They called me shy. It didn’t seem like a compliment. From kindergarten all the way through fourth grade, I was the quiet girl with the skinny arms. And when I did speak, it was always met with Louder. We can’t hear you. The fact that my ears stuck out just made things worse for me – it fit the mouse-like stereotype a little too well.
I was a shy girl with the shy best friend. I would have stayed that way if the world hadn’t ended in the fourth grade when my parents told me we were moving to Iowa. Make new friends? Are you kidding me? That means I’d have to like, talk. Still, we moved and I left my shy best friend behind.
Several years and several moves later, I had learned the fine art of becoming who everyone wanted me to be in order to be accepted. Not in the I’ll-jump-off-a-bridge-too kind of way, more in a I-don’t-rock-the-boat kind of a way. I watched people, learned what got on their nerves, learned what people liked and didn’t like. I wasn’t doing this on purpose. I just really wanted to have a lot of friends. I wanted to be seen as fun. I didn’t want to miss out on anything. Shy didn’t seem okay.
I often say I’m an introvert in extroverted skin. On the tests, I come out close to the middle, falling slightly on the introverted side. As someone who prefers to listen long, I’ve struggled through this concept of being authentic and open. I wrote about it here last month. Since then, I’ve thought a lot about those of us who are introverted and how it relates to authenticity, honesty, telling your story, sharing your art, living in community.
When we consider the spiritual transformation of our lives, it often means being stretched beyond what comes natural and leaning hard into what is supernatural, those things that come from God. At the same time, I can’t help but wonder if learning to be open for an introvert looks different than it does for extroverts. Perhaps applying one kind of definition to authenticity is hurtful to some. Perhaps for those of us who are naturally introverted, being quiet is being authentic.
We’ve talked a lot about community here at (in)courage. But community might look very different depending on your personality. What does being authentic in community look like for you?