Growing up as an introvert, I always felt I had 2 personalities.
Most people saw me as the shy, quiet person who let others do most of the talking. Sure, the people closest to me got to see much more of the ‘real’ me who was open, honest and slightly amusing. But I was mainly happy in the company of outgoing friends who would keep the conversation alive, with me chiming in only when something snarky came to mind.
Yet I knew deep down there was much more to me, even if it wasn’t always outwardly expressed.
Then came the Internet. And online chat rooms. And email. And with those came new ways of interacting with people through writing rather than speaking. This opened up a whole new world because writing came easily for me. With writing, I was able to gather my thoughts in a way that didn’t seem available to me verbally. Plus not being face-to-face when chatting was empowering (admittedly, not always in a good way!).
Suddenly, the me who was inside was able to make herself known. And boy did she go to town! Like a bottle of champagne uncorked, what seemed like my true personality came bubbling out. I no longer had to wait for a break in the boring adult conversation to express my opinion. I didn’t have to try to speak loudly and clearly enough for anyone to even consider listening to me. In fact, I didn’t have to vie for attention at all. I simply wrote/said what I wanted, when I wanted and where I wanted.
The only problem was that I was leading a sort of double life.
In “real life” aka my offline life, I was still mostly known as the quiet, shy one–and continued playing the part. While my online persona was big and bold. Online I was someone who didn’t mince words. I dare say, some people were maybe even a little scared of me. Which of course was hilarious to my offline, oftentimes “wimpy” self.
At some point, though, the empowerment I had found in my online life did spill over into my offline one.
It started out of necessity more than anything else. As a website consultant, I had to deal with clients by phone (although I rarely had to meet them in person). At first I found it hard to express myself on the phone, but little by little, as my business knowledge and confidence grew, I was able to carry over most of my written communication into verbal business conversations. And I even started speaking at conferences (which blew away most family members).
But overall, in my personal life, I remained fairly quiet.
What I’ve realized now, however, is that perhaps my online persona wasn’t necessarily my true self as I had always thought. While it was certainly a different part of me than previously expressed, both aspects are me. Offline, the quiet person that I often still am is an authentic side of me, even if it’s not exactly the same as my more outgoing online persona. While both parts of me continue to exist, I’ve noticed over the years that they’ve started to merge.
In other words, I’m learning to be a little more quiet online and not say everything that comes to mind, while also speaking up more often and being somewhat more outgoing in real life. While I’ll always be an introvert at heart, I can comfortably be more sociable than I used to be in group situations.
Looking back, I can see what has helped to facilitate this merger of selves, was my thoughts about who I am. The “popularity” of my outgoing online persona gave me the confidence to imbue some of that into my offline self.
In addition, my inner wisdom seemed to be speaking up more often.
Or more likely, I started paying attention.
There’s no doubt that with age comes wisdom, and that has certainly played a part. But it’s clear to me now that I also had a different sort of inner wisdom all along which has come in handy many times throughout my life–whether I was aware of it or not.
Paying attention to this wisdom when approaching real life scary situations provides me with calmer thoughts. Which in turn makes me less anxious overall. In turn, I’m able to be more myself. At the same time, my inner wisdom knows when to shut me up online (as well as offline) when I’m about to say something inappropropriate. Snarky thoughts still come to me, but I realize that I don’t (always) have to say them. I’m far from perfect in either of those areas, but at least I know that I have the ability to access a “better me” at any point.
Have you also been living a double life?
Perhaps you act one way at work and another at home. If they both feel comfortable to you and you don’t wish it were different, then you’re probably already listening to your wisdom. If however, you feel somewhat held back in any situation, perhaps your various selves could do with a little merging. Most of the time it’s as simple as facing some of your basic fears. After all, fears are just a form of thought. Just knowing this is a big help.
You were born fearless.
For me, seeing first hand that part of me that was already fearless (my online self) opened up the possibility for new thoughts about my offline self.
What part of you is already fearless? It’s that part that is your inner wisdom and the real you. Pay attention and start really listening to that aspect of yourself and amazing things just may start happening!