and I don’t trust myself in social situations because I never know what to say.
So, I decided to fake confidence. I pretend to be chatty and sociable and brave, it is a bit like acting, I suppose?
After being the punch line of all my friends jokes at school, I found that if I was more confident in myself and a bit more bolshy and cocky, then they were less likely to tease me. I faked confidence and self-belief.
Whilst this worked to make ‘friends’, they weren’t real friends, because they were the ones I found when I was holding up a pretence, not the real, very sensitive, over-emotional, me. This changed at University, when my friends were the new family I lived with, they saw every breakdown, laughing fit and awkward moment and I no longer needed to protect myself with a ‘front’.
I took the advice ‘fake it ’til you make it’ in job situations and tried to present this outgoing, outspoken, confident version of me in interviews and when starting at new jobs, my hands were so sweaty from the anxiety I couldn’t bear to shake an employers hand.
The problem was, the real Molly isn’t confident, so the fake Molly didn’t really know how to act accordingly, so I felt like I never fitted in. I did a job in an area I’d never worked before, I was so nervous I thought I was going to faint or throw up my first morning there. Again, I tried to fake a sense of confidence, pretend I knew what I was doing. In some feedback, my superior said he had expected me to be more willing to learn and that I acted as if I knew more than I did. My ‘fake’ confidence betrayed me, and clearly, I came across as a know-it-all? Maybe I am a know-it-all sometimes, amongst friends I can be pretty opinionated but this was something completely alien to me. I did not claim to know anything, I actually really struggled with it, but my ‘fake’ front must have given the wrong idea and I’m still angry at myself for not just explaining how nervous I was. Had the superior known I was extremely anxious about my time there, my experience might have been a little bit easier.
So why did I bother writing this? In all honesty, I’m not really sure. But I wanted to write about the fact that we don’t need to pretend we’re confident, it’s ok to be an introvert, it’s ok to admit your nervous, we’re all human. I know now, that I don’t need to put on a front to get me through something difficult, I am allowed to feel the natural range of human emotions and that it is ok.
Life is too short to pretend to be someone else, be you, and own your flaws.