I’m an insecure and introverted extrovert. There. I said it. The worst is over.
I’ve always been insecure and introverted. Most of my ‘world’ is internalised, in the sense that I’m a typical reserved Cancerian – tough shell on the outside, soft and gooey goodness on the inside once you break through the exterior. I’ve also been called a pineapple – prickly on the outside, sweet on the inside. It’s quite true. I’m a complete and utter bastard until you get to know me, then (if you treat me with respect) I’m one of the most loving people you could ever meet, yet I’m never completely secure in myself.
Why? Because I’m an introverted extrovert. There are many of us around and I can’t speak for the experiences of the rest of us, so I’ll just explain why I believe I am the way I am.
Being an only child from a divorced family was, on paper, supposed to mean that I ended up with double the attention. Not so much. In the end, I was lucky to get a quarter of the attention that most kids received from their parents. My absent father was busy with his new wife and step-kids (including a boy who was not only more rugged and manly than me, but he was also born on the same day in the same year and in the same hospital, one ward over, as though the replacement for my weak, non-sporting, slightly-effeminate, highly-emotional and ever-so-disappointing self had been ready-produced for my father so that he could easily ignore his biological son). My mother was far too focused on completing the TV Week crossword and indulging her addiction for Avon. I was cast emotionally adrift from a young age.
I spent many hours with my closest friend, Leesa, a wonderful girl who lived a few doors up. She was five years my senior and took me under her wing, treating me as the brother she never had (as she does to this day). She never pushed me to do or say more than I was happy to, and it was through her love and friendship that I began to come out of the shell I had gone into when my world had crumbled following my parent’s divorce.
Come high school, I was eaten alive. I was a sensitive and artistic young boy who wasn’t terribly worldly. I was called a ‘faggot’ before I even knew what one was and well before I knew for sure that I might be one. I was bullied mercilessly for years for my long eyelashes and big blue eyes, things that I had no control over yet which apparently branded me as a ‘homo’. I retreated ever-further into that shell of mine, yet it didn’t stop the relentless bullying. I couldn’t take it anymore. At 15, I attempted suicide by overdosing on sleeping tablets. Fortunately, I miscalculated the dosage, and I woke up with a bitch of a headache and an overwhelming sense of relief.
Around that time I started paying more attention to the sassy mouth of a friend of mine, Sarah. She didn’t take crap from anyone. One conversation on the afternoon school bus completely floored me and, ultimately, changed my life…
Boy (1 of 3): Sarah, you’re such a wh*re
Sarah: Yeah, you would know, were you watching?
Boy (2 of 3): Yeah I was watching, I saw you f***ing a pig!
Sarah: A pig? As if! It was a cow I’m telling you. A cow. MOOOO!!!
The boys fell silent. Sarah and I fell into hysterics and screeched ‘Moooo!!!’ to one another multiple times (as we often do today). The next day, I asked Sarah to teach me how to be a smart-arse. I was in the second half of Year 9 and, suddenly, the whole world opened up to me. Sarah never really taught me anything specific to say. She simply taught me to think of myself as being above all the sh*t that came with high school. It was the start of a whole new identity for me. That of the extroverted Jeremy. The ‘new, improved Jeremy’ was to be the face that I presented to the public for the next 20 years – that of a confident, capable and secure individual.
When I had my series of nervous breakdowns in late 2011 & early 2012, it became clear that my extroverted self didn’t want to play anymore. It has taken me more than three years to learn that I needed to better deal with ‘introverted-Jeremy’ and that I needed to understand that part of what had led me to the place I was in (i.e Depression-ville) was that I had tried my hardest to project my extroverted self while not taking the time to nurture (or even acknowledge) my introverted self. What was harder was learning to live with all of the insecurities I had tried to suppress. I’m not saying that if you’re introverted that you’re insecure; however, in my case, I’ve got a whole bucketload going on. It’s challenging to be your best self when you’re busy thinking that you’re worthless and just a pain in the backside to other people, in spite of how much love they may throw at you.
Today, I’m learning to deal with my insecurities, one day at a time. I ask people outright if I think there’s an issue. 99 percent of the time, there’s not. Which makes me more confident about being my true self.
And that’s a good thing. Because I’m not such a bad person, if you get to know me. Even though I might seem like a prickly pear at first sight.
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