I am 100% introverted. I am also shy (more when I was younger, but still to a degree even now). This has been the source of one of my greatest struggles in life. It has caused intense pain and suffering, generating raging shame over my perceived inability to connect with others. I’ve always wanted to be more outgoing. I never allowed myself to just be who I was and behave in a way that came naturally to me. I was constantly trying to fix myself. I read books, took classes, forced myself to do things that terrified me. And all of those things helped, but at my core, I could not change the fact that I am a quiet person. Now I realize that this negative attitude has cast a dark cloud over large portions of my life that would otherwise have been bright and sunny.
I recently read "Quiet - The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" by Susan Cain, and it was a life-changing experience. She has studied introverts for years and her book sheds light on the struggles that all introverts face in today’s world where extroversion is the norm. She discusses the many positive qualities that introverts have to offer society, and how we should embrace our quiet nature rather than trying to “fix” ourselves. This was a new way of thinking for me, I had never really considered that this could be a good thing. I was like the rest of society in thinking that I needed to change who I was to be more outgoing. I needed to be extroverted, and I was unable to make that happen for myself, therefore I had failed on some very basic level. That is a terrible way to feel, and I am so eternally grateful that through my commitment to learning to love and accept myself, I stumbled upon "Quiet". The simple realization that I am not alone in my struggles and that introversion is, in fact, a very common trait for millions of people (1/3 to 1/2 of all Americans are Introverts) has made all the difference in my life. I now choose to focus on the positive qualities that myself and other introverts have to offer... we are generally thoughtful, careful to speak, great listeners, and deep thinkers. We are needed in this world. We provide balance and equilibrium. We round out the corners, fill in the blanks, and take care of the details.
The other night I took Sally Hogshead's Fascination Potential quiz online. It is supposed to identify what it is about you and your personality that will make the most impact in your life in terms of how others see you. I got Mystique. This means that I am quiet and under the radar, but after I have considered all of the facts and processed everything internally, I deliver on-point feedback and solutions. In a nutshell, it reaffirms that I am a total introvert. For a minute, I was disappointed that I didn't get more exciting results like Passionate! or Creative! or something more outgoing. I so admire people who can demand the attention of a crowd, persuade others with their eloquent speech, or inspire others with their contagious excitement. But no matter how much I admire these qualities in others or desire them for myself, they are not my dominant personality traits. I have elements of all of these, or course. I’m a likeable and creative and passionate person, but these qualities are not my truest nature. I am quiet, thoughtful, a good listener, deep thinker and generally subtle person. It has been a long journey to accept this about myself, but this is who I am and I am finally OK with it. In fact, I have actually gotten to a place where I am grateful for it. It allows me to be independent, it gives me the ability to endure (even enjoy) the hours of solitude required to do the work that I love (writing and creating art). God created me this way and I will do all that I can to make the most of it.
Are there things about your own personality that you struggle with? How have you learned to love and accept yourself fully? Please share with me!
© Haley McManigal 2014
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