Friday, December 26, 2014

Embracing Introversion

For my birthday this year, a good friend of mine gave me a book called Introvert Power by Laurie Helgoe. This friend and I, along with a sizable portion of our shared group of friends, are all introverts and discuss our introvert preference on a weekly basis.

"Introvert" has become a word I use to describe and identify myself and my personality. I'm a big fan of MBTI and I feel that my ISTJ personality type is an accurate descriptor of me in relation to work, school, and often, my personal life. I was excited to start this book so that I could begin to more deeply understand my introversion, as being one has often been a source of stress and awkwardness in my life. Growing up, I felt that I was wrong for being an introvert and actively tried to change this about myself.

Anyway, Introvert Power was an interesting and eye-opening read. Dr. Helgoe raises a lot of very good points about how introversion is considered a disorder, a "shyness" that needs to be "fixed" in order for a person to normally function in society. This is a lot more prevalent in "shy" children, but, as she points out, America is an extroverted society, and all people are expected to be extroverted and enjoy extroverted activities. If not, we are "boring" or "anti-social"; we may even be passed on for jobs or promotions due to our lack of enthusiasm for small talk and social engagements. It is true that whether in a social or work setting, not enjoying a party atmosphere is considered abnormal in America. Dr. Helgoe notes that she and many of her clients (she is a psychologist by trade) have lost friends because of their lack of excitement about parties in general and in instances they have attended parties, they spend the entire time counting down the minutes until it is socially acceptable to leave said party.
I have experienced this and echo these sentiments. It should be noted that, for me, and I daresay most introverts, the parties I'm referring to do not exclusively refer to ones at bars or ones that center around alcohol. I don't care what the instance is, if I enter a situation with a large group of people, especially if I don't know many of those people, I find very little to say, and when I do say something, I am often talked over. I would much rather stay home or hang out in a small group, if not one-on-one. This, however, is considered wrong, anti-social, or rude.

What exactly, Dr. Helgoe asks, is wrong with avoiding a situation you dislike for one that your prefer?

For all that is good about this book, I found the general attitude towards extroverts to be somewhat hostile and the manner for expressing your introvert preference to extroverts to be unrealistic and downright rude. Though it is frustrating to be expected to enjoy parties and large, overwhelming groups of people, it is not the extrovert's fault that they enjoy these situations and that they want you, as their friend, to also be a part of it. It is, however, society's fault for expecting all people to love these situations and love being outgoing.

Extroverts were described as draining and lacking understanding about the introvert mind. Even if this is true, I do not fully understand the extrovert point of view and do not expect myself to ever understand the thrill of mingling with new people. A lot of the interviews in this book led me to believe that a lot of introverts avoid extroverted friends and I think that is an absolute shame. In my experience, good extroverted friends will meet you halfway and will also be a support to you in your introversion in times when giant parties do happen. They may want to stay and socialize longer than you, but that's okay - that's who they are.

I feel that as introverts, it is our job to protect ourselves from feeling overly stimulated by our surroundings, but to also be realistic about the expectations of society. Yes, it's annoying that meet and greets are a regular part of life, but these do not always have to be painful experiences. Yes, it's true that a large portion of jobs require a lot of interaction with people, but as an introvert in a field that sees patients, work is a great time to let your tiny extrovert shine.

Embrace the positivities of your introversion and learn from the positivities of your extrovert friends and family. I keep a good group of introverted friends, but I also have many close extroverted friends that push me to broaden my horizons socially. These friends also take over the conversation and allow for me to sit back and enjoy their company without the pressure to speak. It's a beautiful thing.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Moment I Realized I Was "One of Those Girls"

Back in middle and high school, I could give you a long list of things about my physical appearance that I would change about myself - my skin, my hair, my face - but I never thought much about my weight. I was 5'7" and hovered between 120 and 130 lbs. I was in marching band, so I was active, but I wasn't exactly in great shape.
Fast forward to my freshman year of college. I experienced a "freshman 15", but not one that is typical of most college students. I actually lost 15 lbs during my first semester thanks to a round of medication and stress from moving away from home. I was way underweight and I had basically no appetite, but I never thought much about it. I ended up gaining that weight back once I was done taking my medication, so I entered into my sophomore around the same weight I had been a large part of my adolescence.

As a 20 year old, there are a lot of things that you don't want to find out. Some people may hear that their GPA is too low, that their roommate is moving out, or that they won't be able to go to graduate school. At 20 years old, I was told that I had a chronic disease. As someone who had never really worried too much about my weight, looking at a list of symptoms for Graves' disease and seeing "weight loss" did not bother me too much. It wasn't until I saw a doctor who explained the treatment I would go through would cause me to have hypothyroidism that I realized I would for the first time in my life be battling my weight. Symptom: "unexplained weight gain." I will have hypothyroidism for the rest of my life.


We live in a culture that praises unrealistic standards of beauty. Everyone knows that. Even though this is common knowledge, I don't think that most people think that they are preoccupied with these standards.

I remember talking to a girl friend of mine a few weeks after I was diagnosed with Graves'. I told her about some of the symptoms I was experiencing and how I desperately needed to have this treatment done. Her response: "Why would you want to get rid of something that causes you to lose weight?"
If that doesn't exemplify our cultural standards of beauty, I don't know what does. To suggest that I should be thankful for a disease that hindered me in every aspect of my life and even changed my personality all because it caused weight loss is ridiculous, but this is exactly what women face now regarding physical beauty.

Since my treatment last January, I've gained over 15 lbs. For the first time in my life, I was unhappy with my weight. I do not keep a scale in my apartment, so I found out about this gained weight not through observation, but through weigh-ins at my endocrinologist. I did not even notice that I had gained weight and it still bothered me (ridiculous, right?). In my mind, I thought I should still weigh between 120 and 130 lbs like I did in high school. Through all of this, I still never thought of myself as "one of those women" who is preoccupied with her weight.

I was studying for a quiz in one of my classes a week ago. The phrase in my notes was simple: "Media causes women to strive to be unnaturally thin." It finally hit me - I was one of those women.
There is nothing wrong with my current weight. I am not fat because I gained a few pounds. I am not fat because I have friends who are more thin than I am. I am not fat because someone told me that "not everyone can be skinny." I am certainly not fat because I no longer weigh 120 lbs. I'm fine just the way I am.

Don't fall victim to society's standards like I did. Weight is just a number.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

What God Taught Me Through Auburn Football

I remember seeing a church sign in Auburn the weekend of the Iron Bowl that said, "HUMILITY: WE'LL EITHER HAVE IT OR NEED IT." As I started the mile long journey from the Rose Bowl stadium to my car after our heart breaking loss, I keep picturing this church sign in my head. I could hear the endless "Tomahawk Chop" (which is my high school's fight song, just by the way) coming from the stadium as FSU fans celebrated and felt humbled by this experience.

I then started to think back over my football experiences these last four years. My freshman year was a wonderful, unexpected football season full of memories I still cherish. My sophomore year was special in a different way as I started to spend game days with a phenomenal group of friends and it was far less about the football. My junior year was tough in several different ways; even without the 3-9 record, I was extremely sick all year and could not remain standing long enough to stay at most games.

Now this year, my senior year, has been truly magical. As I walked away from my last football game as a student heavy with sadness and defeat, the word "humility" kept surfacing. I thought about the life lessons God had inadvertently provided to me through the 2012-2013 Auburn Tigers football teams.

(NOTE: I am in no way suggesting that these moments in football are at all similar or as impactful as these Biblical accounts. These are simply truths I've seen about God as they relate to what I've experienced through events this football season.)

2012 Auburn Tigers: Sometimes God will put us through a tough season. 

In Daniel 4, King Nebuchadnezzar has a dream about a tall and mighty tree that is cut down to a stump. Daniel interprets the dream and tells Nebuchadnezzar that he is in fact the tree and that God is reducing him to that stump. Daniel 4:26 says: "The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules."
Christ reduced him to this stump in order to build him back up again one day and make him even more powerful. Because of this, in verse 37, Nebuchadnezzar says: "Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble."

Auburn vs. UGA, "Prayer in Jordan-Hare": Sometimes God will give us a miracle when we think it is too late.

John 11 tells the story of the death of Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha. The sisters sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was very ill and soon to die, but Jesus insisted to go on to Judea and go to see Lazarus later. When he arrived, Lazarus had been dead for four days and Mary and Martha accused Jesus of not coming soon enough. He tells them in verse 25 that He is "the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die." Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead even though it seemed to be too late. 

Auburn vs. Alabama, "Kick Six": Sometime God will present us with just the right opportunity. 

In Matthew 14, Jesus went up onto a mountain alone to pray while his disciples were sent ahead of Him in a boat. In order to catch up with the boat, which was already far from land, Jesus walks on water. His disciples think that He is a ghost and he urges them to not be afraid. Peter asked Jesus to allow him to walk on water, and as he does, he begins to sink in a moment of fear. Verse 31 states, "Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” This event leads the disciples to realize in verse 33 that, "Truly you are the Son of God." Peter took this opportunity that Jesus presented to him and was rewarded by doing so.

2014 BCS National Championship: Sometimes God humbles us.

Instead of a bible story, the word "humbled" makes me think of the song "What If His People Prayed" by Casting Crowns. Based on the verse 1 Chronicles 7:14, a stanza says: "If My people called by My name/If they'll humble themselves and pray."

I am thankful for the opportunity to be humbled by God. At the beginning of a New Year, a lot of people strive to be new and improved and it is easy to because proud in accomplishments. This football season has reminded me that God can give and God can so easily take away. Football is a very small thing in the larger scheme of life, but it is also a beautiful reminder of what hard work, motivation, and even small mistakes can mean. I am proud of my Auburn Tigers and glad to be a part of the Auburn Family. I am also thankful that God provided me with some spiritual clarity through losing this football game. Though it is never easy, God puts us through tough seasons (and I'm not talking about a football season) and humbles us. He can also give us miracles and provide us with the right opportunity when we need it. 

Before I went to sleep the night of the National Championship, I read my One Year Bible, and this was one of the passages of the night:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

-Matthew 6:19-21

Sometimes, God uses very trivial things (like football) to illustrate important points in His Word. For me, the night of the National Championship was a night of great reminders from God.