Bubbly, outgoing, talkative, bold, fearless, friendly, extroverted, hypersocial.
All of these words were used frequently to describe me over the years. I was usually the one making the plans for my friends and I on a friday night. Usually the first one to greet new people. Most likely to talk to strangers. The presenter for class projects.
But there is usually more than meets the eye, and the most "bubbly" person is often covering a heart full of insecurity and anxiety. But our brave face hides the fact that we are emotionally strung out on craving approval. Our fear of man looks less like withdrawal from people, and more like stealing the spotlight to prove our value and relevance to others.
We tell stories about the funny things we did or encountered and it serves as a great deflection to keep you from knowing our weaknesses and failings. If I talk all the time the no one will worry that im not OK. So for years we mask depression, sickness, physical pain, emotional traumas, and sin, because we need you to approve.
And it works. Too well. Because we fool ourselves and you. We seem godly, healthy, emotionally balanced and we are "great friends. "
But, when we come to the end of our ability to pretend, and trust me, we all do, what happens? The fallout is enough to deflate our fantasy of perfection and show us how empty we feel, and how many of our relationships are built on the lies we have lived. We try and share our genuine struggles and are met with disbelief, or shock. "You dont seem...sick. sad. Anxious. Lonely. Afraid." Or you confirm our worst fears, and you treat us as if our new found flaw is the sum total of our identity. All else becomes lost as you label us as your sick friend. Your gay friend. Your depressed friend. Your friend who was abused. Your friend who eats their emotions. But we arent really your friend at all, because you dont know us beyond the surface we showed. And its our fault. All of ours. Yours and mine.
So how do we fix this? How do we build real relationships based on openess and genuine connection?
Here are few things that I have found helpful over my years as a so called "extrovert." I am sure this will relate to some of you that identitfy as introverted as well, since personally I dont put much stock in distinction in terms of struggles. This list of course is not be a one size fits all solution, because people and their struggles arent one size fits all.
-Honesty. I have to be brutally and painfully honest. With myself. God and others. This means allowing myself to recognize and name the things i dislike about myself, and bringing them to light, so they lose their dark power over me.
-Sincerity. This seems similar to honesty, but i think of it more as allowing your emotions to be real. Not just telling the truth "i have anxiety" but allowing the truth to show in your eyes as you tell someone. Be willing to cry, laugh, and pray with sincere emotions that are as deep as you feel them.
-Wisdom. It is OK, even advisable not to open yourself up deeply to everyone you know all at once. This leaves us vulnerable, not "known." So to begin seek out the friends who have seen your lowest lows, and tell them that you want to work on being more real with them. It takes time, so dont expect wildly encouraging heart to hearts and sudden growth in areas you havent watered. But dont underestimate the power of having a few people know you deeply.
-Prayer. Again, this connects back to the honesty and sincerity. You have to admit fully to God that you struggle to be the creation he made you to be. That you have allowed sin and struggles to define your actions more than the reality of your identity in Christ. That you hate being single, loud, overweight, lustful, proud, etc. But you feel powerless to change. I cant say that he will take away your struggle. I wish I could say that prayer will instantly transform you into the open honest person God is calling you to be. But it can give you moment by moment strength to be open. Daily peace for your anxiety. Boldness to get the help you need to cope with fear of abandonment, or trauma.
- Identity. I struggle to view myself and God views me. Fearfully and wonderfully made. A Child of God. In His Image. Part of the Spotless Bride of Christ. Redeemed. Called. Loved. Being conformed.
I need reminders, from scripture, prayer, friends, and family. I need to memorize and renew my mind regularly to be made aware of how God sees me, and that his perspective is the one that matters. Not the opinion of college professors, bosses, exes, parents, magazines, movies, classmates, coworkers, or anyone who holds up a standard apart from God's.
Our personalities provide us each challenges in our walk to become like God, and it is easy to use them as a sheilf to hide behind. But there is so much grace available when we open ourselves up to let Him work in us and change us to be more like Him.