Confessions of an Introvert

Shy, nervous around strangers, self-conscious, anxiety sufferer with low self-esteem does not sound like a description that could be used for someone who stands up in front of people on a regular basis, chairs committees, and has been a recipient of social justice awards, but it's true. People have told me for years that I look comfortable talking in front of groups, but I thought they were just being nice until someone recently called me an "extrovert." I take it as a compliment since it's something that I've worked on for a long time.

An introvert, according to The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality assessment tool, is someone who feels more comfortable in lone activities and is stressed rather than energized by other people. I want to have a social life and be involved in activities that give my life meaning and purpose, but I can't do that sitting at home watching TV or surfing the internet. I have to go out and meet new people. I have to speak up when I'm involved in a group that is doing something or making statements with which I disagree. My heart might race, my hands might get cold as ice while my palms are sweaty, but I've found that ultimately it is more satisfying to make the effort than to be a wall flower.

"We will have to repent in this generation not merely
for the hateful words and actions of the bad people
but for the appalling silence of the good people."
- Martin Luther King

Living by my beliefs and convictions didn't always look or feel as comfortable as it does now. The first time I stood up in front of my congregation and made an announcement I thought I must have sounded like a fool and I forgot a lot of what I wanted to say. For days later, maybe weeks, I would run it through my head about what I did wrong and how I could do it better. I didn't let this anxiety keep me from trying again. My congregation is supportive. Perhaps there was an occasional discouraging look or remark, but when I thought about it, it was more the way I interpreted it and probably not what they really meant; besides, no individual represented the whole community. There were lots of opportunities to practice. The more I could tell myself that these people were my friends, the easier it got.

A small, friendly church is not the only place where I've used this new skill. When I went to testify at hearings in Annapolis to change legislation that wasn't working, I thought about the support of a congregation that stood for the same principles that encouraged my action. In the past two decades I've been able to do more than I ever dreamed I could do. I may not be an extrovert, but I'm proud to be mistaken for one.


RELATED RESOURCES:
"The Happy Introvert" - A Wild and Crazy Guide for Celebrating Your True Self
INFPs - introverted feeler with intuition


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