February 10, 2017
My guest blogger today is someone you may have heard of once or twice: Miss Sarah Smith!
Sarah and I have had many conversations over the years about personality, temperaments, and introversion; they are subjects she is passionate about. Sarah is especially passionate about helping other people understand themselves better and with that in mind, I asked her to share her thoughts with you today.
Towards the end of my junior year of high school, I had the honor of being invited to join the National Honor Society. During my interview with the school board and NHS leaders, one of the questions the principal asked me was, “Are there any changes you would suggest to make this school better?”
My answer was, “Maybe encourage teachers to allow more time after asking questions, especially thought-provoking ones, before moving on. That way, introverted students can process the question and come up with a fully formed answer. As an introvert, I find that a lot of times more extroverted students beat me to the chase because they are more talkative but they don’t always have the right answer.”
I remember the principal’s words almost exactly. “Aw, Sarah, don’t say that about yourself! You’re not an introvert! You’re a very confident young lady!”
Stifling a laugh, I simply smiled and explained, “Well, I think of myself as a confident introvert,” before moving on with the interview. There wasn’t time for me to give my usual impassioned discourse on what introversion is.
I love explaining the different types of personality – a rather misunderstood topic – to anyone who will listen; however, it was only in the past few years that I learned about it for myself. Understanding my personality, as well as the personalities of those around me, has opened my eyes and enriched my life.
Throughout my elementary and middle school years, I sometimes felt like there was something wrong with me. I loved hanging out with my friends, but would often request that they go home after only two or three hours of being at my house. I enjoyed spending time with my friends, going on fearless adventures around neighborhoods and backyards, but then I would return to my bedroom and realize how exhausted I was.
I would think, “Why does having fun tire me out?
Then I would rest, read, write, and generally ponder the universe and would start to feel better, energized, even.
During my seventh-grade Health Class, I remember happening upon a small paragraph in the textbook about how peoples’ personalities are different; some people are introverted and others are extroverted. The textbook said something along the lines of “Extroverts are very outgoing and fun to be around,” before posing the question, “Do you know anyone who is quiet and shy? They might be an introvert.”
The paragraph ended there, as if that explained everything. After reading it, I paused and thought, Yeah, I like to listen more than a lot of people, and I’m not constantly talking like some of my classmates.
But I did not really relate to the word “shy.” Being in a small school that was a part of my church, I knew just about everyone around me and could be downright talkative when discussing something about which I was passionate. I was a naturally friendly and curious pastor’s daughter who had spent much of her life traveling to new places and meeting new people, whether in the countless churches where my parents had ministered or in hospitals during my cancer treatment.
So even after reading that (rather shallow) description of introversion, I still didn’t realize that I was indeed an introvert. Looking back, I now know why. That textbook definition hardly scratched the surface of what an introvert is.
It wasn’t until I discovered Susan Cain’s groundbreaking TED Talk “The Power of Introverts” that I began to understand my personality. Susan provided a much better definition than the one found in my outdated, middle school health textbook. She put into words what I had always felt: I loved people but I also needed alone time after socializing to recharge.
Author Sophia Dembling agrees with Susan Cain’s statement in her article, putting it this way:
“Yes, both shyness and introversion relate to socializing, but shy people are scared of socializing. Introverts just aren’t always interested in it. While there can be crossover, they’re not mutually exclusive.”
I came to realize that a “confident introvert” is not a paradox and I adopted the phrase to describe myself.
I did more research into the subject, learning that the main difference between extroverts and introverts is how their brains process stimuli.
There is actually a third personality type called an ambivert, which is someone who is between an introvert and an extrovert.
One type of temperament is not better than the other; it is simply how we were hardwired. God made our personalities all over the spectrum and the world wouldn’t function if everyone was just one personality type.
My mom has mentioned in previous blog entries that she is also introverted. She and I have discovered that we have very similar personality types on the Myer’s Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) scale.
According to this scale used by psychologists, there are sixteen basic personality types that can be used to describe people; eight of these types are introverted and the other eight are extroverted.
I am what is known as an INFJ and my mom is an INFP, so we understand each other quite well. My dear friend, Hope, is also an INFJ like me. Since it is one of the rarer personality types, it’s no wonder we were drawn to each other!
That is not to say introverts and extroverts cannot coexist, my parents being a great example.
My dad is an extrovert who never meets a stranger.
He can even make me act a little extroverted sometimes!
Mom is very much his opposite and yet the two of them get along swimmingly.
Opposites, even in something as major as personality, certainly can attract as their strengths and weaknesses keep each other in balance.
The MBTI personality types can’t tell you exactly who you are, of course, but can be a great tool to help you better understand yourself and how you interact with those around you.
If you are interested in learning what your personality type is, you can take a free quiz at 16personalities.com. I also recommend checking out Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (as well as her TED Talk video I mentioned before) and Introverts in the Church by Adam S. McHugh.
I find joy in helping people learn about themselves and the way God created them; I hope this post has been helpful to you in understanding yourself better.
Mom and I would love to hear your comments, questions or experiences on this subject, especially on your thoughts as to whether you are an introvert or extrovert.
Thrift stores, fuzzy socks
and conversing with my Yorkie
are all on the list of things I love.