[Editor’s note: Every Wednesday, New York City’s own Andrew W.K. takes your life questions and sets you safely down the right path to a solution, a purpose, or — no surprise here — a party. Need his help? Just ask: AskAWK@villagevoice.com]
I’ve always been a quiet and reserved person, but I’ve been feeling pressure to be more talkative and social. Do you ever feel pressure to be a certain way? I see people who are so easygoing with social interaction, but I really enjoy spending time alone. Do I need more friends to be good at partying? How do I become the life of the party?
Thanks very much,
In A Shell
Dear In A Shell,
Sometimes people who seem the most socially comfortable are actually just as shy as you. Sometimes people who are using exaggerated and overly congenial behaviors are behaving that way to make their own type of shell or protective barrier, because of their own fear of seeming shy or too reserved, just like you are.
We all want to be liked. We all want to feel good about ourselves in the presence of others. This is a natural part of the human spirit — our desire for camaraderie and connection. But how we deal with that desire for connection — and how we go about making it — can lead to self-doubt, a sense that something is wrong with us, and a lot of unnecessarily distorted personality traits.
First of all, nothing is wrong with you. Nothing is wrong with being quiet and reserved. It’s OK to not have a lot of friends. It’s OK to enjoy spending a lot of time alone. There may be times where you have a great deal of social interaction and other times when you’re very solitary. Both are OK. There may be times where you have a lot of friends, and there may be times when you have only one — yourself. This is also fine.
Somehow social confusion has developed about “how to be a good person,” and a large part of our disorientation comes from thinking who we are has to do with our outward appearance or social style. This has probably been amplified by popular culture, in the form of how we see people act in movies and on TV, but we also look to each other for signals and directions on how to behave. Social cues are ever present in day-to-day life and are portrayed nonstop in almost every area of civilized life. But we mustn’t lose track of ourselves in the midst of so many other personalities we could act like. We must not let our search for “how to act” or “how to be” replace the beauty of simply being.
We must be brave. We must be kind. We must stop feeling guilty or bad about how we naturally are, even when it doesn’t resemble the attitudes or personalities we see portrayed around us. We must allow ourselves to become ourselves from the inside out. We must resist the pressure to conform to the material world and the standardized and limited personality types it offers us. We must instead turn our attention to our own inner-world, where we can truly succeed at reaching the highest potential of our true self.
You already are the life of the party. Your life is the party and you’re always right in the middle of it, all the time. Stop trying to modify your true self to fit some prefabricated idea, and instead put all that energy into loving your own true nature. We come not only in all different shapes and sizes, but in all different textures and attitudes and dispositions. As long as you allow your natural love and kindness to lead the way, you’ll always be OK. Next time you feel shy or reserved, think of it as a great thing — just as good as being extroverted and social — it’s just a different version of the same beautiful thing: a human being. And that’s what partying is all about.
Read all of Andrew W.K.’s wonderful columns in our archive, here.
More:Ask Andrew W.K.