There’s a fine line between the two. You may think they are polar opposites but if you push the pendulum far enough, they are side by side.
I have been a performer for most of my life. I was the kid that put on shows for mum and dad and went in every school production. I sang and danced and acted my way through high school and looked for every conceivable opportunity to be in the limelight.
Was I a show-off, a skite, too big for my boots, did I need to be brought down a few pegs? Not on your nelly. Internally I was a raging sea of self doubt, stage-fright and very wobbly knees.
So why did I put my hand up for it all? It’s in my DNA. I am the extrovert of extroverts.
Would I give up singing, dancing, acting, puppets showing off ? Easier to ask me to give up breathing. My family came along for the ride. We were known as the ‘Von Dowdings.’ Our family band played at weddings, birthdays, even funerals. I was the go to person for ‘Who can we get to MC/organize this event?’ I am the leader of teams, the organizer of organizations, the lead singer and the director of the show, the drama, the Christmas play.
To the untrained eye, it’s all confidence and easy-breezy on the outside, but on the inside, as Jerry Lee Lewis would say, ‘there’s a whole lotta shaking going on.’
I had to include a casting photo. My screen career was about to take off, then they asked me to sign the bit about nudity… Not even for fame. Goodbye TV career!
I can almost hear my introvert friends asking: ‘Why put yourself through it? Why not paint the scenery, or be the sound guy, do the makeup or the costumes?’ I’ll tell you why. We extroverts do it for the thrill. The sheer white knuckled terror of facing an audience and the freaked out feeling that you might forget the words or break a string. Waiting in the wings you wonder if maybe planning what to say before standing on stage would have been a good idea. You tell yourself that flying by the seat of your pants only works for so long. But let me tell you, there is no better feeling than flying.
Fear is not a bad thing when it’s harnessed. Given it’s head it kills everything. It’s a party pooper and it really doesn’t want you in any kind of danger. It flaps around like Will Robinson’s robot.
When we listen to the voice of fear, that inner critic, even those of us who love the limelight and ‘look’ confident, are filled with screaming self doubt. We are paralyzed along with everyone else. You see, introvert or extrovert, we all have to deal with fear and self doubt. The butterflies are real. Our stomach fills with their flapping and we strangely need another wee and a drink of water. It’s our system shutting down and going into flight mode. It’s normal.
I quickly learned to tell that panicked person inside to ‘relax, we’re not dying, this is fun.’ Somehow that clicked my brain into the right mode and the butterflies would snap to attention and all the energy would flow.
Telling stories is something I love to do and I used to think I was quite good at it. I still do sometimes. Writing is nothing like being on stage. It’s a thousand times worse. It’s like I’ve taken an introvert pill and woken up in introvert land and now everyone is judging me. No offence to all my lovely introvert friends and family. It turns out I quite like being locked in a room for hours on end, just me and a keyboard. Every now and then I surface for air and human contact, then I’m good for another few hours.
The self doubt rises up when it’s time to publish what I’ve written. Time to push that button and send my work out into the world. The arrogant confidence buoying me up, as I sailed along on a sea of euphoria, magically creating worlds and characters out of thin air, all disappears in puff of glitter. I see it was all smoke and mirrors all along.
I am learning all over again how to tell my inner critic, ‘We’re not going to die, this is fun!’ Say it with me now as I hit the button and publish this blog piece!
‘We’re not going to die, this is fun!’