Thursday, June 18, 2009

Steps to Connection: Be Yourself

I'm an introvert. Some of you may find it hard to believe, but it's true. As a child I was shy. I rarely made my presence known, challenged the rules or rocked the boat. I spent a lot of time observing conversations, imagining what it was like to be someone else. I suppose I formed opinions in those years too, but I rarely vocalized them. Most of the thoughts I knocked around in my head were questions anyway, questions I was afraid revealed my naivete.

But as I got older and braver, I opened up. I asked the questions, I shared the opinions, I engaged in conversations and an interesting thing happened. People seemed to like the thoughts running around in my puny brain. Some even appreciated them because they could relate. When I followed a bunny trail of my obsessive thought process out loud, people smiled. When I'd admit I didn't understand or had a difficult time, others nodded their head and said, "Yeah, me too." Giving glimpses of myself encouraged others to do the same, joining us together. The more I let my true self out, the more I felt loved.

And known.

Even the qualities people tease me about have garnered appreciation. Friends give me a bad time about overanalyzing, but I'm often asked what I think about things. One woman enjoys my confessions of wanting to be a rebel and though I may be mistaken, I see a little twinkle in her eye telling me a lot about her as well, linking us in unspoken understanding. I've been accused of having a "death stare" when I intently listen to people which used to bother me until I discovered it compelled people to spill their guts to me, freeing them from the burdens they carry.

I tell people if they really want to get to know me, they should read this blog. I've exposed myself plenty. I've admitted I'd love to have a secret tattoo. I've let my moodiness be clearly seen. I've revealed I find sex one of God's best ideas (yep, I really said it). I've made you privy to private conversations, thoughts and impressions. I've confessed to hating churchy lingo and words like "balance" and "witness." Yet in baring my soul I've kept and increased readers, even those who don't agree. How is this possible? Do my readers appreciate me being me, not a cookie cutter representation of a Christian woman? I like to think it gives them permission to do the same, to be who they are, whether they fit some prescribed mode of spirituality or not.

And there it is. Did you catch it? Being ourselves gives others permission to do the same, allowing true connection to take place. We all have distinct traits and ideas. When we hide them by trying to fit in, we deprive others of those elements that make us unique and endearing. We need to let the delightful, quirky parts of us shine.

I always appreciate a person who is willing to be who they are. I feel honored, trusted, when someone doesn't hold back. I want to know what you really think, not what you think I want to hear. I want to see the fire in your eyes as you discuss something you are passionate about. I want to know you're feeling depressed or hormonal or your teenagers are making you crazy (please don't let me think I'm the only one). When we share our true selves, even the parts we find a little ugly, we find kindred spirits to help us push through. If we hide ourselves, we wallow alone. The sooner we are able to be who we are, the sooner real connection can take place.

More Steps to Connection:
Understand All Have Insecurities

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