This past year the book Quiet by Susan Cain, entered the reach of my intellectual radar. My daughter, a loud extrovert, was reading it to better understand her introverted fiance and, it so happens, her introverted mother as well.
Introversion and extroversion have been called the "north and south" of our personality, an axis that describes where we are most comfortable in terms of our social interaction. We all fall at various places along this axis, but an introvert tends to lean towards being more comfortable with solitude - time alone to re-energize, to reflect, to think. The introvert tends to listen more and talk less in large groups, preferring in-depth conversations to small talk, fewer and deeper friendships to a wide circle of shallow ones.
The extrovert craves social interaction, meeting people, parties and energetic activities. This gives them energy. They are comfortable being the center of attention. They are the talkers, the story-tellers, the salesmen.
They are less comfortable being alone. According to Cain's book, the modern American culture values and promotes extroversion.
I am at heart an introvert, but I call myself a "learned extrovert". When I gave my life to Jesus and became His follower I realized that although Jesus needed times of solitude to pray and speak to His Father, He also loved people. To follow Him I needed to become more comfortable with people. Thus began a journey of tentative steps outside of my comfort zone to a place where I now find myself on stage, speaking to women, the center of attention and actually enjoying being there.
But now this introvert must create her own website. An extrovert would have done this long ago, but this introvert had some hurdles to overcome. Introverts build the websites, they don't star in them.
My hurdles were:
- The discomfort with being the center of attention among strangers. For me it is akin to throwing a party for a large group of people that I do not know, standing on top of a table in the middle of the room and announcing, "Here I am! Look at me!"
- The discomfort with promoting myself and "going public". Introverts may be comfortable with marketing ideas, products and other people, but when you become the product it seems prideful and you open yourself up to be judged and evaluated. Suddenly your private guarded world is revealed to strangers that may not understand. It's not just business, it's personal.
- The fear of failure. What if no one comes to my party?
To overcome these hurdles requires a few things:
- A clear sense of who you are. The marketers would say, "know your brand", "know who you are", "know your strengths," God would say, "know who I've created you to become." It takes some of us longer to know this than others. We find this knowledge not by looking within, but by looking to Him. What does He say about me? What does His Word, The Bible tell me about who I am and what does He reveal personally to me about who I am to become? Like Gideon I may think that I am a weak and defenceless farmer destined to live in fear and frustration, but God tells me that I am to be a mighty warrior. (Judges 6) I may think that I am not capable of speaking to women on God's behalf, but God tells me that in my weakness He is strong(2 Corinthians 12:9), that it will not depend on my eloquence and intelligence, but on His Holy Spirit's power (1 Corinthians 2:4), that I am valued, loved and delighted in by my Heavenly Father no matter what the party of strangers may think.
- A clear sense of your calling. Have you spent enough time with God to hear His plans and purposes that He has prepared in advance for you to do (Jeremiah 29:11, Ephesians 2:10)? Is this website the next step in this process? Can you see how all of your experiences and passions point towards what He has been preparing you for?
- The faith to act on what God has revealed and trust Him with the results. The courage to be true to that vision - not another's vision - and to create your own kind of party that proceeds at your own pace. Perhaps it's more of a book club or Bible study than a rave. Make it attractive, but stay true to the essence of what you are about and why you are throwing this party anyway.
Good Friends and Encouragers. Enlist help and the support of those who have walked this journey with you and can remind you of who you are, what you have been called to and who called you in the first place.
And with that, hands firmly in His, I prepare the space, take a deep breath, open the doors and see who shows up.
"Here I am, but together let's look at Him."