In elementary school, I made frequent visits to the nurse’s office. “I have a stomachache,” I’d say. The kind nurse, perhaps knowing what was really going on, would escort me to a mercifully quiet room with a little blue cot, where she’d let me lie down for a few minutes until I was ready to return to class.
Looking back, a chaotic elementary school classroom was simply too much for my little introvert nervous system to handle at times. That same nervous system made me an empathetic, considerate, and creative kid—it was a source of many strengths, not just occasional stomachaches.
The nurse seemed to know this and honored all of who I was, but it would be several more decades before I learned to do the same. Embracing who we truly are takes courage and hard work, especially if we’ve felt pressure to be someone we’re not. My counseling and life-coaching clients, especially introverts, often show up like I did at the nurse’s office and say, “There’s a part of myself I don’t want. Help me get rid of it.”
Even the apostle Paul begged God several times to take away something he saw as a weakness. The divine answer he received?
“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).
Over the years I, like Paul, have come to believe what’s most powerful is not elimination but transformation. Who we are comes with potential struggles and strengths. That’s true for all of us, whether we’re extroverts or introverts.
For example, because of their highly reactive nervous systems, introverts are more likely to struggle with anxiety.* However, those same nervous systems also mean introverts often have a strong sense of empathy.
What if a struggle is just the other end of a strength?
Struggle (anxiety) ———————|——————— Strength (empathy)
Growth happens not by changing who we are but by learning how to move away from struggles and toward our strengths. Doing so activates our gifts, increases our well-being, and empowers us to make our greatest contributions to the world. This realization has changed my life, and I believe it will change yours.
We live in a noisy, chaotic culture. We’re all looking for less stress and more peace, less noise and more meaning, less hurry and more rest. I believe introverts can lead the way, and we can all move toward a stronger life today.
MORE FOR YOU
Prayer: Dear God, lead me away from my struggles and toward my strengths one small, grace-filled step at a time. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Reflect: What’s one of your struggles? What’s one of your strengths?
Watch: If you prefer audio, here’s a one-minute video where I talk through the idea of moving from our struggles toward our strengths.
Free download: This post is an excerpt from my new book, Introvert by Design: A Guided Journal for Living with New Confidence in Who You’re Created to Be! For a sneak of the inside or to take the (free!) one-minute quiz to see what percent introvert you are, visit holleygerth.com/introverts.