June is “Sharing Happiness” Month!

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I’m not a terribly emotive person. It goes along with introversion to be understated about my emotional expressions, and it’s okay. It does, however, sometimes hinder connection with others who perhaps aren’t as tuned in to my subtle expressions (and who maybe read my “I’m concentrating” facial expression as “I’m really angry with you.”).

The thing I want to work on for June is expressing happiness to others.

Although I set up my monthly areas of focus back in July 2010, I don’t know that I could have timed this one any better had I tried. Now that we’re moving and starting over in a new location, smiling when I’m happy might just help me in making connections with people I meet in our new home town.

June 2011 – Sharing Happiness
Focus: Find and utilize ways in which to express my happiness in order to share it with others.

Resolutions:

-Smile when I feel happy. This seems like a simple one, and I do smile. But I realized years ago after looking at myself in pictures and in the mirror that often what feels like a smile to me doesn’t look like much of anything from the outside. I’m going to make a point of smiling bigger, and perhaps even showing some teeth.

-Tell people when I feel happy. This one could get really corny, really fast, if I let it. I picture that strange smiling kid from A Christmas Story. You know, the one in line to see Santa behind Ralphie who’s wearing the aviator helmet and goggles and speaks in monotone about how he loves The Wizard of Oz? Yeah, I don’t plan on doing that. I can see smiling people and telling them, “That tickles me!” or “That delights me!” or something to that effect. My purpose is just to let people in on my happiness. Not only do I think that will help me make a connection with them, but I think getting used to telling someone when I’m happy might help make it easier for me to ask for help or support when I’m feeling down.

-Use hugs as a greeting and a goodbye. I’m not really a hugger. I’m notorious for the awkward hug: stepping on the other person’s foot, deciding at the last moment to put my face on a different side of them than I’d started to, or just not knowing how to initiate a hug so I announce it (“I’m going to hug you now,” which is very spontaneous and inviting). But I like hugs, and I think they’re a great way to make a physical and emotional connection with a friend. I’m thinking I might get better at administering them (and receiving them) with practice. Once again, with a whole new set of people to meet, I can try out my new persona as a “hugger.” Although I might start with a hand on their arm or shoulder before I go straight for the embrace.

-Laugh out loud. I tend to be noncommittal when it comes to laughing. My husband says I end up many times just sounding nervous when I give my lackluster, “Heh, heh!” Sometimes, though, I break out with a huge guffaw and then I feel self-conscious, mostly because my guffaws are generally met by silent stares from those I’m speaking with. I was at dinner with two friends a few years ago, and one friend was talking about how her husband had been out of work and he was beginning to get on her nerves. She was speaking in a lighthearted, funny way, and one comment struck me as particularly amusing and I guffawed. Rather than laughing or even smiling with me, both of my friends stared at me blankly and in silence. I was immediately struck with terror that I’d misinterpreted the situation and was laughing inappropriately at a painful story my friend was sharing. I actually couldn’t sleep that night for fear that I had made an enormous social faux pas and wondering if I should call my friend the next day and apologize for laughing so loudly. I finally got back to sleep after some deep breathing and some EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique, which with I was toying at the time. It was helpful, but just as helpful for me are brief mental body scans which don’t have all of the tapping of acupressure points and so are easier to do in public without looking even more socially odd than I already do). At any rate, I just want to feel confident committing to a laugh and just laughing when something strikes me as funny. Even as I type this, I realize I’m unlikely to follow this resolution because I would be too worried I was misinterpreting the situation, but I like the idea of it anyway so I’m going to leave it on here.

So, that’s what’s on tap for June! With any luck, all of my happiness techniques will come together and help me enjoy a week of six hours in the car each day with my husband, my kids, and my cats. And with any luck, I can find a balance between my introversion and sharing my emotions with others in a way they can understand.

Introverts Unite!

There’s my rallying cry.

Susan from The Confident Introvert posted a comment on my angst-ridden Hermit post. I checked out her blog. This is a woman who speaks my language.

In addition to her insightful posts, she links to a 2003 piece in The Atlantic Monthly entitled, “Caring for Your Introvert,” which helped me re-learn about myself, and learn a few new things, too, like why I enjoy speaking to large groups of people but feel overwhelmed in small groups. Actually, it didn’t explain why that was, just that often that’s the case with introverts. I like having a podium between me and a crowd. I do fairly well “working” a crowd. I always volunteered for these tasks back in my full-time working days, and I’ve always felt like I must be a “fake” introvert because of this, but apparently it’s fairly common for people who feel comfy in front of a hundred people to feel totally awkward in front of ten or fifteen.

Buoyed by Susan’s blog and her confidence as an introvert, I want to dedicate myself to living as my authentic, introverted Self. I can request to have a smaller, more intimate get-together with one or two moms rather than going out with a group to a restaurant or to an all-request piano bar (which turns out to be a variation of Hell for me). If I go to hear live music, I can make sure it’s a small venue with a corner I can hide in so I don’t feel so exposed. I can give myself permission to just stay home with a book or my blog if I need to recharge. And I can let myself leave the silences I’m accustomed to leaving in conversations as I consider what the other person has just said and what my reply should be. If other people fill in that silence without letting me speak, I suppose they don’t really need to hear what I had to say anyway. I can always blog about it later.

As an introvert, my facial expressions and body language are more subdued and often misinterpreted. A friend posted pictures of the homebirth of her second son. There’s a picture of her holding her baby for the first time, with her head thrown back, and smiling so large you can see all of her teeth. She’s clearly overjoyed. The picture of me holding my son for the first time shows me with furrowed brow, looking very serious at this little creature in my arms. I can assure you, the emotions I was feeling were closer to what my friend was expressing. I was absolutely elated. I still feel ecstatic when I think about my awesome homebirth. I just don’t show so many teeth when I think about it.

When I mentioned this difference to my friend, saying that I loved that picture of her and the emotion she expressed, but that I’m just not that emotive, she said, “Well, that’s something we’re going to have to change!”

I hadn’t really thought there was anything wrong with my reaction to my son’s birth until then, but I found myself agreeing with her that I should be more emotive. I’m choosing now to go back to feeling fine about my reaction as it was. This was me at my most authentic, my most exposed but also my most comfortable, confident, and powerful. I don’t want to change anything about that.

Are you an introvert? Are you ready to unite to help educate the extroverted world about our unique skills and offerings simply by not backing down from acting like ourselves?

Susan asks on her blog, “Are you with me?” I sure am. How about you?