I am an introvert, but I didn’t really admit it until I read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, in which Susan Cain gives us all permission to embrace the unique strengths introverts offer.
Our cultural value system, which Cain calls the Extrovert Ideal, has caused many an introvert to feel deficient. We may exert tremendous amounts of energy trying to become more extroverted instead of embracing the distinct value our introverted nature offers.
I’m willing to go to big group dinners and loud parties, but if I’m planning the event, I’m going to make it a smaller gathering that facilitates deep conversation. I know that I have more to offer in these settings, and that I enjoy them more.
What I’m saying is that we can organize our lives in a way that plays to our strengths. We can stack the deck in our own favor. We’ll be happier and more energized, and we’ll have more to give.
While “be yourself” is sound advice, we often don’t follow it, perhaps for the reasons Rubin points out:
“To ‘Be Gretchen’ was the way to happiness, but there was also a sadness to this resolution—the sadness that comes from admitting my limitations, my indifferences, all the things that I wish I were that I will never be.”
One example she gives is that she doesn’t enjoy traveling all that much. She wishes she did, since others seem so fulfilled by it.
I can relate. This time of year, I always wish I liked watching football. I like my friends and I like snacks so I go when I’m invited to watch a game, but the actual game doesn’t really interest me.
It’s hard to be ourselves because we have to let go of the things we wish we were.
To be myself, I have to admit that I’ll never be as comfortable and charismatic in large groups as my dad, that I’ll never sew beautiful quilts or make my kids’ Barbie clothes like my mom.
I probably won’t run marathons or start a nonprofit or communicate as well verbally as I do on paper.
While I agree with Rubin, it’s sad to admit who we aren’t sometimes, there’s also great freedom in it.
I can cheer on friends who run marathons without feeling inferior. I can let Mike and my dad enjoy a football game together while I read a book. I can bring my pants home for my mom to hem. (She might give me a hard time, but she always does it.)
My goal is to learn my nature and maximize it, to be honest about who I am and what I like. I want to be me to the fullest.
What about you?
This post is part of a 31 day series on doing less to build more. To read the rest of the series, click here.
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