What It's Like To Be A Secret Introvert Who Seems Like An Extrovert

by Zara Barrie

I'm the girl who arrives at the party and disrupts the peace. Rattles the ambiance. I arrive a loud, haphazard, train wreck of a girl.

I teeter in nine-inch heels, an array of colorful bangles loudly clanking against one another, lashes dramatically fluttering, obtrusive oxblood red lips, and perfume that has been so heavily sprayed on my body it leaves innocent party victims temporarily suffocating in a sickeningly sweet cloud of designer fragrance. I shamelessly draw unrealistic freckles across the bridge of my nose with an eyebrow pencil. I don't leave the house without dusting glittery highlighter on the tops of my cheekbones. I wing the f*ck out of my liner.

And that's just my appearanceMy career is as LOUD as my signature faux fur coat.

I write deeply personal, intimate and embarrassing essays on the Internet detailing my whacked-out life mishaps for a living. Just this week, I've written about role-play sex fantasies, an ex-girlfriend, catching pink eye from oral sex and being f*cked up about my weight. And it's only Wednesday.

I have no shame letting it all hang out, babe.

I'm also an actress who's forever cast as the crazy party girl with a cocaine habit. Last week, I made out with a total stranger on camera in a scene. I've spoken on panels for audiences of 1,000+ people about my sexuality. I've talked about personal style on live talk shows. Everything about me is seemingly outspoken and ~out there~.

People who don't know me in person naturally conclude that I'm the most outgoing b*tch on the block.

And it's true. Sort of. I'm fearlessly expressive in my personal style and in my work. But my real life is a far quieter story. Especially when it comes to dating.

Girls will see pictures of me or read my articles prior to meeting me, and they'll expect to be going on a date with this extroverted, crazy, free-wheeling lesbian who initiates sex and spills her deepest secrets before the second glass of champagne.

And when they arrive to find I'm a little timid, a little nervous, maybe not as tall as they expected ... it can really throw a girl off. It's like ordering a strong vodka martini with a twist and ending up with a civilized glass of Sauvignon blanc.

I get why they're confused. The outside doesn't match the inside. People take in the sight of me in lace tights and over-the-knee boots and diamond ear cuffs and shimmery eyelids and expect a wild, fearless vixen of the night.

I'm far from being a wild, fearless vixen of the night. I'm not the loudest girl in the room. I'm not even all that wild (well, I'm pretty f*cking wild, but it takes time for me to unleash my wild). I'm surprisingly awkward and proper and well-mannered and British. I will press you with polite questions to deflect attention from myself.

I'm highly sexual, but I don't make the first move. Ever. It takes a while for me to feel comfortable enough to peel back the layers and expose the raw parts of myself.

I look like a party girl, but I'm not really a party girl. And I'm really, really, really f*cking shy. Like, debilitatingly shy. I have to coach myself before every single social interaction. I have to muster up courage to ask a sales person for help. Pathetic, I know.

So if I'm so secretly super shy, why am I fueled with this bizarre desire to constantly put myself into situations that are massively extroverted and outgoing? Why do I dress in a way that commands so many looks from strangers?

I ask myself these questions every day of my life. It used to baffle me. But now that I'm raring toward 30, I think I might have figured it out.

And I think I'm not the only one. I think it's true for a lot of creative people.

Maybe the sole reason I crave expressing myself through my writing is because it's so hard for me to express myself in real life. Maybe the reason I love acting is because it gives me an opportunity to be open with my feelings, which is something I struggle with in my personal relationships. Maybe the need to express myself so boldly through fashion is because it provides me with a creative outlet for all the sh*t I feel inside but don't have the courage to say out loud.

I used to hate being shy. I used to be ashamed of being so socially guarded. But you know what? I'm sort of grateful that I'm wired the way I'm wired.

If I could effortlessly breeze into the room with zero social anxiety and fearlessly flirt and engage with every person in the room, would I even feel this pressing need to write it all out? If I could boldly express myself every day, would I have such a deep desire to express myself on paper? If I could openly feel all these feelings, would I have the irrepressible urge to feel them on stage?

I'm not sure that I would. And when I really think about it, the emotionally expressive creatives, the artists and writers that I admire the most struggle to express themselves day to day. The great actors are painfully shy in person. The best writers are textbook introverts.

And maybe it's the inner shyness that's the very driving force behind creative expression.

And at this stage in the life game, I would choose my ability to create raw work over being the seamlessly social girl. Friends can be fleeting. Nights out can be empty. Breakups are inevitable. Acting and writing are the constants in my life. Connecting with people through my work is the thing I value the most.

And through it all -- the depression, the sadness, the breakups and the excruciatingly bad days -- I've never been robbed of the ability to create.

My lovelies, don't fret if you feel like disconnected, or displaced, or painfully shy in real life. The older I get, the more I realize that the magic lies in the "flaws." All those personality quirks that you've hated yourself for are actually your greatest gifts.

You're quiet because you're taking in the world. You feel disconnected because you're seeing sh*t that others can't see. You're socially anxious because you're picking up on all the frenetic energy in the room. You feel oversensitive because you're feeling the feelings of everyone around you, and while it's draining and hard, it's giving you this incredible empathy that's palpable in your work.

I don't think ignorance is bliss. Feeling a sh*t ton of feelings and having the ability to create something that others can connect with -- now that's real f*cking bliss.