Have you ever taken the Meyers-Briggs Personality Test? If so, once you saw “your letters” identifying you as an I-introvert or E-extrovert, or an Amnivert, a borderline, like I am, how did it make you feel?
Defined? Labeled? A typecast?
I wasn’t bothered at the time because I knew I loved being with people sometimes, while coveting my time alone.
Recently though a new acquaintance remarked that I was a quiet person. Me? Quiet?
What bothered me most was that I took it as a non-compliment.
Yes, I suppose I am now, I thought. But I’m a much better listener and I choose my words carefully …
Sigh, I only wish.
So what made me switch? My students described me as enthusiastic and exuberant. While Bill and I were dating, ebullient was his word for me. (I had to look that one up. It’s just a fancy word for exuberant.)
Now I’m quiet. But, really, is that so bad?
In this age of social media where discourse is fast and furious,
it seems stepping into a no-gadgets zone is considered a no-go zone.
Are quiet people getting their due?
Several years ago when I was walking through the school office where I taught, I ran into the parents of one of my students. Mary was a thoughtful girl and an excellent student. She was just quiet.
Her dad teasingly asked me if Mary was behaving and added in fun, “When Mary was in the sixth-grade, she got a B in conduct. We were so excited we took her out to her favorite restaurant to celebrate!”
However, in spite of Mary’s quietness, I had (P) perceived something powerful in her make-up. So much so, I even had a dream in which I needed help, and I turned around and there was Mary with her two best friends (also quiet), right behind me, ready to assist. I suppose I sensed her strength subliminally. But it was still strength, quiet strength.
Speaking of Quiet Strength, that is the title of Rosa Parks’ autobiography.
In a book I recommend for all entitled Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, author Susan Cain reveals how Parks serves as an exemplary model. Cain describes how the petite Parks and her reserved manner made a powerful statement when she said “No” to the bus driver that nation-changing day in Montgomery, Alabama.
Martin Luther King, Jr., could not have made the same impact Rosa Parks did. In turn, the world needed to hear “I have a dream” through the powerful voice and commanding leadership of King.
Which circles back to my point: we need all types. Most especially, we need to value all types. God obviously realized that when He created us for specific purposes.
So what makes us question and compare ourselves so shrewdly?
In Marshal Frady’s book Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Life, King is quoted as saying,
“Each of us is two selves. And the great burden of life is always to keep that higher self in command. Don’t let the lower self take over.”
Naturally, we first think of the good dog and bad dog selves in battle. In a perfect world, we all would choose the good dog-self, right?
Yet, in an imperfect world, we can at least learn to accept our God-given individuality of who we are–from birth through all of our delightful and tragic and finally lay claim to our best selves as an Introvert, Extrovert or Amnivert (both I and E).
So why are we E’s or I’s? Is it Nature or Nurture?
According to researchers, the consensus is both. We’re born one way (nature) and nurturing strengthens or weakens it. For example, let’s say Tina was born an extrovert, but circumstances/abuse/trauma in her life made her pull back and turn inward. John was born an introvert, but his environment demanded a more outgoing response for survival. Maybe, he learned to fake it, being all things to all people, missing out on who God created him to be.
We can’t know though if we live our whole world on a stage, as in the social media circuit. We have to encourage all of our generations the value of being our authentic selves, to break away from the crowd to reflect, appreciate a few real sunsets, not just the ones on YouTube.
Another validation of our God-given nature is offered in Quiet. Cain cites Jerome Kagan’s longitudinal study at Harvard with the results revealing that some who are later termed as introverts are born with an amygdala highly sensitive to environmental stimulation.
Thus, they tend to retreat from chaos to the safety of a quieter world as they grow older. You might not notice it in your children until they’re in their teen years.
This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If one has the right nurturing, she can use that time to develop her gifts and talents, her mind and spirit. And let’s face it, to become adept at something takes a bit of time.
Certainly, we should be our best selves. So if you’re uncomfortable with a crowd, develop your communication skills. Just don’t be so hard on yourself if you’re not Tony Robbins.
I know plenty of men and women who speak in public settings who are quite effective. They have much to say and have figured out how to say it. Yet, they confess that having to be in social settings exhausts them.
Maybe, that’s to their advantage and ours. For the time they spend alone reading, researching, playing an instrument, painting/drawing/sculpting, and writing feeds them. They, in turn, nourish us from their time pulled back from the world.
This year, let your storehouse swell with faith in the Father and time well spent, learning the art of patience (James 1), the nourishing fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5), developing faith, not on others’ wisdom but on God’s power (I Cor. 1:4).
And as with each of us, realizing when those trials attempt to overwhelm us, we can go deep into our storehouse for the perseverance to overcome all He promised (Hebrews 10:35-39, James 1:2-18f).
Have you noticed when we realize who we are, we’re less critical of others, forfeiting jealousies because we know who we are?
In turn, we don’t just become a storehouse of godly character traits to store away, or worse, provide a facade for our public display. We purpose to live out those attributes, to reflect and respond. It’s through our responses that declare what our heart-songs sing.
Free yourself to step to the rhythm of your beat.
Take the Meyers-Briggs Personality Test
My husband and I took it, and it described both us perfectly. It only takes 10-20 minutes.
Also this is an oldie, but if you need a good cry, capture how one dog discovered his lifechanging purpose: SURFice Dog