An Introvert in an Extroverted World

I have been an introvert my whole life.  I’m the youngest of four girls and I have clear memories of being 4 or 5 and wishing for nothing more than to be left alone so I could color in peace.  When I was in middle school and I’d get invited to a sleep-over I’d ask my mom to tell me that I couldn’t go so that I could then tell the person who invited me that my mom said no and it wouldn’t be a lie.  I didn’t go to a single dance or event in high school.  When I was active Navy I’d stay in the barracks and read whenever I was on liberty (off duty).  I don’t even know how many times I’ve had to explain that it is nearly impossible for me to get lonely.  I mean, I can literally go days at a time without speaking to another human being and I have cherished and freaking reveled in those rare and precious times.  If I could get paid for being a hermit I’d take the job in a heartbeat.  I’m not shy; I’m reserved.  I’m not a snob; I’m careful about who I let in.  I’m not insecure; I don’t feel the need to be the center of attention.  I’m not arrogant; I’m strong enough to go it alone if something or someone isn’t good for my overall well-being.  I enjoy my own company and my own thoughts.

As a kid born in the 80’s I’ve lived through the technological revolution.  I didn’t have a cell phone until I was 19.  I didn’t really start using email regularly until around that same age.  We didn’t have Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Tumblr, Tinder, Twitter, Pinterest or YouTube.  There weren’t influencers and selfies.  I was lucky that I grew up without all of these people and social media platforms constantly bombarding me with the message that I needed to be more of an extrovert.  I mean, sure, I got pressure from peers and even family to “get out of my shell” but that was easily dealt with compared to this overwhelming culture we currently live in where notoriety and doing anything and everything to get noticed is praised and rewarded.

So, now that we do have these things and the constant pressure to be more outgoing and extroverted how do we combat them?  Because – don’t be fooled, my friend – it is combat.  It’s a war.  A daily struggle pulling at you from a million different directions.  Ads on TV and between YouTube videos, news feeds on Facebook and Instagram are constantly telling us to do this one thing or buy that exclusive product to make our lives better, happier and more satisfying.  What they’re really saying is “You’re not enough.”  You’re not enough on your own.  You need what I’m selling in order to meet the social standard.  You don’t have it.  The funny thing is they don’t even have to define what it is.  As humans we are all social animals.  Even the most introverted of us.  We all want to be accepted, appreciated and approved of on some level.  And when we’re told that we don’t have it we believe them and automatically supply our own answer for what it is.  We live our lives in a constant state of comparison.  I’m not as pretty as this girl on my Instagram feed.  So I need to buy a new app to teach me how to exercise.  I’m not as fashionable so I need to spend money on better clothes, hair products, makeup, jewelry or even plastic surgery.  I’m not as popular so I need to dress more provocatively.  I’m not good enough.  I don’t meet their standards.  I need to do something different.  And they’re telling me how to do it and what to buy.  Now, if that isn’t a state of mental and psychological warfare then I don’t know what is.  The ironic thing is that I don’t even like these people.  If given the choice between going to a party with that pretty girl I saw on Instagram or spending a quiet evening at home with a strong pot of coffee and a good book I’d choose the night at home.  Every.  Single.  Time.

It has taken me 30+ years to get to a place where I really and truly am comfortable in my own skin.  And I’ll be honest, I still struggle sometimes.  I look in the mirror and wish I could be a little thinner.  I smile when I’m brushing my teeth and wish I had that million-dollar-mega-star smile.  I pull my crazy curly hair into a pony-tail because there’s no other way to tame it sometimes and I wish I could afford to get it straightened all the time.  I see other people’s posts on Instagram and wish I could live their lives.  Then I take a moment to pause and remind myself that 99.99% of the posts on Facebook, Instagram and others are done with the mindset of putting their best foot forward.  It’s rare for someone to actually post something that isn’t flattering.  Even those silly posts of #nomakeup are staged most of the time.  Then after giving myself that reminder I ask myself a simple question:  Would I really be happy in that person’s life?  Would I be happy if I felt the need to parade pictures of myself barely dressed across the internet so that other people could tell me I was pretty?  Would I really be happy if I needed to objectify and debase myself in the pursuit of approval from total strangers?  Would I really be happy if my happiness were solely based on whether or not I received that approval?  No.  No, I don’t think I would.  Please don’t misunderstand me.  I don’t believe that I’m better than anyone on this planet.  Not by an inch.  The thing I do believe is that there is also no one who is better than me.  My worth is God given.  My appreciation of the worth of others is also God given.  He made us.  He loves us.  All of us.  Equally.  So I’m going to keep on doing me.  He made me unique.  I was fearfully and wonderfully made.  And while I’m not perfect I was created by someone who is.  And that someone sees worth in me.  So who am I to argue?

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