“Wow, I’m so freaking awesome. I know in my heart that I’m doing the best that I can right now. I don’t need anyone else to tell me this, I just know that I’m great.”
…Said barely anyone, ever.
At least, not me. And not often.
I don’t know about you (I know some people who are really comfortable with this), but advertising my talents has never come naturally to me. At my core I’m an introvert, naturally veering more towards humility than pride. Never having been a performer, writing was (and is) my main mode of creative expression.
Sometimes if I’m in a room with others, I literally feel blocked. I don’t feel that I have ever had a choice in this—it is just how I am. My brain actually shuts down and I have no idea what to say. When I’m alone (or with someone I’m very comfortable with) is when my brain is most likely to be in flow.
Although I’ve learned how to be more extroverted, through my teens and 20s, I found it very difficult to attain a solid sense of faith in my abilities.
There was Talent, sitting quietly in the background, watching, waiting to be noticed.
Sometimes I (it) would get tired of waiting to come out and play, but it insisted on hiding anyway. Then others would rarely get to know who I really was.
I’d feel isolated, and I’d get jealous, mentally accusing some of my (more extroverted) peers of bragging, showing off, attention-seeking. They always seemed to get the most recognition. They’d get the jobs, the grades, the friends, the boyfriends. I knew I was a good person; I just wasn’t interested in getting in people’s faces. I mean, wasn’t pride the result of an inflated ego, and quiet humility a perfectly fine way to be? Why was it always a big competition, anyways, to get noticed?
Why didn’t people just choose to see the real me, like I would them?
Some of the answers to these questions (likely) lie in our societal structure, linked to concepts akin to that of the Extrovert Ideal, which Susan Cain discusses in her book ‘Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.’ Cain theorizes some of reasons why Western (business) culture tends to show a preference towards people with traits associated with extroversion.
As I read the book, waves of relief washed over me. I realized that there were probably many people in the world who (in part) due to their introverted nature, tended to get overlooked, and probably felt the same way as me. I started taking the blame off myself: being quiet and humble wasn’t necessarily the wrong thing. And this realization left some space for some others.
I noticed that, even beyond this, I was in the habit of doubting myself. Deeply and consistently.
Having real faith in oneself is something that has to be learned. I realize now that this is likely the case for most of us, introverts and extroverts alike.
At a ladies’ night years ago, we were asked to complete a simple exercise. Each one of us in the circle was to take turns saying, “I (say your first and last name), am great.” As we said this, we were supposed to look someone else directly in the eye, and say the phrase with complete sincerity. We were to keep repeating it until we could say it with a straight face.
Try it now.
How did that feel?
To me (and pretty much everyone else in the room), it felt ridiculous. It felt awkward. It was hard! It did not come naturally for any one of us.
The other morning, I posted a response to a friend’s Facebook status update. It was a statement of unwavering support towards her in her life. It just came out so naturally: as I was writing it, I completely believed my words. I had no doubt that her life was about to become more and more amazing. This response came out of me because she was baring her soul, being deeply honest and detailed about how she was feeling in that moment. In this instance, she was being openly proud of her specific skills and attributes, but sometimes it’s about how she broke down crying that day.
It’s her confidence in showing both her boldness and vulnerability that are admirable.
It seems that my friend group increasingly consists of a circle of mutual groupies, where each show of support fuels another. It’s a lovely social positive feedback loop, and it was so automatic to show this person that I supported and believed in her 100 percent. And I don’t even know her that well.
Suddenly I realized: if we can so easily have unwavering faith in other people, why is it so hard for us to do this for ourselves?
Why don’t I just consistently believe in myself to the extent that I do for my talented, caring, conscious, creative friends? Why is it so natural for us to believe that something is wrong with our own (job, task, relationship, friendship, situation—fill in the blank) rather than choosing to believe we are perfectly lovable?
Think about this the next time you write on your friends Facebook wall, or tell them how beautiful they are, or tell them how you never had any doubt that they’d get that job of their dreams. When we truly believe in someone, we express this boldly, easily.
Let’s remember to do this for ourselves each day. Starting now.
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Ed: B. Bemel