I’m currently reading (well actually listening on my drive to and from work) Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. It is excellent by the way. As I’ve been listening, it has really affirmed much of what I have experienced and know about myself as an introvert. It provides some of the science behind it, but also speaks to the societal pressure to act as an extrovert.
I feel incredibly uncomfortable and out of place in large groups when I don’t have a prescribed purpose or role for the entire time. The thought of simply mingling, talking, and/or enjoying myself in these situations puts my teeth on edge and raises my heart beat. This goes for everything from the time spent before a meeting starts to holiday gatherings with the extended family. It doesn’t matter if it is people I have known my whole life or strangers. (Actually sometimes it is easier with strangers.) However, I’m not as awkward in these scenarios as I feel on the inside. There is not actually a blinking, light up arrow pointing to me so people know I don’t fit in. My actions (thankfully) don’t match my feelings, though. I think I am able to pass through most scenarios without people realizing how unbelievable out of place and awkward I feel.
This book has made me reflect on this more. My temperament, my natural stance is one of a quiet introvert. However, I give public speeches pretty much weekly. I interact with new people all the time in a vulnerable way through work. I have learned and adapted how to work as an introvert in a world that requires me to be an extrovert. How?
As I’ve been listening, I’ve also been reflecting (a classic introvert move according to this book). I can succeed in an extroverted world for several reasons, but a main one is my parents. I was blessed that I grew up knowing I was valued and loved. I have known many kids who haven’t had this luxury, which is why it has become such an essential part of my identity as a human, but especially as an educator, to let people know that I value and love them.
Growing up I could write off my parents comments with “You have to say that. You’re my parents.” However, I knew it was true. There is power in knowing you are loved and valued for exactly who you are, just the way you are. My parents recognized my potential, while also recognizing my areas for growth. I grew up hearing (and believing) that I could literally do anything I wanted when I grew up. Okay, by the time I was 13, I realized I was never going to be a professional figure skater, but I still hadn’t ruled out president. I could subconsciously recognize my unique value as Shauna, for just being me.
What is my point here? God can do anything despite our weaknesses? God uses all things for good? All these things are true, but I think often the power we have comes from our knowledge and acceptance of God, not necessarily His undeniable might. We have free will – both our blessing and our curse. God can do all things, but that doesn’t mean He will or that we will let Him. What am I willing to do? I am willing to do a lot more, push myself more when I know I am loved and valued. It helps me to love and value myself. As I’ve said before, I’ve never struggled with faith or the idea that there is a God who knows me and loves me. I believe this is one of my gifts, but I also can’t deny that it is probably easier for me because I have known and experienced unconditional love/value from my parents my whole life. What a blessing!
I am a service-action oriented person – which is why many of my posts are calls to action of some kind. It is just the way I think and operate. So, what is this a call to? It is more than a call to love and value others. It is a call to empower others. My strength comes not from being loved and valued, but from KNOWING I’m loved and valued. Let those around you know they are loved and valued. Let them know they have limitless potential because of their value. Let them know it is their perceived weaknesses as much as their strengths that make them who they are and will lead to them becoming the person they can be. I am as much the woman I am because of my weaknesses as because of my strengths. My quick processing has helped me gain more leadership opportunities. However, my sensitivity contributes to my increased empathy, which helps me work with others and build trust faster. I could not be as effective at what I do in any capacity of my life, if I had erased things that I saw as weaknesses for so long. Believe it or not, God knows what He is doing. So, share with others why you value and love them a little bit more. It makes a difference, even if you don’t see it.