Today I wanted to write about something I am feeling increasingly passionate about. It’s personal to me and has at times led to painful (not to mention awkward) situations. I wanted to write about being an extrovert! I have read a great many articles on Introversion, which is great as it helps me understand different people. However I felt there was a need to redress the balance.
A story that my Grandparents would tell about me involves a 2 hour plus car journey. Apparently with them all to myself I talked from the minute I got in the car to the moment we arrived. They didn’t know what had hit them. Growing up, people would often say that I had verbal diarrhoea, that I was a chatterbox and that I didn’t think before I opened my mouth (high praise indeed). These things were all entirely true. I couldn’t deny any of them, so I resorted to chatting my way through them!
Now as an adult I have spent a good many hours filling in personality questionnaires, don’t you just love them? Sometimes I show up as a visionary or I come out as fun to be with, but either way I am always marked down as an extreme extrovert. Usually, I come out so far towards extroversion that I assume it must be a fix! Some days I like being an extrovert and at other times I hate it. I’ll always be the one to put my verbal foot in it, I’ll say what I’m thinking when it might not be appropriate, I’ll look confident when I’m not. People have classed me as arrogant, pushy or over confident. Occasionally they have taken the silly things I have said out loud as being hard wired into my character or core beliefs and gone right off me (when it was probably a bit of nonsense that just slipped out). When I make mistakes I tend to make them publicly and in those moments I feel just as embarrassed as any introvert would. Don’t write off my character because of my personality! As a teenager I would constantly use the phrase “Oh, nothing embarrasses me.” This was a smoke screen for my extrovert mistakes (pretend like you did it on purpose for self-esteem sake) …of course I was embarrassed. I wonder how many extroverts become the class clown. I don’t think either being either introvert or extrovert makes life easier. I have often read in the Psalms that God knows our thoughts before we think them. So all you introverts out there, you are in just the same trouble as I am.
I don’t remember having a special teacher at school. Sadly, I remember my teachers being annoyed by me. I remember never being chosen, never being allowed to answer a question; for fear that I would take up the whole lesson with my answer. I remember feeling invisible. I remember being abandoned at Alton Towers by the youth group who had had enough of my chat on the coach. Of course all these experiences have helped shaped me and encouraged me to be more sensitive to others. They have also helped me as a teacher to understand the pupil’s better. Those with their hands up all the time (that like to chat) maybe that’s how they learn? Get them to chat about what they are learning. Take time to talk individually with the kids who never raise their hands in whole class time. Make everyone feel valued. Those attention seeking kids, why not give them some attention? Maybe don’t keep making the kid avoiding eye contact answer all the questions! We are all unique. When I was a kid, I was the kind of child that needed to know her place. My eldest son, who is also extremely extrovert, is celebrated much more. I am not sure if this is because he is male or because we value different personalities today. We can lose something important if we only celebrate individuality at the expense of sharing life together. My suggestion is that we don’t glorify any one personality type and instead value all equally. As humans we are made to work in community together, and it would do us good to remember that each character trait and personality type has a valuable place in the jigsaw of life.
As an adult I married a wonderful man who was more introvert than me. He then went on to train to be a vicar. Neil was called to this, God confirmed his calling to both of us and his high levels of integrity and care for others means (in my opinion) that he‘s awesome in this role. However through his career people have said some odd things. Someone once said that he would have got a particular job in church leadership (that he was turned down for) if they’d have met me!? Other people have said that I ought to train to be a vicar. What? Be careful people, what are you saying? I am sure those people were trying to encourage me, but let’s be careful not to discourage one person to build another up. Surely there is space for us all in leadership.
Maybe it’s time we stopped putting each other down, so that our particular character traits come out on top? Make more of an effort to work as community. I have no intention of training to be a vicar, I don’t believe that my character/personality wholly lends itself to that job. However, I know that God has matched my husband and I together as our characters complement each other. Together with him as Husband/Dad/Vicar, me as Wife/Mother/Teacher; we work together well (even though we do love a good row). Our main mission is to serve God and love people. I am still working all this and am very much a work progress. I can’t be anyone else, God created me uniquely. I need to continue to learn how to serve the people I meet and my community’s with the character and personality I have, whilst also empowering others with the mosaic of differences to do likewise.