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Clearly, I am a huge fan of the "Ask the Audience" option

I had lunch yesterday with a friend (one of the few who reads this blog, so say hi), and we were talking about a trip he took last year where he spent a couple of days wandering alone around Tokyo and eating unidentifiable foods off of conveyor belts. Referring to being alone in Tokyo with only moderate Japanese, he said "It isn't a bad way for an introvert to explore a city."

I would never have described him as an introvert. Introspective, sure, but he's an artist and I think a tendency to live in your own head goes with the territory there, but not an introvert. Since then, I've been thinking about the differences between how we describe ourselves and how others describe us. For example, I would definitely call myself an introvert, but if you met me, depending on when and how you met me, you might have a very different opinion. Meeting and talking to new people is such a horrifying prospect for me that I sometimes go a little nuts and talk non-stop until I have utterly humiliated myself and made everyone on the room a little embarrassed for me, and if you were unfortunate enough to witness one of those displays you would likely call me many things, but not an introvert.

This friend of mine, though, we have been friends for nearly eight years. I certainly don't know everything about him, but I know a lot, and I was surprised to discover such a difference between the way I see him and the way he sees himself. Maybe he does the same thing I do, puts on an act to cover it up (but with far less humiliation, to his eternal credit), or maybe it really is just a difference of perception. Maybe it is just the difference between the view from the inside and the view from the outside.

Since I've got this on the brain, I thought we would make a little game of it. (You know how much I love playing games with the internet.) What's a word you use to describe yourself that you think would be surprising to someone who knows you fairly well? I suppose as this is my game I have to go first, which I hate. After great deliberation, my word would be "insecure," and I suppose you can tell me whether that is surprising or not.

Comments (49)

Well, I was going to say insecure, but I guess I can't now so I'll say bad decision maker. I can't make an important decision w/out constantly thinking I made the wrong one.

I read a definition of extrovert/introvert that I've found very helpful: extroverts recharge by being around other people; introverts recharge by being alone.

People who know me are most surprised to hear that I'm an introvert: I'm a communicator, and the kind of person who will approach strangers and ask questions. In college, I used to hug people all the time. Me, an introvert? But I also had to have my own dorm room, because I was going insane with no time by myself. And I have almost no REGULAR friends, because I can only manage superficial contacts. INTROVERT. It's me.

Shy. Which surprises many people that know me. Because I can be rather loud and opinionated most of the time.

It's possible that asking the Internet to confirm whether or not "insecure" is the right word to describe yourself might, in fact, mean that you're insecure. But what do I know?

Seriously though, I'd say if you are insecure (from what little I know of you via the Internet), it isn't any more than anyone else. So yeah, you're playing it off well!

My word would be shy. I seriously dread meeting new people - to the point where I will avoid it whenever I can. And when I can't avoid it, I find pretending to be outgoing and social to be exhausting. But, I do such a good job of it that most people don't seem to realize I am actually very, very shy.

I think most people describe themselves as insecure. I'd describe myself the same way.

And I can't imagine anyone would ever label me as such.

Hyper. People at work have told me how calm I am when things get hectic (I work in a hospital). I'm glad that is how it looks because usually inside I'm freaking the hell out.

I don't know you very well, but 99% of the women I know are insecure about themselves in some way, so I'm not surprised.

For me? Surprising but true would be: lewd.


which often comes across to people more like "bitchy"

I am an introvert, and nobody questions that one! But it always shocks me when people say I'm articulate because I feel like I fumble around SO much when I speak. I feel like I'm just about the least articulate person I know.

This actually jusy happened to me - I described myself as "impulsive" with the negative connotation of non-stick-to-it-ive-ness, but one of my best friends said, huh? I'd never think of you as impulsive. I think it's left over from old self-perceptions. But now I kinda want to be thought of as impulsive. In a good way though.

Moody, make of it what you will.


Perfectionist. But I think that my friends would find this hilarious since I always have to "straighten up" before anyone comes over.

Shy. Definitely shy. Even my closest friends are surprised by that.

You? Insecure? The woman who can't stand pictures of herself? I find that impossible to believe.

Wow - self introspection so early in the day? I think scared. I'm scared that I will mess something up, break something beyond repair, just in general not do the right thing. Somewhat similar to insecure, but a little different too.

I would believe insecure because I think we all are on some level. It's just that most of us aren't secure enough to admit it.

As for myself, I'd have to say shy...which no one would believe, including my husband, but I talk a lot to overcome the fact that I am uncomfortable when I first meet people.

Mine would be paranoid.

And, for some reason, as a first time, full-time WAH Mom, I can see why you might be a little insecure. Just sayin'...

I would also say shy, and anyone who knows me would probably think I was nuts. But I hate asking for help in stores, or calling for service with the cable company, or anything where I have to talk to strangers. Oddly, I have no trouble standing up in front of 100 employees and making presentations.

i believe everyone thinks of themselves differently than most perceive them. i would say i was a wimp, but many would disagree with me.

lacking confidence (unconfident? sorry, don't know the correnct one-word response). I'm always worried that I'm doing the wrong thing, making the wrong decision or being a total idiot. I don't let on though, so when I make a decision or whatever it seems that I'm utterly confident in myself.

I am also an introvert, and everyone is shocked when I say that. New situations terrify me. I'd rather stay home most days than go out with friends (and it's not like I have a lot of those). But the crazy thing is that I verbally process, so I need *someone* to talk to or I drive my husband crazy at the end of the day. :)

"Insecure" was going to be my word. People think that, because I have an exterior face that indicates I'm strong and opinionated that I must feel good about myself. I frequently don't. I find it surprising that you are, but then...that puts me in the same group of people who think this about me. So...there.

Before I even read your one word, I was thinking mine would be insecure. I do a good job of making people think I have it all together when inside I'm a mess.

Anti-social. I'm the person who hates to have to go out for any social function and would happily stay home. But once I get there, I have a good time. So I think people would be surprised to know I never wanted to be there in the first place, if that makes sense?

I think I'm rather shy, but most people who know me would probably say I'm outgoing. I can make small talk with a stranger in the store, but getting to know some is a different story.

Shy. Most people who know me think I'm outgoing, friendly and a little on the loud side. What they don't know is that I'm terribly insecure about the impression I make on people and I'm really awkward when it comes to meeting new people. I always feel like I'm a little too dorky to fit in with anyone. It's only once I'm friends with people that I let it all out. :)

You totally don't seem insecure around me... I'd say (and I almost dread saying this, because I know EVERYONE I know would jump on my case for saying it), that I perceive myself to be utterly dorky and unattractive. My husband is forever telling me that I'm too mean to myself, that the constant self-degredation (sp?) bothers him, and no matter how much other people tell me I'm attractive, I somehow convince myself that they're just being nice. So yeah... there you go!

umm i guess the word is melancholic. or perhaps moody. if you asked my husband he would say "oh yeah definitely." but most anybody else would say "oh she's so happy and cheerful all the time." i think this is also the reason that people are so surprised to find out that i smoke. because miss mary sunshine can't smoke...

Hi friend who reads Beth's blog.

People who know only my mouthy on-line personna may be surprised at how shy I am in a group. I tend to fade into the wallpaper. One on one I'm fine; more than that and I let the conversation swirl around me. It's usually good conversation and I'm a good listener.

Unless I'm holding the gavel or making a speech which is much the same thing as commenting on-line. I have the floor to myself.


gloomy. I have a had time looking at the brighter side of life. I do not always see through the obstacles, I just see the huge obstacle and get overwhelmed.

I'm definitely, painfully shy, and most people laugh when they hear that. Are you laughing, Beth?

This might be a long comment. Sorry.

Overall interesting point: many truly talented actors test to be extreme introverts. Like Robin Williams, for example.

Personal interesting point: This post comes at a most synchronistic time. How I know myself to be and how others see me is sometimes completely different. I just experienced that the other night, and it suprisingly hurt a lot because I thought this person should know better. In this case though, I know she was just seeing herself and not me. (Yes I can honestly admit to my shortcomings, but this was really a case of transferrence).

And while I know myself very well, I am not even sure how to answer he question. So I'm a paradox.


I'm confilicted because the words I use to describe myself I am certain my friends already know, insecure, controlling, selfish...I don't hide these things, none of my friends would die of shock from these "revelations"
Maybe I'm too open about myself? What you see is what you get I suppose. And I wasn't surprised about your answer, only because I think most women have a little bit of insecurity, I mean look at your comments.

Sensitive/easily hurt.

Arrogant...which is the result of being painfully shy and insecure. In a new surrounding with strangers I will either keep to myself in a corner or when faced with a group situation where I must contribute I will become a control freak in order to have control over the new things I'm encountering.
It's not pretty.

I wish I could simply be one of those extroverted introverts that make everyone laugh and feel comfortable.

Hi Beth's friend!

Insecure? Yep, I'll buy that, but only because you've told us as much in many past posts.

My word would be "unfocused," and would surprise the crap out of anyone who knows me. On the outside I am doing the "single, working mom who's just a few months away from her Master's and has a hugely bright future," but on the inside I am all "what am I doing, where am I going, what next and why" with a little bit of "do I have to?"

I think we all have traits that most people miss picking up on....

is there a single word for
"at battle with herself"?
or "own best friend and worst enemy"?
how 'bout "multifaceted". . .


two words I am a rebel too

I would describe myself as a "social hypocrite." I don't like most people yet I can talk to anyone and no one would know. I've often been described as a "people person" but I'm so totally NOT. I know how to play the game and I play it well, but mostly I'm thinking, "This person in front of me is an IDIOT."

I suppose that's why I like the internets so much. I can just use that little red X and move along when I encounter someone I don't much care for. We need a little red X for real life, don't you think?


Shy...People often see me as aloof or stuck-up, when really I'm just shy.

Why is that such a common characteristic for all of these bloggers? Hmmmmm....

i always describe myself as an anti-social extrovert. i enjoy being out and i have fun but i also need alone time to recharge. people who've witnessed me when i'm "on" don't ever believe that i would ever dare call myself a loner. but that's simple enough to explain away ... only rarely do i force myself to be out and about when i'm not in the mood. so, yeah, if i'm out, the extrovert, able to talk to anybody about anything, obnoxious cruise director hat is on. i'm gonna have fun and you are too, damn it. and then i'm gonna go home and not talk to anyone for two days. :D

I'm bitchy. Oh wait, that wouldn't surprise anyone.
The insecure thing I can see, but only because so many of us are that it's a trait that doesn't surprise me in anyone anymore.


For chrissake, I tout myself as a humorous writer and I am serious. Can it get any worse?

That is very surprising indeed about you indeed.
My word would be "Understanding". Surprised?

I totally know what you mean. I'm an extroverted introvert, too. My social nervousness gets me all hyper and outgoing-like....

I'd say I'm "shy." People have been surprised to hear that....

I am really pretty, thin and young although you wouldn't know it to look at me. My clothes don't even realize I am thin. It blows me away!

Hello Internet! I'm the one who started Beth on the topic... I'm a day behind on the blog reading and enjoyed the responses to the post. Yeah, I was thinking of Swistle's "recharging" definition when I referred to myself as an introvert. I love hanging out with people but it definitely wears me out, and that's not a reflection on the company I keep because I know fantastic people. But I really need my "me" time to charge back up. Great topic!

I'd have to say 'homebody.' I love staying home, being all cozy. Reading. Scrapbooking. Knitting. Watching movies on the couch. I love having people over for dinner; entertaining here. Our home.

So that's my word. That is me.

I sound exactly the same as you - talk far too much when I meet new people and am quite insecure. And oh how it sux most of the time!

Hello, Beth's surprisingly introverted artist friend!

I would say my surprise descriptor is: short-tempered. I think most people would say I'm extremely mellow and easy-going, but inside, I spend a lot of time counting to 10.

I don't think you're any more insecure than the rest of us.

I love Sarah Vowell's description of her nervous chatter: how she's like a conversational St. Helens, and old guy loners will come build cabins on the slopes of her silence, and then one day, *boom*, she starts talking inappropriately and can't stop.

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