If anyone out there is an introvert, this one’s for you.
If you know me, you know that I am a self-defined introvert with an extrovert complex.
In other words, I tend to think I’m more extroverted than I actually am, which in turn leads me to be somewhat more introverted at times. Go figure.
I grew up in an only-child household–which I loved. And before you say anything–no, I wasn’t spoiled rotten. Not materialistically at least.
I mean, sure I didn’t have to share my toys or a room with anyone else, but I didn’t always get my way. Just some of the time. As an only child there are a lot of presumptions that others tend to link you in with once they find out that you’ve never had to share a bathroom sink, or be mindful of not finishing all the cereal at breakfast. Some of which are truth, and others just theories.
But, I digress.
Although one’s introversion is not linked to being an only-child, I can’t help but think that maybe that’s how I developed some of my introverted tendencies. From my Meyers-Briggs score, I was surprisingly labeled an ENFP! Which is, like the polar-opposite of an introvert!
I think that I can definitely lean towards one end of the spectrum one day, and then lean to the other side on another day. It really just depends on the situation and my comfort level, as to whether or not I will open up to the people around me.
Something that has been nagging at me lately though, has been the thought that I am not being my authentic self to others–my introversion playing a large part in this.
At some events that I attend, I tend to shrink back and pipe down. Which is really weird. Because, if you know me–heck, if you’re reading this blog, you know–I actually have a lot to say!
So why then, when faced with a situation in which I am meeting others, or there is a large group of people around, do I tend to clam up and feel so anxious? It just seems counter-productive to the reason that I am in that environment in the first place: to be social.
The very thing I desire, I run from.
It makes no sense.
I was speaking with my mom one evening, after I had successfully worked up the courage to go to an event to meet new people, and told her what a great time I had. It was so nice, meeting new people, listening and particpating in the discussions, etc. All went perfectly fine, I’d decided as I recounted the night to her, when suddenly hit me:
I was the first one out the door after it was over.
Yes, I know. You don’t have to say it. Don’t give me that look either–I’m just as frustrated as you are!
After that realization, something that my mom told me a few months ago rang in my head. She said to me, “Leigh, don’t be a shrinking violet.”
I really loved this analogy because of two things.
1) It perfectly describes my tendencies to shrink into the background when I’m feeling uncomfortable. Which causes me to feel even more isolated in a new situation than when I started. And it leaves me not one bit closer to forging new relationships or connections with the people around me.
2) the picture of a shrinking violet, a closed and perhaps frightened flower comes to mind. Maybe with a little courage and encouragement, might soon open and reveal its beauty to the world.
And when I think of this image, I’m encouraged.
Frustrated, but encouraged, I should say. Frustrated, because I know I have a lot to work on within myself. But encouraged, because I know that I have plenty to offer to those around me.
I am reminded in this moment, of Moses from the Bible. When given the command by the burning bush to lead God’s people out of Egypt, Moses immediately started making excuses as to why he couldn’t do it. Sounds way too familiar, to me. How many times have I made excuses for my shortcomings, because I was too afraid to fail or look stupid in front of others?
Uh, too many times.
In this case, had Moses not done as he was commanded, harping on his proclaimed lack of eloquence, going his own way because he thought he knew best–the Isrealites would have been straight out of luck.
But he didn’t.
He knew he was being called to something much greater than he could have ever imagined.
For me, I think of certain situations in which maybe I could impact another person for the better.
Whether it’s being there for someone when no one else will listen or just being a welcoming and warm presence for someone new–how can I really do that if I’m too afraid to even stick around?
Simply put, I can’t.
If I want to build a solid community around me, I need to be present and intentional with the people I meet. That means sticking around an extra 20 or 30 minutes after Bible study or at a work party and talking to that girl whose comment really stood out to me or geeking out with that guy wearing the Adventure Time t-shirt. It’s the little things, folks.
To have presence, requires one to be present.
Sew that on your grandma’s throw pillow–or not.
Long story, short: I’m working on this whole stepping out of my comfort zone thing. Sure it’s not going to happen overnight like I would prefer, but it will happen. I’m trusting God to put me in more situations that force me out of my comfort zone. Even in my weakness (whether that’s shrinking back out of fear or leaving early due to shyness) He is strong and will see me through even the most uncomfortable situations.
“A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.”