Thursday, February 24, 2011

On shyness.

I remember it so clearly.
Fifth grade.  Mr. Marshall's class.  His affinity for lavender v-neck sweaters and pink polo shirts.  His love for great literature.  How after lunch he would read from one of the classics to calm our pre-teen fidgets.
Fifth grade is when I first fell in love with Shakespeare.
Fifth grade is when I wished I was something that I was not.

He had each of us take the Myers-Briggs personality test.  Fairly heady material for eleven year olds, but such was his ways.  One by one he had each student read aloud their results.
One by one they nearly all started with 
E.

Extrovert.

Mine and only a few others started with
I.

Introvert.

INFP to be exact.

I brought the test home that day and took it again and again, hoping for different results.  Again and again, the I kept reappearing.

In my young mind, I knew that so much of life would be easier for the E crew.  The class presidents, the prom kings, the ringleaders.

Us with the I distinction would be lining the walls, the sidelines.  
Our noses buried in books, wringing our hands when required to give a speech.

The shy kids.

Our social world is made for extroverts.

But now, as an adult, I wear my introvert badge proudly.  
I honestly don't remember the last time I was bored, or even felt lonely.  I love quiet, and yes, dream about going on vacation alone.  Or at least driving an entire day with nothing but music to keep my company.

I do see some pitfalls however.
I am married to the extrovert of all extroverts, who has a very social and public profession.
Although I often crave silence and solitude, I would be quite selfish to constantly choose it over people.

Because I love people.  Noisy, messy, complicated people.

While you will never see me commanding a room, I certainly have pushed myself and my comfort levels  to be able to talk to anyone about anything.
Small talk is an art.  A beautiful art.
It can be learned.
It should be learned.

People have stories.  Wonderful, tragic, amazing stories.

What if I hugged walls, hiding from such stories?
How much would I be missing out on?

Now as a mother, I try my best to never, ever use the word shy to label one of my daughters.  Is she an introvert?  Absolutely.  Have I picked her up from church in a room full of kids and found her reading quietly alone in the corner?  Yes.  But in that corner she was comfortable.  Happy even.

But then do I want her quiet personality to hold her back from life?  Never.  Not ever.  In our family we love people.  We value friendliness.  People are much more important than how outgoing we may or may not feel at the moment.  We are constantly working on eye contact, and proper greetings. It is often really, really hard.

But I know that it will be worth it.  That it is, and will, serve her well.

Which is why, against everything in me, I agreed to speak at Blog Sugar this fall.
Do I want to?
NOOOOOO.
Do I want to throw up just thinking about it?
YESSSSSS.

But it is on a topic that I am passionate about, and how silly and selfish would it be for me to hide behind my fears when there is an opportunity for God to use me.

Shyness is not an excuse.  Do not let it keep you from being a part of this wonderful, noisy, chaotic world.  Morrissey is a wise, wise man.

50 comments:

  1. i have ALWAYS been labeled shy. i think i was 18 before i ordered my own food when the family went out to dinner..

    but.. i never had a problem eating by myself in public, or going to the movies by myself. i never worried about what anyone would think.. i just enjoyed myself.

    i stayed comfortable in that until i was 27 with a 2 year old, & no hobby outlet, when i desperately needed to connect with others.

    one sweet lady, who i now call friend help me pry back that grip i had on my shell. she invited me to a scrapbooking retreat. i knew no one, but wanted SO badly to go. i mustered up all my courage & went in. & haven't looked back now 4 years later..

    don't get me wrong.. i'm still an introvert, where my husband can make idle chat with anyone, i'd rather sit quietly and observe people... but i don't feel confined by it anymore..

    (wow. sorry it's so long of a comment)

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  2. i love you and stephen morrisey, in that order. i can't wait to hear what you have to share at blog sugar.

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  3. shut the front door. i REALLY want to go to rachel's blog sugar and now i want to go even MORE, more, mooooore!! you are fabulous, friend!

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  4. I'm an introvert, too. I used to apologize for it... like I was somehow defective. No more. I embrace it while trying really hard to find the balance of really living out loud, but honoring who I really am.

    And by the way, you'll be GREAT. :)

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  5. lovely post. i am also an I. i feel like i missed out on so much growing up being so painfully shy. now that i am a mother i have really grown and by gods grace feel much more confident in myself. i pray also for my children that will be not be limited by shyness. thanks for sharing. i am not great with words, but i can totally relate with everything you wrote.

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  6. Haha that is exactly why I would love to go to Blog Sugar but could never get up the nerve!

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  7. Very well written post! And if MI was just a tiny bit closer to CA, I would totally be there!

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  8. I read an amazing book called The Introvert Advantage. It really helped me understand the strengths introverts bring to the world.

    Believe me, without introverts there would be no internet where all the cool kids blog. I'm in software and it's full of introverted people like me.

    Anyhoo I was class president. And valedictorian. And my class picked me to give the graduation speech. IT CAN BE DONE. Sometimes quiet leadership is exactly what the world needs.

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  9. Oh wow you are a brave woman! Let God lead you. Don't know if I could ever do that. You'll do great though!

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  10. this is something that has been on my mind A LOT lately! i want to talk to you more about this.
    i am really proud of you for agreeing to speak.
    i am also really amazed at how loud your voice is in this world while ALSO being an I. don't you think that is remarkable?!
    you are going to do great at blog sugar.
    because, to me, it is clear that you being a public speaker is not what everyone expects(they expect your written words)...which is just the WAY God works, no?
    surprising us and you with you, an "I", being able to speak in front of your peers! please take comfort in knowing that i have a feeling God will amaze us as he always does....xoxo
    see you saturday

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  11. I love that test. I took it YEARS ago, but still remember that I am an INFJ. We definitely live in an Extrovert society. And I have learned to step outside my comfort zone, and have come such a long way. But introverts have so many strengths that often go unnoticed. One of my favorite books is the "Introvert Advantage." I highly recommend it. Thanks so much for sharing!

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  12. Love everything about this:
    Love that you're letting God speak through your shyness.
    Love that you're teaching your girls those life skills.
    Love that you'll be speaking at Blog Sugar (hmmm...I may need a road trip come September).

    And love that you're quoting Morissey. He was my very first concert back in 1991. :)

    ~Keri

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  13. way to go Julie! We'll be cheering for you!

    I don't think of myself as shy, per say...but I am definitely not good at small talk & random conversations. I wish I had the quality of being able to talk to anyone at any time...definitely something to work more on.

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  14. This is a really good share. I'll remember you in prayer for your talk time! Blessings, pokey

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  15. enfp here married to an infj....love this post julie! am learning so much about infj's lately and this little post gave such a beautiful snap shot. you touched my life in huge ways julie - meeting up with me to listen to my story and share yours was huge. i would have never known that day that you were an I - showing up to meet a stranger for coffee. what i saw was heart. all heart!!!!

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  16. so sad that i won't get to hear you, cause i know you are going to be fantastic because you are fantastic.

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  17. I try to be shy. It is something I'm grown out of because of my job. I was ALWAYS an "E" person, and so is my son. It is ridiculous how social he is. My husband is VERY "I"...you will be a great speaker!!

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  18. I just learned that I am an INFP last fall when I took the Myers Briggs, as part of a seminary class I took with my husband (we are at covenant and lived next to the mojo's this summer) I am not sure how I made it through 31 years without taking the test. I'm married to an E and I love getting a taste of the E life via him and then when I am ready I retreat for some alone time or coffee with a friend or two. This was a great post!

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  19. What a great post! I can relate to so many of your feelings and I especially like what you said about craving solitude but how selfish it would be to always choose it over people. And that's the heart of the issue for me - it's just not always about what makes ME comfortable! God is always pushing me out of my comfort zones. I think you'll do fabulously at blog sugar!

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  20. You are so precious. I am an ENFJ who is terrified of taking chances. God will help us all!

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  21. I felt like I was reading about myself!!! I am so like you - a totaly introvert with a husband in a job that requires me to be out there, among people... eeeekkk... and even involved in public speaking... double eeeeekkkkk! Thanks for sharing - I love that first quote!

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  22. Love this post Julie...love it all.

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  23. Good for you!!! You'll rock it, I'm sure. And, the additional confidence you'll feel after accomplishing your goal will be well worth the nerves getting through it. :)

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  24. Love the Smiths lyric!

    I'm an INFP, too - the description fits me perfectly.

    I heard once that being an introvert means you get reenergized by solitude. Being an extrovert means you get reenergized by being around people. Neither is bad, and I'm sure that most people fall somewhere in between.

    I admire your bravery. You will rock that public speaking opportunity!!!

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  25. totally love this post. do you think it's "once an I always an I?" i was much more introverted as a child and teenager, but now that i've donned my own wings, i can talk to anyone. while i'd say i never get bored, i would say i have felt loneliness from time to time. but i also dream about vacationing solo.
    maybe i'm an inbetweenie.
    thanks for posting on this.
    what's blogsugar? :-)

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  26. Love this. I lived a long time as an extrovert with the yearning to actually be the introvert I am. I finally found peace with saying no to people & yes to home. Introversion is an incredibly productive gift. :)

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  27. You are fantastic with people.
    You will be great.

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  28. As an ENFP through and through, I sometimes wish I was more introverted because I feel I often worry too much what others think...leading me to question myself. I also am a very social person but as a newer mom, I am learning that solitude can also be priceless...Great post.

    P.S. Blog Sugar sounds awesome..and despite your nerves, I bet you will rock it.

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  29. Love. This. Post.
    Thanks for sharing
    and for moving me :)

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  30. This is exactly what I experienced last night.....I was in a position where I was so out of my comfort zone as a loner, I had to suppress a panic attack. But in choosing to do the hard thing, I experienced my Amazing and Always-Faithful God take over!
    Thank You Lord for the motivation to do it again.
    ...and ditto what "Grabbing My Happy" said

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  31. I just took this test, and my type is ISFP. I don't really know what I was expecting, but I guess I am quite introverted.

    I'm quite a strange person. Around my friends and family and people I know well, I'm very comfortable. In those kinds of situations, I'm very social, chatty, and quite often the centre of attention.
    I can deal well with strangers in a situation where none of us knows one another. I can speak confidently in front of other people.

    But put me in a situation where everyone else is familiar and I am a stranger, I'll become very anxious and agitated.

    I love being social with my friends. But I would, without fail, always choose to be alone. It started when I was probably thirteen, and I would spend so much time on my own in my room. Reading or drawing on surfing the net. My parents were so worried about me, thinking I'd become a hermit or something, but they've kind of grown to accept the fact I just like being on my own with my thoughts.

    I don't know, I guess that's what us 'composers' do. (:

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  32. I am reading a book right now called "It's Just My Nature" by Carol Tuttle where she talks about the gifts of a "shy" person. It's fascinating to read and shows why being shy is a gift and can be embraced for real happiness. Loved your post today.

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  33. just 3 days ago a friend of mine was talking to me about the meyer-briggs test, and categorizing me.
    according to her i'm an infj.

    i use to be so extroverted, but i wonder if it was insecurity that caused me to be outgoing. these past few years i find myself far more content on the sidelines.

    i don't think it matters if you are an enfj or an infj or an lmnop, i think speaking in front of a group is always scary. there is an element of that fear that is good. it causes us to not rely on ourselves, but on the Spirit for leading, for His words and passion to pour out of us. may you depend on him, and walk in step with Spirit all the way (i know you will)!

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  34. Yep, I was labelled shy as a kid and it took me years to grow out of it; also stopped me from doing many things I wish I would have.

    Then I married someone quieter than me so one of us had to become more outgoing!
    >Lauren

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  35. You seem so outgoing here and that may not make sense since it is a blog, but honestly, I feel like I could walk up to you, introduce myself as a reader and have a conversation with you.
    You welcome teenagers in your home and I was a little jealous of your crafty weekend at Megs. :)
    So, what I am trying to say (and not very eloquently) is that although you may be an introvert by definition, you have an amazing way of putting yourself out there and bringing happiness to a lot of people here.
    I recently sent your post about being a friend to my girlfriends who have young daughters. This one will be passed on as well.
    You influence your girls (and others)in a positive way just by being you. And introvert or extrovert that is something to be proud of.

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  36. Introverts ~ I'm learning ~ make great bloggers :)
    I would be an I for introvert times 100...yet I too have forced myself into face-time with people and taught myself to suck it up because people are amazing and missing out on that isn't.

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  38. One of your best posts. Thanks for sharing. Love that you try not to label your kids. SOOO important to no put them into any sort of a label box. Too much of "oh she's just shy" and it becomes an excuse and words to live by. Keep up the great work, Julie. I'd love to hear you speak!

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  39. This post reminded me of something I read in a Bible study I am doing on Daniel, in it Beth Moore asked the question, if Daniel and his friends had simply assimilated into the Babylonian culture, what would they have missed out on? Yes they would have missed the scary moments of being tossed into a fire and facing down a cave full of ravenous lions, BUT they would have missed out on seeing God do amazing things, and meeting angels, and being reocrded in the annals of history as having integrity. Not to mention they would have missed out on thier life changing relationship with the God of the Universe.

    So I guess the same thing can be said about shyness (I myself am a recovering wall flower who has to PURPOSEFULLY not go into a quiet corner and avoid new people) we will miss out if we don't go against our natural flow. Afterall, the way God got a hold of me started off with my stepping out of my shell and talking to a girl I didn't know, who in-turn invited me to church, where I gave my heart to Jesus at 14.

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  40. I like you.
    And I like The Biggest Loser.
    I am watching it and blog surfing at the moment.

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  41. I am an INFJ, and people are always SHOCKED when they find out. "But you are so friendly!" they say. "People love you!" Well, yes I am, and I suppose there are some people who love me, but my "outgoing" personality is really no more than a combination of the finely honed skill of "small talk" and a genuine concern and interest in people.

    I think that most people really don't understand that being an introvert does not mean that I don't like people, (though it does mean that I don't like parties where you don't know anyone). It really means that it takes more energy (in my case, a LOT more energy) to be with a group of people for a long time.

    I was the weird kid who hated sleep overs and lock ins (I so wanted to like them, but what I really wanted was to go home and be alone in my room). I don't have 300 close friends (except on facebook) and you will never, EVER find me working the room at a party. BUT the close friends I have have become sisters, and the relationships I have are deep.

    Growing up in a family of extroverts, I learned to maneuver the extroverted world quite well, and now, also being married to a youth pastor, those skills have served me quite well! I have overcome my "shyness"... on the surface...but I think it may always be there, and I am okay with that. I truly, TRULY believe that this is how God wired me and I like it. I really do.

    Wondering if anyone has read "Introverts in the Church," by Adam McHugh. I heard an interview with him recently and think I would like to pick up his book.

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  42. This was the most beautifully written article about shyness (I was going to say introvertedness, but I'm not sure that is a word!)that I have ever read. All my life people have acted as if being an introvert were a personality flaw. There is a rather popular poem that has always made me mad, that says "A child who lives with ridicule will learn to become shy." That has always bothered me so much.

    Thank you for writing this, I was in tears reading it. Never before have I read anything that so accurately described how I feel about being shy or should I say an introvert?

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  43. Loved this post...as someone who is an E, but has an I daughter (Kate)...I need to let her be herself and not try & (unintentionally) push her to be an E like both her parents! And, totally thinking about coming down in September.....

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  44. INFP's of the world unite! ...or maybe not because that would be really quiet and kind of awkward, and trying to be engaging and sparkling would suck up an awful lot of energy. Instead, let's all just appreaciate each other's really long comments about being an I. ;)

    Honestly, I think the hardest part about being an I is convincing all the E's that we are ok - happy, even - to sit alone reading in the corner. And would probably be just a wee bit happier if they didn't worry about us and just moved along.

    Love this post! I know you'll do GREAT at blog sugar!

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  45. I grew up as a missionary kid moving around frequently. Today, at 29, I am that person who works a room and is quite a talker with anyone. However, it wasn't until I was 18 or so that I realized i am actually an introvert. I don't get lonely when I'm by myself, and I desperately need recovery time. I wonder if my personality would be different had I not have moved around so much. I give it all I've got when I'm with people; I feel the responsibility to carry the conversation. And then I have nothing left and must be alone!

    If you met my husband and me, you would think I'm the extrovert. However, he's the one who can be with people all the time and still be energized. I guess I'm saying personality types are so fascinating.

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  46. Wonderful post! I am 100% an introvert. And have been told my whole life that I am shy. Now that I'm a business woman, I have managed to let a lot of it go. But it still haunts me in social situations. My mother used to tell me, shyness gets you nowhere! Which is true. Good luck with the public speaking!

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  47. Love this post! I'm an introvert, but I love people. It's a mixed up feeling because once I'm around people I don't really handle idle chit chat well (though I don't have a problem in groups of friends). I'm trying to work on that as my husband's career path causes us to move. I'm working on it, and like you, hope my little girl can embrace whatever personality she has.

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