I’ve always lived inside my head. It’s not that I can’t socialize and engage with people, it’s just that it often feels so much nicer to…not. Being alone with my thoughts feels like a cozy feather bed, and being around many people for a long time feels like being pulled out of my bed and thrown into a pool of deep and icy water.
Making decisions quickly is torture because I want time to think and make the best possible choice. Sometimes it takes days, or even weeks, for me to know how I feel about something. I need time to process.
I readily assume the role of the listener in groups. I like asking questions and keeping the spotlight on other people, with the exception of a few close friends who I feel genuinely want to hear me talk. I’m already feeling self-conscious for saying so much about myself in this blog post.
As it turns out, I am an introvert.
It’s not a bad thing or a good thing. It’s just a word that describes a part of my personality and helps me figure out how I fit in the world with other humans.
Most of us have taken an online quiz or an employer’s personality test at some point and placed ourselves in either the “extrovert” or “introvert” box. As Ben mentioned in his article, these terms are thrown around a lot and often misconstrued. It’s important to remember that:
- No two people are exactly alike, so not all generalizations about your personality type will apply to you.
- These classifications are just tools to help you learn about yourself, not excuses to keep from doing uncomfortable things that could help you grow.
If you, like me, are an introvert who decided to do improv, (improvert!) then you are an idiot, because it requires you to do all the things that are most unnatural to you. But, I have good news: being an idiot is fun!
IMPROVERTS ON STAGE
Here are some things you might naturally want to do if you’re an improvert:
- Stand on the sidelines
- Stand motionless in a scene and look at your scene partner until he/she does or says something
- Take a very long time to react or respond to your scene partner
- Ask your scene partners a lot of questions so they have to come up with all the information
And here’s how you can challenge yourself:
- GET OUT THERE. Do not wait. Do not hesitate. Especially when you’re first starting to do improv. It gets harder and more stressful for you the longer you wait. This applies to classes, practices, and shows. You will always want more time, but you have to teach yourself that it’s ok to make a statement without overthinking and revising it. You will worry about having a “good line,” but you will find your best lines end up being the ones you started to say without knowing how you’d finish them. So jump up on stage. Step out in scenes. Open your mouth.
- DO SOMETHING. This advice is from Mick Napier’s book, Improvise. At the top of every scene, do something. Anything. A motion, a walk, a tick, an expression, some object work. You don’t have to know what it means, you just have to do something to get yourself out of your head and into the action. You’ll notice in improv class that you’ll have good scenes when the teacher gives you an instruction before a scene, like, “you’re super hungry” or, “wash the dishes” or, “everything your scene partner does will turn you on” or, “be Elvira.” And then you’ll do a show and you won’t make any choices like that for yourself and the scene won’t be as fun, and it will be because you didn’t DO something. The same goes for reactions. Train yourself to react immediately to your scene partner and the words you should say will come to you.
- STOP PLAYING THE INTROVERT CARD. It’s easy to hide behind the introvert label. It carries connotations of being shy, quiet, unconfident, weak… “not the type who is good at improv.” But that’s bullshit. There is no reason you can’t be a confident, outgoing, conversational, strong introvert. You can be a social one, a noisy one, a talkative one, an obnoxious and crazy one if you want. You can be one who is good at improv, but you have to believe it for yourself before anyone else will. So don’t hide, don’t say negative things about yourself. Your life is one long self-fulfilling prophecy, so be an optimistic prophet.
IMPROVERTS, IMPROV, AND LIFE
When you practice improvisation with others, you’re playing out aspects of your own personality against many other personalities, and you all become like bunches of mirrors reflecting yourselves to each other. It can be scary to see your weaknesses revealed, but it can also be really fun to discover that you had something great within you that you didn’t know was there.
As you see your strengths and weaknesses play out on the stage, and as you identify the personality traits that are assets and the ones that are holding you back, you begin to work toward being the best player you can be for your team. Maybe you feel like Ben – that you try too hard for attention and you’re learning it’s not all about you. Or maybe you are accustomed to hugging the wall and staying out of the action, like me, and it might be time to learn that sometimes it’s ok for it to be about you, because it’s about all of us.
If you keep at it, you soon learn the beautiful lesson that you are no more or less important than anyone else there. Everyone has to contribute something and collaborate to have a balanced performance. Then you realize that none of it is even about performing, it’s about living. Improv is really just a microcosm of the bigger picture of life. We’re all different but we’re all the same, and we’re all important.
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