One Wish? I’d Be Invisible. But At What Cost?
So many introverts have a vivid memory of the day they discovered they are an introvert. This memory is often a relief, a validation that provides confirmation and a sense of belonging from knowing there are others who are wired the same way.
To this day, I can picture exactly where my desk was in that classroom, how I felt, and the exact level of dread and discomfort. Mine is not a happy memory.
I was in fourth grade when the entire class took a color-based personality test. Most of the class was extroverted orange and that made me desperately want to be orange too, but I was solidly aligned with the very few introverted blues. This was not good news for me because, from a very young age, all I wanted was to just blend in.
I am most uncomfortable when I’m the center of attention. My face turns several different shades of red, my hands sweat, my tongue becomes heavy and I trip over my words. It’s awful and has resulted in a valiant effort to avoid this at all costs. It’s also led to a subconscious effort to stay as small, quiet, and invisible as possible.
This weekend I’m attending a life coach training, and I’m so excited about it. I’ll see the coach and client with whom I’ve been working for the past three months, along with several other coaches I got to know during the last training. But my excitement has been dampened by the anxiety of being in a large group for the three days.
I thrive in one-on-one situations or small groups of people I know well. Large groups always seem to hold too many opportunities for me to become the center of attention at any given moment. As I dreaded this possibility, I suddenly had the wish to become invisible during the training. And as I considered what that would be like, I realized how unfulfilling it would be.
I crave connection, and my wish to fly under the radar is the complete opposite of connection. I’m beginning to notice when my head contradicts my heart – and this happens a lot! – so I took a few moments to explore this and figure out exactly what was going on.
This led me to a realization I was not expecting: staying small is selfish. It’s all about me – keeping myself safe at all costs – and I can now see that the cost of staying small is high:
1. It puts me in direct conflict with my value of personal growth. No growth can happen while I’m striving to stay safe and small. Staying small is the opposite of growing.
2. In my effort to avoid the spotlight, I hide like a turtle, closing off everything I have to offer. This keeps me from fully showing up with all of my gifts and perspective and experiences that could benefit others.
3. It blocks me from being vulnerable. My definition of vulnerability is courage, and there is absolutely no room for courage when I’m staying safe and small.
All because I make the decision up front that no one could possibly want to hear what I have to say.
Is this true?
I can’t answer that question because I’ve never taken the risk. I don’t know when I stopped raising my hand in class at school, but I’m pretty sure I never started. What kept me from this was the fear of being wrong. I’ve been on a mission to prove that I’m competent and intelligent for years, but because this is driven by fear, it’s made me stay small to make sure no one ever has the chance to make a decision about me in this area.
I want to blossom fully into who I was created to be, and this means becoming bigger, not smaller. It means putting my thoughts and perspectives out into the world not to prove anything, but simply for the benefit of others. This is part of letting my cracks and vulnerabilities be exposed in all situations, large groups or small so that the light can shine through and create a deeper connection with those around me. It’s digging deep into my courage to step into what I already know: I am good enough. My thoughts and perspectives and questions are good enough. And most importantly, they are worthy of being spoken.
Vulnerability is raising my hand. It’s giving myself permission to be wrong. It’s allowing me to fall so I can get back up and rise strong.