About a month ago, I had the privilege of speaking at V7’s women’s retreat for a few minutes; Kara was the speakerspeaker, and she asked a few of us to give testimonies throughout the day. My assignment was to share my story of introversion and how I’ve learned that introversion is not an excuse for not reaching out and building community.
You can find my little talk here. What is not included is the story I told at the beginning: As we approached the retreat grounds that morning, we had to go through a gate with a gateman. When I saw him, I cringed and had a 60-second-inner-panic-attack. If you’re an introvert, you know exactly what I’m talking about. I lowered my sunglasses so I wouldn’t have to make eye contact, and I squeaked to my friends in the car, “Oh no! There is a stranger! I have to talk to a stranger!!!”
Obviously and of course it turned out to be just fine, but for some of us, those kinds of encounters are dreaded. Like the dad who spoke to me at Chick-Fil-A today. Ann was flirting with him, and I knew it was a just a matter of time before he talked to me to tell me how ridiculously adorable she was. And he did. I tried just smiling and looking away, but then he kept talking.
I took a deep breath, smiled again, and gave what I think was an appropriate, kind answer. Stinkin babies are such a bridge to conversation with others.
Anyway, my favorite thing about my little talk at the retreat was the extroverts who came up to me afterward and said they wanted to thank me but gave me permission to not make eye contact while they talked. I knew they were joking, but sometimes I did avert my eyes. I knew they’d think it was funny, but it was a relief to me. Sidenote: the introverts sent texts and emails and FB messages to thank me, which I both loved and laughed about. Oh, how I understand!
There were a couple of things that I didn’t have time to talk about that day, though. One is that being an introvert does not equal being shy. Introverts are energized by alone time. Shy people are timid to talk to others. I would offer that you can be introverted and not shy and that you can also be extraverted but shy.
Another thing is that being an introvert does not mean you don’t need people and relationships. I am a shy introvert, and yet my soul longs—yearns—for relationship. My favorite is one-on-one, but I need my church, my beloved Westside. I also need our small group. I am crazy about my bookclub, and I am super looking forward to a women’s discipleship group coming in the new year.
The final thing is that confidence does not equal extraversion. I’m thinking specifically two things: Just because someone is an extravert does not mean they are confident in approaching others. And just because I’m an introvert doesn’t mean I can’t be confident in approaching others.
People often assume I am an extravert because I pursue others. I seek people out. On the contrary, I am an introvert who is made confident by God’s love for me (and my desperation for relationships). It gives me the courage to pursue others. I mention this to encourage extraverts and introverts—allow God’s love to motivate your pursuit of others. We all need love, we were created for relationship. Remember that as you seek people to pursue. We are called and created to love others despite our fears and personality quirks. But it’s scary. We can all appreciate that. So when someone approaches and pursues you, be kind, be accepting, be warm.
And…..stepping down off soapbox.