More on Introversion…

When I speak I have no idea whose talking. When I write I hear my voice.

I typed this out many years ago in an email to a Mom’s Moments contributor. It’s how I feel often. Don’t get me wrong… I enjoy people, being around people, talking to people, doing activities with people… but when I put my fingers to the keyboard and start typing out words… that’s when the magic happens for me.

I’ll add another statement to the above gem…

My keyboard is like my microphone, my stereo system, and my volume increase button.

When I have something to share, when I hope to encourage others with an idea, or when I learn about something that excites me – this blog is where it goes first, sometimes after a few conversations with select individuals 🙂

Learning about introversion has been very exciting for me, very freeing, and I’m hoping will be very encouraging to readers who are introverts themselves or have loved ones who are introverts.

The next 3 blog posts will be about introversion… what it means to be an introvert, what we need to be our best selves, and healthy ways we can interact with the extroverts in our lives.

Yes, let’s get on with the 1st post… More About Introversion… yes 🙂

I highly recommend the books The Awakened Introvert by Arnie Kozak and Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. I truly gained alot of knowledge and encouragement about introversion from these books. Quiet is available in pdf form here.

And there’s a wonderful blog I started following called Introvert SpringMichaela is a very encouraging, gentle soul whose words are suited especially for introverts and those who have loved ones who are introverts.

I already shared a little about what it means to be an introvert so now I’d like to touch on what it might look like to be a suffering introvert, and how we might be adding to our own pain without even knowing it…

A couple of years ago I had a bout with anxiety & depression. This is so common in our world today, and there are many ways we can get to that point. For me it was a mixture of grieving, miscommunication with loved ones, pushing myself too hard and too fast out of my comfort zones, big lack of self-care, and a build-up of sleep deprivation. I was basically a ticking time bomb of confusion and emotion. Everything was on the surface, I’d forgotten how to tap into the inner strength of introversion, and I’d forgotten alot of who I was underneath it all. My foundation had crumbled quite a bit and it was a long process of tearing down what I had built on shifty ground, finding the solid ground again, and rebuilding on the rocks in my life. I never lost my faith, it was nothing like that, there were just so many other noises in my life that I couldn’t hear the still, small voice of the One who loved me most. I can’t tell you how good it was to reconnect with Him, the first and firmest Rock of my foundation.

Going back further in my life, there was always this sense that something was wrong with me, that I was lacking in many ways, that I couldn’t possibly hope to be like others in the world who were healthy, happy, strong, wise, contributing members of society. Recently I’ve come to realize that for most of my life I’ve been comparing myself constantly to people who are completely different from me – no wonder I was always coming up short.

My brother once wrote that we should only compare ourselves to Christ. He was so young when he wrote that. And so wise. He would sometimes post deep thoughts on the fridge for the rest of us to read, and I’m really glad he felt comfortable enough to share that side of himself, to let us into that part of his world. I’m really proud of my little bro.

I had alot of negative self-talk going on in my head – it would consistently drown out any positive talk others were offering in my direction. The negative talk would slap the outstretched hand of the positive talk and not let it anywhere near me. This only added to the anxiety and depression. I don’t remember how it started – the turnaround from negative to positive self-talk, but I do remember one day just knowing I was pretty cool. In fact, I was awesome. I think it started when I heard the still, small voice. It rang true and it rang the loudest in my heart and soul and mind, and I liked it, and I wanted more of it. From then on, when positive talk was offered to me, I didn’t immediately turn away from it – rather I looked it in the eye, and opened myself up to the possibility that it might just be true. Then it was like a snowball – positive upon positive with me at the centre – tumbling down the hill in unknown directions, smashing any obstacles in our way, actually having a jolly good time together – me and this new positive mindset.

And in social situations – I started understanding I wasn’t ill-equipped but instead I was selective – about people, conversations, settings, time, etc. All these little quirks I’d been compiling into a negative mental list and beating myself up about were just normal for who I am, how I function in the world, indicators of how I could be at my best if only I’d see them in a positive light. I tended to shine in one-on-one conversations or small groups, I loved talking about the deeper issues, and my sense of humour was more subtle.

As I began to see myself in a more positive light, I also started learning how to care for my introverted self. I am learning not to berate myself for needing time alone, even from my husband and 2 sons whom I love more than I can say. And I’m learning to tell them my needs, and not cave when they protest because they want more from me. I know they want more because they love me. I also know that when there’s no more to give there’s no use in me trying to give – empty is empty. The best thing I can do is fill up so there’s more to give – very practical, isn’t it? The tricky part is finding a good balance in all the demands of a usually-noisy world so that there is usually some to give to the people in my life I want to give it to most.

 

So… if you’re feeling tired, confused, stressed, or overwhelmed – please know you are not alone. Often you just need a good dose of time away from social obligations. If after a while you find this just isn’t cutting it, you should see a health-care professional for advice. In my own life, I had gotten so empty for a time that I needed some medical help, and it was a struggle to learn this was OK and not another way I was defective or weak. If it’s a biological or genetic issue, help may continue for quite some time, and that’s OK too.

Introversion is simply a personality tendency, and it can sometimes explain symptoms similar to depression – for me it was changes in appetite, sleep patterns, weight gain, fatigue, confusion, indecisiveness, memory difficulties, and feelings of low self-worth and value. Some of these things have been in my life since I can remember, but it was the sleep deprivation and increases in other symptoms that finally got to me. And there were a few causes working together to bring on my bout with anxiety and depression, it was not a single cause on its own.

Introversion  is not an answer to major symptoms or symptoms beyond the ones mentioned here – in that case I would greatly encourage you in the most positive way to ask the advice of a professional. I know people that would not be in my life today had they not gone for the help they needed. Thank God for the help they received.

One last thing that can really bring unhappiness to an introvert is having a misalignment between your goals and your personality – not being true to who you are can cause great stress and frustration. I remember repeating a statement over and over in the time leading up to my “burnout”  – I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing. I don’t know what my roles are at this point in my life. I don’t know where my place is in this community. I was so confused and always measuring myself up to what other people were doing and coming up short. I’d completely lost focus on who I was, what I wanted /liked to do, and how to go about living out my passions and dreams in my current situation. And when I tried an idea or tried fitting into a group and it failed, I was knocked down yet another notch, and felt even more like a failure. It was a pretty negative cycle to be stuck in.

Finally I tuned out everything that others wanted me to be, and everything I was supposed to be, and once again I listened for the still and small voice that spoke loudest into my life. He told me He loved me just as I was, that He made me just the way He wanted, and I had alot to offer in my community circles. I was to remember that in this season of life, I would gain the most satisfaction and pleasure from simply finding my roles first in the smallest community that was my own home.  I was needed, wanted, and invited into so much just by being a wife and mother. This was the first set of roles to solidify in my heart, everything else was extra at this point in my life. And soon enough, that would change, the seasons of life are always going to be shifting. But for now, it was so important to be present in the current season of family life.

And once that was solid, I could begin to dream and imagine what else I’d like to put into my life, where else I’d like to contribute. I went back to the beginning, remembered my hobbies and interests growing up, focused in on what I’d added through the years that I truly enjoyed, and began to see the colours on the canvas on my life. It was beautiful! Simple things like bicycling, sewing, watching my sons in their activities, baking, reading, listening to music, watching the trees in the wind, and going to the movies brought some colour. More complex things like international mission work, continuing education, simple living, global stewardship, local service ideas, and encouraging children to help others brought still more colour. Some parts of the canvas remain blank, and I look forward to seeing which colours will fill those spaces. Most likely in other seasons of life.

For today… I think that’s all I’ve got to share… it’s quite enough I think! 🙂 I’ve given you lots of food for thought.

Enjoy your day – whether it be a welcome (or not so welcome 😉 ) draining out in connecting with others, or charging up in solitude… which is the focus of the next Introvert post… coming soon 🙂

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