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I could feel twenty pairs of eyes boring into my skull as my third-grade teacher said, “Erica, could you please read that again. Louder. The class couldn’t hear you.” A barely audible collective groan escaped from my classmates’ throats, and a few of them rolled their eyes. My cheeks flushed in utter humiliation. Swallowing the hard lump in my throat, I tried to keep my voice from wobbling as I began reading the passage for the third time because my teacher said I was reading too quietly.
Fast forward a few years to high school where I was conveniently ill on speech days, preferring to take an “F” over standing in a room full of my peers with all eyes on me. Horrifying!
All those years I thought something was wrong with me. I silently berated myself for being so shy. Why couldn’t I just get over it? Why couldn’t I be like the other kids who gave flawless speeches with nary a flub or stutter? I wondered why I wasn’t good enough, and I began to develop an extreme dislike for my personality.
I’d be lying if I said the feeling hasn’t followed me into adulthood. We live in a culture that rewards outgoing, socially-polished individuals, and is a little suspect of the person who enjoys solitude, generally labeling them as “loners” and a bit “odd.” It’s hard not to feel inferior when you don’t fit the mold. However, the older I get, and the more I get to know Jesus (who loves me just the way I am! Imagine!), the more I realize that I am not a mistake. My personality is not second-class. God can use me–wants to use me–just as I am, the way he created me.
I’m reading Quiet, by Susan Cain. The tagline of the book is “the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking.” I was intrigued. Introverts, powerful? Interesting. Cain says, “Extroversion is an enormously appealing personality style, but we’ve turned it into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform…there’s zero correlation between the gift of gab and good ideas.” Wow! If you’re an introvert, let that sink in. God’s not asking you to conform to something you’re not. You have something to offer just as you are. It might not look or sound the way the world expects it should–and that’s okay.
Since the focus of my blog is ministry and missions, in future posts I’m going to talk about some challenges and strengths of introverts in ministry. My hope is that all of us can find a way to thrive by not only accepting the way God made us, but embracing it.
What are some unique challenges that you face as an introvert in an extroverted world?
How do you overcome them?
If you’re an extrovert chances are someone you love is an introvert. How can you support and encourage them to embrace that?