The Extroverted Introvert

The Extroverted IntrovertPhoto by: Porcelainpoet

What do Michelle Pfeifer, Julia Roberts, David Letterman, and Clint Eastwood have in common?  They’re all extroverted introverts.  And it’s an increasing phenomenon.  Thanks to the Western world’s favoritism of extroverts, introverts find they must change.  We must become actors masquerading under finely tuned masks.  In order to excel in many of our careers, life ambitions and connections we must become actors in the greatest sitcom on earth.  Social Networking.

Many of us don’t like social mingling.  It’s a labor to us, a chore, and frequently a curse.  We look at it with dread and we feel drained already by the looming prospect.  But in order to do what we want and get places in life, we must form connections with others.  This is where the extroverted introvert contradiction comes into play.

Many introverts realize that they must become the experts in personal appearances and self promotion in social settings.  Many of us realize that simply being ourselves won’t cut it.  We can’t remain quiet, reserved or autonomous.  We must function by igniting connections with people.  And in order to do that we need to put on a show, adopting a facade.  And thus, the extroverted introvert is born, one who buries their true self to display another “self”.  Like every actor, the role of the extroverted introvert only appears when there is an audience.  But remove the audience and the mask is removed.  There is no actor anymore.  Instead, there’s just a drained and frustratingly repressed person.

The extroverted introvert facade is a reactive defense mechanism.  I’ve discovered this myself working in my job at a public library.  The job is frequently socially overwhelming.  The demand to be agreeable, amiable, and chatty with the library users intensifies during the day, dragging me down with anxiety and pressure.  I don’t want to displease my boss, nor appear brusque and dull to my colleagues and clients.  So the role of the extroverted introvert is adopted as a way to cope with my insecurities and social pressures.  But the real value in adopting this role to ‘get by’ is highly questionable.  Not only does the extroverted introvert role create mental and emotional repression, but it can’t be maintained.

There are moment and days when every mask crumbles and falls.  My extroverted introvert facade frequently does.  The ramifications aren’t pleasant either.  People become shocked, offended and confused.  My boss, perplexed, went to the extent of pulling me aside, asking whether I still enjoyed the job.  What a nasty surprise!  Adopting the extroverted introvert role as a way to deal with  pressures and insecurities is a poor choice with detrimental results.  So then, how can we understand ourselves better to know what to do in these situations?

Think About …

The problem:
  •  Entering a social situation.  This leads to …
  • Personal insecurities, e.g. “I want to be liked/accepted/charming/funny”, “Am I talking enough?”, “Why are people looking at me strange?”  This leads to …
  • The creation of pressure to live up to a certain standard, e.g. extroverted behavior.  This leads to …
  • Adopting an extroverted mask.
 
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When the mask crumbles

The dynamics of it look like this …

  • The person or group of people have set expectations and beliefs about you, e.g. “John is talkative and friendly”.
  • The person or group of people compare the unmasked version of you to the masked version of you.
  • Confusion, as well as distrust, fear, upset, and/or offense ensues as a result of the previous misleading expectations, beliefs and perceptions about you.

What to do about the mask:

Focus on the roots of this behavior.  After all, adopting the extroverted introvert mask is a reaction at its core.  Ruminate on the following questions:

  • Why do I adopt this mask?
  • What insecurities and issues do I have that cause me to react?  Perhaps low self worth, lack of trust in my abilities, excessive anxiety, inability to cope with others, etc.
  • What can I do about my insecurities and issues?
  • If I feel the need to be liked – why?
  • Do I like and respect myself enough?
  • Where does my sense of worth and self esteem come from?  Others, or myself?
  • When do I put the mask on?  Why?
  • How can I cope with this situation differently?
  • Why do other peoples opinions of me matter anyway?
  • What’s the worst that could happen if I drop my mask?
  • How can I excel without adopting a mask?

As they say, old habits die hard and adopting the extroverted introvert role can become a deeply ingrained habit.  I still struggle to remove the mask even now that I’ve become aware of its existence.  But continually being mindful and motivated to repeat the mantras of  “I want to be myself” and “I don’t care what others think about me” has helped me progress.

Above all, the biggest lesson learned is to not create expectations in the first place. The lower the expectations you create for yourself and other people, the less you have to live up to.  All pressure and frustration disintegrates.  In the end, its essential to realize that you’re not the only one of your kind.  There is nothing wrong with being the way you are.  With self acceptance comes the key to unimaginable social freedom.

Do you have any stories or advice about this topic?  Please let me know below!

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  1. Cvetelin says

    Thank you for your writings, I can see everything now! It isn’t easy to be yourself, society never teaches us that. All it ever wants from us is to help it grow, ether that or we’re no one. So being yourself means that you’ll encounter fear, anxiety and a lot of rejections. We all put these masks not only for our jobs, but for everyone in general. We want to be accepted, and in order to be approved we make these fake roles. And It’s normal, no one wants rejection.
    See, I’ve been reading a lot about these stuff, truly. I hate the feeling I get when I’m with others, I don’t get to be myself. The problem was, I never knew who was ME and who was that fake ego created by society.
    Until I saw this. And do you know whats funny? My true self was here all along, I just couldn’t accept it. It’s quiet, calm, kind, friendly, introvert. But all I saw in it was “weak”. Compared to all that arrogant personality everyone was projecting… People took advantage of my true self. They had no respect and hurt me. So that’s how my false ego was created… The extroverted mask. The energetic, dominating strong man. I wish I was a Tyler Durden of a sort…
    But now I see that even by creating this mask, even by being a “badass” people might have stopped hurting me, but I could not connect. I have no true friends except for a few guys. I’ve stopped others from hurting me, but in the process I was hurting myself. Thank you.

    • says

      Cvetelin, you seem to have developed a very deep understanding of yourself, and I’m delighted that this article could help you along the path of self-discovery!

      Males have it especially tough in society, as there is this image of the “perfect” man being strong, bold, tough and fierce, with loads of sex appeal. The truth is that not everyone can be that way, and not every female is attracted to males that conform to this image. But it does seem as though the most arrogant, ruthless people tend to get through life the easiest, which is why it is tempting to adopt such a facade (not that all extroverts are arrogant or ruthless).

      In the end, it’s not essential to adopt an extrovert-introvert facade, and I’ve found that lowering people’s expectations actually helps. Being quiet, yet strong does get you far (in my experience).

      So once again, I’m delighted that this article helped in some way! All the very best wishes,

      -Luna

      • Cvetelin says

        It did help me indeed. Just to note, the night before I had this sort of realization. Its what made me search the post, which finished the job. Now I’ve been interacting with people and I do what I feel like I want to do and It is… peaceful. And as you said, actually I did not feel weak! Nor did I feel tired. I like myself now, yet was afraid of myself before… Strange eh?
        Here is a tip as a thank you :D – if you consciously try to be yourself and say that you don’t care what others think of you, you create an ego of a person who doesn’t care what others think of you. I guess the real you is doing and feeling like you want to at the moment.

        • says

          An excellent piece of advice! After trying different approaches I discovered the same thing: just relax, let go, and be yourself. It sounds like the most simple thing in the world, but funnily enough it’s the hardest! We complicate life so much that it’s hard for us to learn how to just be, without any tension or pressure.

          I hope that the people who visit this article read your last paragraph and take it on board! Thank you for sharing your experience here!

          Luna

  2. pov says

    While I’m sure many people, at times myself, do fit the characteristic described here, I don’t see how someone choosing/liking a career based on being in the public eye is an introvert.

    • says

      Hello Pov.

      I’m not sure about liking careers based in the public eye, but many introverts not knowing that they are introverts, fall into these careers because society (or their friends, parents etc.) expects it from them. Many of us choose our careers and study our ‘degrees’ at young ages after all, so it’s not surprising that there are many suffering introverts out there who must act extroverted in order to get by.

      -Luna

  3. Alicia Forrest says

    Hi there! I remember doing this sort of thing when I was younger… putting on a mask because I just wanted to be liked by other people, and I hated loneliness. And most of all, I was scared that people would figure out what I’m really like.

    Thing is, I think that “fake it till you make it” technique actually worked. Around my friends, I’m geniunely myself (at least, one half of it!) – I’m quite loud, adventurous, and don’t like conforming to sterotypes. Thing is, that core streak of introversion still sticks with me – going out anywhere with friends, even if for a few hours completely drains me. I need at least 3 or 4 days to recharge, can never go out for 2 days in a row, and I need to choose which social events to attend to accomodate that.

    I suppose some elements of the mask stuck. I constantly feel like I have to live up to the expectations of the character I’ve built up. The one who’s overly flirty/sexual, strong, independent, and can take any sort of critisim or harsh joke… when really I’m the complete opposite. I won’t ever tell someone if they’ve hurt or offended me, and I won’t even state my opinion if I know it will start an argument. There’s some sort of comfort in that mask actually – knowing that people will never really know who you are. Only problem being, it does get incredibly lonely after all these years!

    Despite that, I do enjoy socialising. In fact, I’m the only introvert I know that enjoys parties, meeting new people, loud environments… am I the only one?~

    • Joe says

      Alicia,

      I think you are my soul mate. I feel almost exactly like you. Maybe I am an ambivert. I have this mask I created to help me when I was a kid to play sports, make friends, meet girls and just try to be liked. (No one likes a downer)

      Now I see it as a tool to get the things I want and need. However the feeling of being drained after a social event is something I have to consider before doing anything. What’s amusing to me is that I am talkative and experimental at parties. People love my mask and I even enjoy controlling their attention. But afterwards I am completely drained and need to be alone for weeks

      Is there a group or maybe we can create where introverts and ambiverts can hang out? I would love to hang around people who can have fun and laugh and then sit quietly on their own for a few days.

      In any event I thought I was the only one like this. I tried to explain it to people and they just don’t get it. I also have adult ADD which makes relationships tough. I know I am a mess. I am just trying to find a happy place to stand to get my needs met without stepping on someone else’s happiness.

      Hi there! I remember doing this sort of thing when I was younger… putting on a mask because I just wanted to be liked by other people, and I hated loneliness. And most of all, I was scared that people would figure out what I’m really like.

      Thing is, I think that “fake it till you make it” technique actually worked. Around my friends, I’m geniunely myself (at least, one half of it!) – I’m quite loud, adventurous, and don’t like conforming to sterotypes. Thing is, that core streak of introversion still sticks with me – going out anywhere with friends, even if for a few hours completely drains me. I need at least 3 or 4 days to recharge, can never go out for 2 days in a row, and I need to choose which social events to attend to accomodate that.

      I suppose some elements of the mask stuck. I constantly feel like I have to live up to the expectations of the character I’ve built up. The one who’s overly flirty/sexual, strong, independent, and can take any sort of critisim or harsh joke… when really I’m the complete opposite. I won’t ever tell someone if they’ve hurt or offended me, and I won’t even state my opinion if I know it will start an argument. There’s some sort of comfort in that mask actually – knowing that people will never really know who you are. Only problem being, it does get incredibly lonely after all these years!

      Despite that, I do enjoy socialising. In fact, I’m the only introvert I know that enjoys parties, meeting new people, loud environments… am I the only one?~

  4. twisted turtle says

    Thanks for this article
    Before i read this article i thought it was just normal to to put on a mask and try to be as extroverted as possible. As people that I’m friends with are all very extroverted. They find it really strange when i switch off sometimes as they don’t know the introvert that hides away inside, that is always thinking that nobody will like me if I’m my self.

    So when i read this article it really helped me come to terms with the mask i put up when confronted with social situations. However i can’t really imagine leaving the mask behind and trying to be an extrovert.
    thank you

    • says

      Hi there Twisted Turtle.

      It’s not always easy to give up the masks that we carry around with ourselves throughout the day. Sometimes they are necessary for us to excel in some areas of life. But eventually, we get tired. Denying our very natures is a laborious affair, that drains us physically and psychologically.

      All the best,

      -L

  5. lonertwist says

    Just happened to find this website, it’s like finding a friend! Although, I read “Party of One,” by Anneli Rufus, when it came out, I’m still discovering how much of a loner I have always been, and it has been complicated.

    I don’t want to get into all of it now; I will say it has never been easy for me to put on an extroverted mask, I’ve managed it well enough to end up with enough income to live alone. I went through three marriages (25 years of my life) before I understood being married made me feel socially accepted, not realizing how much I was letting myself be ground down.

    Fifteen years have gone by; most of my socializing comes through shopping, a few words here and there with someone, appointments that I have…. Happier than I had been. More is involved than just being a loner, and I no longer have any family ties, or see my daughter, and granddaughters.

    Being a “loner” is one dimension, I thought it was what I had to live with because of a congenital hearing loss, and being left to figure out how to deal with it by myself: no one helped me learn how to talk, how to read, what the alphabet meant. Who were these other people I saw, what did they do, how did they know what to do? It was not a fun time.

    I do talk with people, I have learned how to write, I enjoy reading, and a lot of things…! I have a degree. Being involved with people while I am trying to do something can become very difficult very fast, multitasking for me. It may well have played out quite differently if I had known all of this when I was young and could develop strategies, instead of just getting by. Making up for all of that now isn’t showing a lot of promise.

    Thank you for what you’re doing.

    • says

      Lonertwist, thank you for sharing!

      There is great pride to be found in oneself for getting through such a difficult time in life, and I congratulate you on your persistence and strength of will in learning.
      Also, sometimes striving to make up for that which we lost in the path, steals away the beauty and bliss of the present moment. Perhaps something to be aware of.

      Thank you once again for reading!

      -L

  6. Velvet Cherry says

    Your insight has helped me to understand my personality much better. I always that I was responding in social situations a particular way but could not name it or explain it to others. I have experienced dropping the mask however instead of keeping it off I quickly recover when the individual expresses shock and explains what they are use to with me I just explain it off or apologize with an excuse and it back to acting again. because I am in the same environment most of the time home work or qym I have learned to transform accordingly. I can’t imagine how to be introverted in an extroverted world and still get along I don’t see the logic.

    • says

      I am happy to hear our website has benefited you in such an important way. It is hard to understand for some people the concepts of “masks” as not everyone is aware of this. But to be capable of carrying these masks is quite beneficial to those that have the ability to wear them, it is almost as if you shared the virtues of Ambiverts who can benefit in both worlds.

      Congratulations for being a good social chameleon! :)

  7. Attila Beres says

    To me it all boils down to becoming aware of my needs, values, emotions and shaping my life accordingly. Being similarly introverted, in this library job setting I’d take note of my feelings of overwhelm, frustration and anxiety. Then I’d identify the underlying needs being the need to be authentic, the need for peace of mind, balance and solitude. Then I’d ask myself what changes I can make in my life in order to meet my needs both professionally and in general. I might realize that very few of the actual jobs available would ever bring me fulfilment except for counseling, coaching, HR and volunteer jobs which are in line with my values and my need to keep myself balanced (eg. no more, than 8 hours of work a day, working independently at a relaxed pace NOT willing to compromise in any of these). I might also realize I’ll be better off starting my own business as a coach, therapist or whatever I am talented in and gives me the most pleasure. I’d be learning from people who have already accomplished these and who are the best in the industry because I value and respect myself enough to be the best I can and to create the amazing life I deserve.

    • says

      Hi there Attila, thank you for sharing. I’m happy to read that you’re very much in control of your life, and aware of your needs at the same time. The problem with many of us is our willingness to compromise too much, to the detriment of our mental and physical well-being.

  8. Ash says

    Thank you for this article. I am transitioning from hardcore loner-hood to a more satisfactory life and the mechanics of the mask have been troubling for me. I cannot keep it on for very long at all, and often I’ll become my quiet, introverted self by the second or third meeting with a new friend, co-worker or acquaintance. Some take it well, others don’t. Living in this world, I don’t see any alternative but to raise my stamina and try to power through, because, as you know, we introverts are feared and… well, not hated but not exactly loved either.

    I wonder how many introverts I’ve met that have been forced to wear the mask as well. It must be a fair few.

    It sucks that we have to live in this way, but even with my introverted nature, I still get lonely. It’s nice to vent. Good luck to everyone.

    • says

      Ash, it’s frustrating living in a world that demands so much constant social contact, especially when you’re a loner. I too have an extremely introverted (loner) nature, and at the end of the day, I find that the best thing to do is to accept your limitations, to embrace who you are (and that there is nothing wrong with being the way you are), and to try your hardest to mold your life around your needs. But yes, raising your stamina and enhancing your skills, as well as broadening your experience is the best answer, unless you’re willing to become a hermit who lives in the wild with no guaranteed comfort or safety. In the end, you begin to realize that you can’t change the structure and demands of society, but you can change your perspective and approach towards them.
      All the best Ash. :)

  9. Ambivert Dude says

    I was with the article until it started painting the “mask” as some sort of deficiency or sign of insecurity. Perhaps it is at points, but I see it more as a tool, no different from the computer and other resources I use at work. It allows me to function in a world in which I want to succeed, and to communicate more effectively with others. Everyone wears a mask to some extent. The real question is whether the mask is a logical extension of who you are, or an entirely different persona. Compare this to an actor who plays roles that allow him or her to use the best parts of his or her natural personality on the stage. That would be my mask. I would discard it only if I changed careers entirely, and I don’t wish to do so.

    • says

      AmbivertDude, thanks for sharing your perspectives. I assume that your name suggests you are an Ambivert, or in other words, you naturally fluctuate between the states of introversion and extroversion? Itś therefore understandable that you see extroversion as a kind of tool, because it comes naturally to your nature. The Ambivert can be thought of as a kind of social chameleon, both being able to smoothly operate in the extrovert world, and in the introvert world (of course, to varying degrees). The introvert, on the other hand, finds it harder to adopt that extroverted facade. Ultimately, itś draining, entirely unnatural to the introvertś nature, and is often used as a way to mask deeper insecurities (e.g. of being alone all the time, trying to gain the approval of other people, etc.) So you see, itś much easier for the ambivert to use extroversion as a tool, than the introvert.
      Thanks for reading!

  10. Steppenchook says

    I find a big difference in my abilities to socialise within and outside the workplace. At a certain point I realised, to my great surprise, that I actually have quite a lot of friends that I love and respect. (They are all loopy weirdos in some way or other). This is in stark contrast with my comprehensive failure to cope socially in any work situation I have ever been in. Sure, I can fake normal pretty well, but only for short periods of time, and people tend to notice the inconsistency before too long.

    There is an interesting concept in psychology, that of ‘emotional labour’. It refers specifically to the way that a workplace expects you to project a particular emotional tone (often, but not always, outgoing, happy and friendly), This is particularly true of service jobs. There is an entry on it on Wikipedia if anyone is interested.

    I have an all-too-vivid memory of a ‘mask crack’ moment when I was working in an up-market plant nursery and homewares shop. I had decided that, on that particular day, my capacity to fake normal was seriously depleted, so I endeavored to simply keep to myself as much as possible. My boss bailed me up and challenged me, stating angrily that …”we are HAPPY people here!” (Yeah, I know). Anyhow, he promptly sacked me.

    But there is a silver lining to this story. As I was in the tea room collecting my things and wiping away the tears enough to face the bus home, I heard a commotion at the front of the shop. Someone had chosen that exact moment to drive by in a ute and steal a very expensive lifesize fibreglass sheep from the front display. Karma, hey?

    I will leave you with my favourite quote, from Albert Camus: “Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.”

  11. HiDDeN_EniGma says

    *clap clap* that was me applauding :} thank you for the post! I enjoyed reading your perspective on the topic and it really made me think about my own.
    To me, what ever vert anyone is whether they are in or out, there’s always a hidden agenda…or enigma. :P The way one has been brought up, their surrounding environment and their influences will suggest if they convex or concave.
    A lot of introverts already have some underlying issues with shyness being one of them and the constant worry of what people would think of them. So not having to live up to anyone’s expectations is marvelous. Although, that is an expectation in itself.

    A lot of extroverts crave social attention as they don’t know how to be on there own and need that constant reassurance from the outside. They want to know they have a purpose in this world and their life holds some substant meaning.
    You might see them burst into a room and have to be the centre of attention. But don’t confuse them with people who are comfortable in their own skin.

    Which ever way we decide to vert I think it is crucial that we learn to accept ourselves and try and maintain some kind of balance. At the end of the day we must care most what we think about ourselves and that is all. As Eleanor Roosevelt said ‘What other people think of me is none of my business’ which happens to be very true. When we let what other people think of us or may think of us get in the way of what we think of ourselves, we are only creating a deep hole. This hole fills with stagnant energy, anxieties, fears, useless thoughts and unwanted feelings. This is something that I personally am still trying to let go of.
    So even those of us who seem to have it all together…don’t always do. You’re right, people begin expecting things from you and then you are under the pump, the pressure builds up and then the main water pipe bursts. But if you are surrounded by the right people, those who love you for who you are when you are at your best and at your worst, are understanding of why you do the things you do, it makes it much easier.

    And always take it from Dr Seuss he knows who and what matters the most :)
    Thanks for the post!

    ~Today You are You, that is truer then true. There is no one alive who is youer then you.~ Dr Seuss

    • says

      Convex or concave…I like your way of putting it EniGma :) 
      It’s a big topic…and certainly something worth writing about – whether introversion and extroversion, these two extremes, are purely by nature or nurture.  Perhaps both.  But to me they really do seem like reactions to the external environment either way – one either basks to much in the limelight and likes other people to validate their existence, or one withdraws into themselves quietly to renew and revitalize.  If there was an ideal state, I think it would be ambiversion.  I doubt many ‘ambiverts’ are driven to the need of putting on social masks.  They have failed to react to the outer world, and therefore have the best of both worlds, of introversion and extroversion. 

      Self acceptance – precisely… it’s so easy to talk about it and have a mental understanding of it, but harder to actually experience.  Our abilities to live a happy and free life seem to come down to our minds in the end.  Just like your thoughts about expectations.  Our minds are the cores of our worlds and we filter our perceptions of the world and ourselves with it.  If our minds are polluted with expectations, desires, ideals, beliefs, we feel a duality, and ourselves becoming split.  We want this, but we want that.  We want to be this way but we don’t.  It all seems to come down to discipline of the mind, and how introspective we can be.  And for that we need solitude.  

      Who knew Dr. Seuss was a fountain of wisdom? :P

      Thanks for reading :)   

  12. Sandwichgod says

    It really is difficult to drop the mask.  I really only drop it for people I trust, and especially for people that are like me.  If the person is a introvert and a loner, we will get along just fine and I have no problem being myself.  I have done a pretty good job of befriending like minded people.  Introverts make awesome friends because they are so low maintence.  I could not see one of my friends for months and then they would randomly show up in my life.  We would talk to each other like we had seen each other yesterday.  They would then disappear again. Only to be seen a month or two into the future.  Those kind of people (for me) make ideal friendships.

    But when it comes to extroverts I put on the mask. I play the game, because that is what it is, a game.  I really don’t want to outcast myself.  I don’t want to be seen as different.  I don’t want that kind of attention.  Extroverts in groups can make my life hell, and being different will only encourage them.  I enjoy being around extroverts. At work, I enjoy hearing there stories, laughing at there jokes, telling them my own stories and jokes.  It distracts me from work.  I just don’t want them to feel uncomfortable around me. I hate hearing “Matt is here, I hate working with that guy.”  I want them to enjoy being around me.  Its not really about me at that point.  Its more about coping, and having a good time with the people that are around me because it is better than feeling miserable and making everyone else miserable.  Do I get overwhelmed?  Yes.  Do I find time during the day to escape to my own world?  Hell yes.  I always come home to be by myself.  To recharge.  To truly be myself in my own world, where I am the happiest.  But if I have to be around people, if I have to be social, I would much rather feel connected and liked than be my true self and alienate everyone around me.  I never hang out with those people outside of work also.  Which kind of confuses them, but they seem to accept it.

    I really enjoy your site by the way.  Its a nice place to come, and reinforce that it is okay to be myself.  It is okay to be a loner.  I feel peace, happiness, and acceptance when I come here.  I sure that is your intention.  So thank you, and keep up the good work.

    • says

      It is Sandwhichgod, and it’s even harder to destroy that mask once and for all.  I know what you mean about finding introverted friends.. it’s almost like a miracle to find someone who is happy and comfortable with silence, amid all those who don’t.  As well as those who are happy to be their quiet selves.  I’ve met a few of these like-minded people who are unashamedly introverted, and who don’t put on extroverted affectations for anyone.  It’s really admirable.  I wonder how they do it, and realize that they truly don’t care what others say or think about them. To me that shows an amazing strength of character.
      I have the same issue as you – wanting desperately to be liked by the exuberantly sociable people I come in contact with…I like the feeling of playing the game in such a way as to cause as little confrontation as possible.  But it’s such a hard and sickly task.  I think at the end of the day we all want to feel connected as you say, but we go about it in the wrong way.

      Thanks for the comment, I really appreciate your feedback ;)  Hope the site continues to be inspiring.

      Best wishes  ~Luna