Why You Should Learn to Share Your Private Self With Those Who Care the Most
Three weeks had passed since my father’ funeral. We–my aunts, uncles, cousins, and their children gathered at my cousin’s valley home to celebrate his son’s fourth birthday with ponies and magic. My (favorite) Aunt, Lynda,knew my dad most his life. And if you ask me, she knew him better than most people knew him. I wish I can remember exactly what it was she said that day. But, whatever it was, the people standing around us laughed knowingly. I didn’t get it. Lynda saw that and quickly apologized.
“I’m so sorry, Sally. I shouldn’t have said that so soon after Jack’s passing.”
“That’s okay, Lynda. I didn’t know him that well.”
“No one did,” she said.
That idea—no one did— has followed me ever since. Can you spend so much time “in your head”, hidden in plain sight, that no one knows you? Can you be so bound up with fear of conflict, fear of judgment—pride, that your best friends and family don’t know you?
Yes. It can happen.
Here’s another part of the story: Dad came from a large family and had many friends (and some bad influences). His funeral and memorial services were top-notch. They pulled out all the stops. He served patriotically in the United States Army, therefore his life and his family were honored with a full military service.
We saluted. We cried.
But, at the reception following only two people took the microphone to share memories of my Dad, their life-long friend. Both stories retold my Dad’s penchant for eating without gaining weight and his appreciation great food. Dad wasn’t a chef or even nutritionally minded. But that’s what people thought about when they thought about Dad…how much he could eat. Is that all they knew or is that all they wanted to share? Nearly every other aspect of his life was closed up. Not worth talking about?
No one spoke of his great love for books, that he read Webster’s Dictionary cover-to-cover for fun. The New York Times crossword puzzle never out-smarted him. Count Basie was the best Jazz Artist of all time. Baseball means the Red Sox. He spoke French. He was an introvert who enjoyed quiet unless he wanted to listen to jazz, then the windows were open and Count Basie jazz roared throughout the block. That was Dad in private.
If you ask me, his public persona paled in comparison. He knew so much but didn’t share it with the world around him. Instead, he was known for ordering seconds helpings at his favorite restaurants.
There is so much that could have been said that wasn’t because he didn’t talk about his interests or passions or dreams.
Introvert, Take Note. You’re Here To Make An Impact.
It seems a sorry commentary for someone who shied away from making a difference. At any rate, your life matters. You have something to say, something to teach. I know you know this because you’re an introvert; you’ve been thinking about it.
Why Your Voice and Story Matter (#preachingtomyself)
Everything happens for a reason. I believe that. Even though I was already on a journey of finding and shaping my voice before Dad’s memorial, my memory of the day is a trail marker that to me reads:
The world needs to know your story.
You have something to offer.
Don’t remain hidden in plain sight.
Break Through False Limitations
While I was researching this post and others I’ve written on the subject of living as an introvert in a world that values extroverts, I noticed a recurring fearful tone coming from articles, posts and replies about introversion. Honestly, it makes me sad because fear is nothing more than a lie that holds you down and holds you back from making the impact you’re designed to make.
I know you can shine a light into the lives around once you know you know you can.
5 Small Steps Toward Sharing Your Story With The World
1. People who care about you want to know about you.
Let people into your life. There’s no better way to get to know someone than ask them questions…about themselves. The double-edge sword is that kind of conversation falls on the side of “small talk”(link), the introvert’s nemesis. Thereby making practice even more important.
This is a challenge.
Introverts are normally private people, maybe a little protective. So it’s kind of a big deal when you let down your guard enough to not only ask good questions but also answer questions sincerely and succinctly while avoiding one-word, yes-or-no answers. If you don’t know where to begin, these tips will get you started.
3. Learn to Draw People Out So They Talk.
Then you will have more to talk about. Really, you have an edge here because as an introvert you’re naturally curious. Let your curiosity lead you into meaningful conversations. Practice developing your conversation skills and in time it gets easier.
4. Overcome Your Fear of Sharing Your Views.
Your thoughts are your thoughts. It doesn’t matter if people disagree. When you know where your strength comes from, your fear will dry up. These promises strengthen me:
- God provides my strength and ability to speak
- I am fearfully and wonderfully made
- If God is for me, no one can be against me
- I have nothing to fear
5. Your Legacy.
This idea came to me in a journalism class when I was tasked with writing my own obituary. Easier said than done. Never before had I really thought about how I want to be remembered. What will my life stand for? Will I make a difference? We each have a purpose and being an introvert does not detract from that purpose. It might be the very thing that makes you stand out, sets you apart; your edge.
Understand Your Edge Then Lean On It
Knowing whether or not you lean toward introversion or extroversion should help you better recognize your strengths so you can develop them to impact the lives around you. On the contrary, hiding behind “weaknesses” or labels or using them as an excuse to, well, hide, is good for no one. It’s not the point of this post.
Look at it this way: If your best friend is asked to write your obituary today, what will they say? Will they know you well enough to craft a word picture of who you are and how you try to better the world around you? Or will they be at a loss for words, stumped to describe the friend they knew for so many years? I pray you find the courage to share your thoughts and passions with people who care about you.
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