Wednesday, August 7, 2013

It's Not You, It's Me.

In the summer of 1987, when I was ten years old, my family attended a small church in a small town. There were very few kids in the congregation, and we all viewed our pastor with a mixture of awe and affection.  He was a gregarious, friendly man who was genuine and fun to be around.  My sister, an equally gregarious and charming personality, had recently been allowed to sit next to him during church services until it was time for the sermon.  One Sunday, I asked if I could sit with him during services and was welcomed to do just that.  I sat through announcements, sang along with the hymns, and behaved in the quiet manner that had always come naturally to me.  After services, the pastor patted me on the shoulder as I thanked him for letting me sit with him and said, in a well-meaning tone, "Why can't you be more like your sister?"

I never sat with him again.  And I eventually came to a certain realization:

Friends, I am an introvert.

Throughout my life, many well-meaning people have tried to help me change what they see as a personality flaw.  If you'd only go out more, you'd enjoy yourself, they'd say.  Get out there and meet new people, make new friends.  They didn't understand the anxiety that flooded my mind at the expectation of being surrounded by people I didn't know and being expected to engage them on some level.  They didn't understand my intense dislike of small talk, and how pointless I found it.  They couldn't fathom why I wouldn't be comfortable in a party atmosphere with lots of people having lots of fun.  Who wouldn't want to have fun?  

The thing only the people closest to me seem to realize is, social events are not my thing.  Being around large groups of people requires so much energy and effort, it takes a few days for me to recover.  That recovery is usually spent at home with my family, and involves lots of reading and quiet time that helps me recharge.  During that period, going anywhere and/or engaging with anyone outside my immediate family is only going to happen if it's absolutely necessary.  For those who don't fully understand introversion, this can lead to hurt feelings and offense that has absolutely nothing to do with anything besides this simple fact:  It's not you, it's me.  

Being this type of personality in a world that largely values happy extroverts is a battle in itself.  Much of my life, the interaction of people who just didn't understand or value introverts led me to believe I was broken, that something had to be wrong with a person who dreaded talking on the phone, who wasn't interested in planning sleepovers with friends, or who preferred to spend the majority of her time immersed in literature rather than interacting with the people around her.  It wasn't normal.  It needed to be fixed.

The thing is, though these behaviors aren't average for our society, there is absolutely nothing wrong with introversion.  Attempting to squash introverted behaviors in favor of forced extroversion may look like improvement to everyone else, but it only succeeds in creating feelings of falseness and misery for the person working so hard to please everyone around them.  Rather than change my personality in order to please those who value extroversion over introversion, I've decided to embrace my introversion - even celebrate it.  I was made this way for a reason, and fighting against the way I'm made is counterproductive and downright silly.  Instead, I'm going to happily accept the way He made me, thankfully and without apologies.


Starla said...

We are so much alike lol. And what is an adult thinking, saying that to a little kid?! Way to give someone a complex, geez!

Brain said...

I know! It took a while, but I did get to the point where I was like, what the heck?! lol

I keep wishing we lived closer to each other. We could totally hang out...and not really talk. Ha!

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