When I was around 9 years old I vividly remember a friend asking me a series of questions from a book she was reading and at the end she proclaimed, “You’re an introvert!”
I remember reacting with shock and defensiveness, “No, I’m not!” She in all her 9-year-old wisdom tried to console me, “It’s not a bad thing, it’s just who you are!”
First of all, what in the world? How do I remember this “scene” from my childhood dialogue and all??
Secondly, how mature was my friend!?
Thirdly, why did I react so negatively toward my introvert label? Did I even know what it meant?
Either way, I knew it sounded like something I didn’t want to be.
Last week I finally checked out the book “Quiet” by Susan Cain from our library. It’s been recommended to me for over a year by several friends. It is so hard for me to put it down and I’m only 2/3 finished…so I’d rather be reading it than writing this post, : ) but here I am so I’ll go with it…(Good books are all consuming for me!)
I love when a paradigm of mine gets a much needed shift.
Especially when I didn’t know it needed shifting.
As I read the first chapter of the book my eyes were opened to how our American society rewards and values the “extroverted ideal” over introversion. It tends to be perpetuated that being overly talkative, having tons of friends, and always being out on the town is the “right” way to be. Those things are not bad of course but when we try to be what we are not, or encourage our children or students to behave in a way that is contrary to how they are wired, it can cause people to see themselves as not desirable in the way they are made or not able to work or learn to the best of their ability (raise your hand if you can’t stand “group work” in school or job settings…you may be an introvert!)
Now, I know better than to paint with a wide brush. I dislike labels, but this book is not about making sweeping generalizations. It helps the reader understand how differing personalities are essential to making the world go ’round; it gives evidence to why people make the choices they do based on brain research. This isn’t a “Christian” book, per se, but it has reaffirmed for me how God needs each of us in our uniqueness to be ourselves. It’s remarkable how not one “label” can be placed on any one human; He made us way too multidimensional and complicated to be placed under a category. Hallelujah.
Many people are able to confidently adapt and monitor their feelings in order to engage in activities which are rewarding to themselves. But when a recovering people-pleaser, like myself, feels the desire to retreat from the world, instead of finding rest and rejuvenation, feelings of shame and regret happen. We tend to feel we are letting others down or not being like the “rest of the world” or so it seems(!)–able to “go” 110% of the time and look good doing it.
I am DONE with it. As long as I am seeking God through prayer and bible study I will remain peaceful where God has placed me today.
No need to strive or change myself; He will lead me in decision making and my confidence is in Him. Not myself. My flesh is so terribly weak.
Blessedly, I’ve been learning this lesson for a few years now since I’ve been forced to slow down and learn about real REST in Jesus. Grief will strip you down to figuring out what your self-care is, if you didn’t know it before.
As the densest part of the grief cloud lifted I had to decide what balance looked like as I adjusted to my “new normal” life. I made lots of mistakes, but God provided wise mentors and amazing books to help me.
Realizing no matter the “label” a person or personality test gives me I am assured my identity in Jesus is safe and secure. I am preapproved in God’s eyes.
“Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.” Ephesians 2:10 msg (emphasis mine)
The shift this book has given me is not just “accepting” my introverted ways, but embracing them. I’m not boxing myself into another label either. I can be as sociable as I want, but realizing I need some quiet time to myself brings zero shame. Introversion lends itself to many positive attributes which may not be as splashy for a thousand “likes” on Facebook, but the freedom found in liking myself is worth the anonymousness. An added bonus to understanding my own personality is freedom and grace to let the extroverts in my life be who they are, bless them all ; ).
A paradigm shift helps me remember I am constantly becoming a new creation with Jesus. I pray I won’t ever become so stubborn I can’t grow or change.
And you better believe I’ll let my soon-to-be 9 year old daughter know how her personality is uniquely designed just for her (and it will continue to change and develop over time)…No matter the results of quizzes or tests coming her way!
Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.
How? you ask. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.
2 Corinthians 5:16-21 msg (emphasis mine)
Ps Here’s a link to the author of Quiet, Susan Cain, giving an awesome TEDtalk on “The Power of Introverts.”