If snuggling with your computer or a good book sounds like your idea of a fun evening, chances are you may be an introvert.
But that doesn’t mean you are shy. Or a party hater. Or that you prefer to live in a closet.
Contrary to popular opinion, many introverts are actually outgoing, creative, and possess a high-functioning inner world. This inner world is an introvert’s best kept secret; a treasure trove just waiting to be discovered.
But seldom will it be shared.
Too many encounters with humiliation, failure, or rejection over time will cause introverts to shut down and close up shop. Out of insecurity, we will draw the shades and remain indoors.
Over time, we will become content to disengage with our world.
I know because I’ve been there.
At the fragile age of 12, I was bullied by a group of kids. I clearly learned there was an “in” and “out” club, and I always seemed to teeter on the edge.
That day, “fear and insecurity became my new traveling companions” (Larson, Your Beautiful Purpose). Safety and control became the goal. And for the next two decades I spent my life withdrawing from others; avoiding any public risk where I could fall flat on my face and be humiliated. I only attempted what was sure to succeed and avoided failure at all cost. I worked hard to live up to the expectations of others “to prove to the world I wasn’t the lost cause I believed myself to be” (Larson).
I lived this way for almost 20 years.
But I was miserable. I was depressed. Deflated. Paranoid. Walking on eggshells trying to keep all the balls in the air but always fearing I’d drop one. My spirit was
tired completely exhausted.
It was much, much later that I realized I had believed a lie. Two, in fact. Two lies that influenced my behavior and kept me hiding in the shadows.
Lie #1: Introversion is inferior to Extroversion.
Living in an extroverted world made me feel a little out of place. Compared to my extroverted counterpart, I felt “less than”. Less capable, less accomplished, less fun, less productive. My introversion tendencies always felt like a weakness. Like somehow being more extroverted was the greater, more desirable goal.
But extroversion is not the goal.
Introversion is a gift.
If you are an introvert, your introversion is a gift. It is not a weakness. Your introverted tendencies are not a handicap. You are not inferior to the all-powerful extrovert.
Though you may receive less applause from society, the world still needs you.
In a world that is always on the go, introverts can shine as a beacon of rest. Solitude is an energy-builder. We know how to rest, to be still, to slow down and enjoy the moment. Being alone is where our greatest creativity, thought, and imagination takes place. We can navigate smaller social settings with intuition and competence. We perceive the world with innate sensory skills. We see life like a big puzzle and find ourselves analyzing all the pieces in order to understand how they fit together.
Just like extroverts, introverts also have a variety of skills and unique perspectives to offer the world.
Lie #2: Isolation from others is OK because I am introverted.
I had long believed I was excused from engaging with the world because I was introverted. But in reality, my excuses were just ways to avoid rejection and embarrassment.
My thoughts went like this…
- “I can’t lead. I don’t like being in the spotlight.” I’m afraid of publicly humiliating myself.
- “I enjoy being by myself.” When I’m alone, I don’t have to be “on” or prove my worth.
- “I’d rather listen.” I’m afraid you won’t care about what I have to say.
- “I only need a few friends.” I don’t want to be rejected.
- “I’m more content to let others volunteer.” I don’t want to be the one to mess up.
- “I prefer to keep my opinions to myself.” Because you might laugh at me.
- “I feel uncomfortable talking to strangers.” I feel foolish when I don’t know what to say.
- “I avoid conflict.” I don’t know how to handle anger directed at me.
- “I hate small talk.” It makes me feel even more isolated, alone, and unknown.
In my mind, I didn’t have to step out of my comfort zone because, obviously, I was introverted. My introversion became my justification and reason for why I couldn’t take risks.
What God originally intended as a gift, I used as an excuse.
I turned down opportunities for friendships, get-togethers, volunteering, leading groups, meeting new people, and taking on new responsibilities all in the name of “being an Introvert”.
Introversion is a gift to be given to others.
This idea boggled my introverted mind. I thought my introversion was my excuse to disengage from others. But in reality, my introversion is actually a gift I have that can benefit others. But in order for that to happen, I have to first engage my world.
Introverts shine most when they use their introversion for the benefit of those around them. For example, my ability to rest and enjoy solitude helps my always-on-the-go husband to slow down. My introspective inner world provides the inspiration I need as a writer.
Introversion is meant to influence.
When introverts choose to engage with their world, big things happen. We have so much to offer others if we will only stop allowing our fears and insecurities to hide us in the shadows.
Here are just a few introverts who decided to engage in their world:
- Bill Gates
- Abraham Lincoln
- Albert Einstein
- Rosa Parks
- Eleanor Roosevelt
- King David
Can you imagine what the world would have been like if these introverts would have disengaged? If they had been content to keep to themselves?
How would life have fared if these people would have said, “I’m just an introvert. I can’t do much”?
Instead of allowing their own insecurities and fears to dictate their life, they chose instead to take a risk.
To step out of their comfort zone. They chose to be brave. Courageous. Fearless.
And the world was better for it.
How to engage your world as an introvert:
Disengaging from the world will only lead to further isolation, depression, and despair. Locked in our own inner world with no outlet or opportunity to connect will only create a prison of self-destruction for the introvert.
Ironically, the answer for an introvert in this position is to actually engage with the world; to reach out, to step out of your comfort zone, to try something new, and to talk about your feelings.
Introversion is a gift meant to be used within community, not apart from it.
Try the following steps to help open yourself up and start engaging with others:
- Recognize that your introverted tendencies are a blessing and gift to others.
- Try new experiences that you think you may enjoy.
- Meet new people. See small talk as a necessary stepping stone to intimacy.
- Volunteer or step into a leadership role.
People are God’s Plan A. God intentionally crafted you with a personality, blending it with gifts, quirks, and abilities that will perfectly fit and fulfill the plan He has for you.
He wants to use all of your story – your pain, your tragedies, your weaknesses, your failures – to tell His greater story.
So choose to engage. Step out of your comfort zone. Be brave. Use your gift and make the world a better place!