Are you feeling discouraged (adrift even) at the start of 2017?
For many, the world may feel a little less safe, a lot more unpredictable, uncharted even, as we navigate into this new year.
At the start of 2016 I posted ‘On the Road Not Taken’, where I looked at the regrets we might feel for the choices we didn’t make in 2015. It seemed to resonant with many of you.
I still feel it’s relevant.
At first I thought that I might just repost it. (I know, ‘bit lazy’!)
But then along came Brian Gresko’s article ‘In Defense of Small, Quiet Accomplishments’ on the Quiet Rev website. I read it and my heart sang!
Please, quiet people, make yourselves a hot drink, find a cosy corner and read it. It’s warm, human, wise – life as we know it.
And it really made me think.
It made me think about where we get our validation as introverts.
It made me realise that SOME RULES ARE THERE TO BE BROKEN!
Here’s why …
Brian writes about those moments of self doubt that assail us (particularly at the consumer high points of Christmas and New Year) – those insidious inner voices that whisper to us that
We’re ‘not enough’ …
We’re ‘no great shakes’ …
That we didn’t do anything of real significance in 2016 …
That we don’t match up to the shimmering icons of cultural success that trumpet everywhere from social media outlets.
He tells of how those messages (if we let them in) can bring us down, make us doubt ourselves, sap our confidence, when we’d previously been content living a life of serene and quiet triumphs.
Marching to our own particular drum.
I felt for Brian, as he told of his heroic trek to the Mall one bitter morning, alongside a cast of thousands, trying to get THE Christmas gift of the year for his son. (Echoes of ‘Jingle All The Way’ anyone?)
When my children were young we were living on a church pastor’s salary.
A little had to go a long way.
I still remember our ‘Hunt for Leonardo’ (hero turtles first time round anyone?) and the hours I spent trekking the stores, (pre-Internet), fearing that I would have failed as a parent if I couldn’t get the wretched little green amphibian for my son!
A lovely friend managed to track one down from the States. It was 20x bigger than the ones in our stores, but at least it was a hero turtle.
And, as in Brian’s story, our son was just as thrilled with the many humbler gifts he received.
(We still have Leonardo by the way!)
But the real question remains …
How do we defend ourselves against the temptations to compare and feel demoralised? How do we get back to feeling good about the counter-cultural way we do life as introverts?
Brian’s article resonated with me, because I know I’ve felt like that, but it also made me think about the times when I’ve managed to shut the door on those destructive voices, and found my composure again. It made me stop and think about how I got back to my happy place again.
So, here’s a story for you …. it’s the story of ‘My Flat pack Furniture Disaster’.
Believe me, it’s relevant! (and more than a little embarrassing).
I’d just moved to London for my first job after uni.
First flat, first pay cheque, first flat-mate, and now : first furniture (Flat packed. Cheap).
My flat-mate and I were trying to be two independent career women not in need of ‘a man with DIY skills’.
(Actually, we didn’t need a man – a fairly knowledgeable Labrador would have been more use than we were!)
We laid out both sets of flat pack furniture, instructions and screwdrivers and set to work. Everything seemed to be going well. Some of the wooden pieces needed extra brute force to fix together, but we put the difficulty down to being weak and feeble women!
Wrong on so many levels!
When we finally looked up amidst the forest of wooden pieces at the half-assembled bookcase and chair, it was obvious something was wrong. Our high-backed chair was decidedly lopsided and wouldn’t stand level.
We got back to the drawing board.
And there it was! Plain as day. We had confused a flat pack piece that should have been part of our bookcase for one that was part of the chair (in our defence, they were quite similar!).
It was such an effort to fit the piece in, not because we were weak women, but because THE PIECE DIDN’T BELONG THERE ANYWAY!
To put this woeful tale in context: all furniture is not the same.
Chairs and bookcases are not put together the same way.
All furniture doesn’t serve the same purpose.
It’s the same with people.
Are you judging yourself as faulty and lopsided against the wrong set of instructions? Someone else’s instruction manual!
Studies show that introverts are motivated very differently to extroverts. Broadly speaking, extroverts work from extrinsic motivation (an inbuilt desire to seek external, visible indicators of success). Introverts are motivated more by intrinsic motivators (the acquisition of knowledge, the pursuit of a personal goal). Nothing right or wrong with either. Just different.
So, believe me when I say there are some ‘rules’ worth breaking, worth ignoring.
These aren’t the rules laid down in the statute books or in the 10 Commandments. (Best to keep these!).
No, these are rules that are laid down in no legal document, but can be just as binding on our behaviours and attitudes.
They are cultural and social ‘norms’ that we (often) unquestioningly accept, taking them in like the air we breathe, feeling governed (and evaluated) by them, though we may never have signed up to them!
Unspoken rules like ‘being successful means having visible status : the big salary/house/car/following’ , etc.
As quiet people, we really need to step out from under their tyranny.
We need to stop feeling a compulsion to follow these rules, even if others do.
If we haven’t signed up to them,
If our hearts don’t see their value,
If it’s not in our being to chase after them … then why should we feel judged and evaluated by them?
Brian concludes that (when he manages to silence these ‘should’ voices) he’s actually pretty happy with his life and achievements… So how can we silence the voices…..?
Well, this is what helps me. These are my 4 keys ( .. Allen keys if you like!) to getting my contentment back… They’re simple, but simple is often the best (and most overlooked) way. And they work.
- Recognise your own personal values. What really matters to you. Maybe you’re not the CEO of a big company by the time you’re 40 – but was that ever really important to you? Was that ever your goal, your instruction manual, or is its somebody else’s idea of success, that you’re allowing to judge you. Maybe your goal was more relational (but no less challenging) – to be the best dad or mum you could be, to develop your children, to work for justice in your community, to discover and live happily with who you really are. We choose goals that fit our values, our personalities and abilities, our priorities. My goals may not be yours. So let go of that judgment…. You haven’t won, but you may never have meant to enter that particular race.
- Stop comparing! You’re on your own journey. All that really matters is how you’re doing with that. Your map (and destination) are your own. Those runners who turn to look at others as they run, lose their momentum. Keep focused on where you’re going.
- Have a social media fast. Honestly! What’s out there on social media isn’t real life. It’s everyone’s shop window, where we put our shiniest, best goods on display. You won’t often see folk parading their second-best, their failures, struggles or self-doubts. So don’t compare. It’s not real. It’s photo shopped life.
- Practise Gratitude. The sacrifice of gratitude delivers the simple gift of contentment. Not in a twee, Pollyanna-ish way… But when we give way to those siren voices of insecurity, envy and shame, we really do lose sight of all the treasures we already have. We may even lose them because we fail to recognise or cultivate them. A bit like Aesop’s dog with the bone.
So, thank you Brian for the article. Thank you for reminding us that ‘a quiet life can be its own reward’. That really is something worth signing up for.
‘Til next time