I have always been slightly ashamed of 2 parts of me.
1. That I prefer work over play.
2. That I enjoy being alone.
(You can imagine how well I fit in with my family, neighbors, church, etc.)
Especially in a world where noise, laughter, fun, play, social gatherings and busyness seem to be valued above all other.
I’ve spent too much of my life wishing I were different. I’ve spent too much of my life wishing I could relax more; sit down and throw my feet up; be the life of the party. But I am slowly and surely beginning to “be me” without any shame.
Let me explain.
I am a worker at heart.
If Chad said to me on Saturday afternoon, “Honey, would you prefer to clean out the garage or go to dinner and a movie?” I would chose to clean out the garage.
Unheard of, I know. But you see, I find work much more personally gratifying than play. And I would benefit from time spent in the garage for months as opposed to a dinner that I would regret one hour later and a movie that I would forget I even saw.
I am not saying that I don’t like to go to the movies, or get ice cream, or go to a concert, or go on a hike. I can actually be a fun person, but if I get to make a choice, I would usually choose work. And that preference was what I was ashamed of.
I remember clearly the day that I finally accepted my work crush. It was in church and the teacher was talking about all the work that we would be doing in the after-life. A light bulb went off. I remember thinking, “I am developing heavenly attributes on earth.”
We aren’t going to be water skiing in the after-life or sitting poolside sipping margaritas; we are going to be working our buns off. I am not sure exactly what we will be doing — maybe we will be angels helping other people still on earth. I don’t know, but I do know we will be working. Some would say, “Well then go have fun now because you will have to work later.” But my theory is “Learn to love NOW what you will do forever.”
My love for work is less of a thorn in my side than it once was. I no longer try to cover it up or act that I dread Monday. I am no longer embarrassed that I actually enjoy doing laundry or that I prefer a weekend of work to a weekend of play. I accept and honor that I am a worker. It’s okay to be me.
I have been harassed for being an introvert as far back as I can remember. My sister would have a bunch of boys over in high school, and I would say goodnight to the party around 10:00 PM because I was tired. She always called me a party pooper and couldn’t believe that I didn’t want to hang out til all hours of the night with boys or friends or family.
I ran into a few issues later in life when I dated boys and their families wanted me to be the blonde, bubbly, ball of fun. I was even accused at one point of not having a personality.
I understand that extraverts are the darlings of families, churches, schools, and neighborhoods. I understand that they make people feel comfortable and loved. I understand that they love talking and socializing and partying. But that is not me.
I understand that silence rejuvenates me. I enjoy alone time. I am energized by being with myself because I get to think and wonder about the world and how I contribute. I want to have deep conversations about meaningful things. These qualities do not make me less of a person than someone who likes to be surrounded by people.
I am no longer going to walk around wishing I was something that I am not. I now understand better who I am, and I am at peace with it.
So why does my self-acceptance matter now?
My self-acceptance matters because I am a parent.
And as I learn to accept and love who I am, even if it is not what my family wants me to be or what society wants me to be, I give my children permission to do the same. I can model for them what true self-love and self- acceptance looks like, sounds like and feels like.
Also, the better I know myself, the better I can help my children know who they are.
I can already see that some of my kids are introverts and some are extraverts. And I want them to be okay with whatever they are. I don’t want them trying to be the party animal when they would prefer to curl up with a good book. And I don’t want them to feel obligated to stay home if they would prefer a party. I am not going to make them feel bad for their instincts.
It really hit me at our family reunion last summer, when Elle came up to me about 10:00 PM and said she was tired and going to bed. (All the other cousins were staying up.) This same sister muttered, “That is so sad”. I jumped to Elle’s defense as if every childhood memory came flooding back to me. “What’s sad about an 11 year old knowing her limits, honoring her body, and not worrying about what everyone else is doing?”
I was going to let my daughter be who she is and not make her feel bad about it.
And I think this knowledge of how they work, helps me with my parenting. Elle thrives when she gets some time by herself. That is why homeschooling is working so well for her.
Then there is Crew who calls me within 5 minutes of being left alone. He wants to be with buddies constantly. He loves crowds and people and will go anywhere and do anything. Managing his social calendar is no easy task, but he is happiest around others, so I help him be who he is as well.
The real point is that one type is not better than the other. Extraverts are not better than introverts. Both are needed in the world. Players are not better than workers. Both make society a better place.
As parents, we should want to raise our children to be confident and secure in who they are – just as they are. That doesn’t mean that we all can’t learn and grow and get out of our comfort zones, but it does mean to accept and love ourselves for who we are.
It’s taken me 42 years, but I finally believe that it’s okay to be me.
(I hope my children realize this truth sooner than I did.)