I used to click on these articles (Extroverted Introverts) for validation. I was aware of my personality type and I understood the why behind the what. But no matter how much awareness that I had, I still sought some form of validation outside of myself. These bullet list type articles that read like a personal scouting report always left me thinking that I was normal, that there was nothing wrong with my personality tendencies. I realized that I sought this external validation because I wasn’t getting the external validation from somewhere else; other people. I would often find myself taking it personally that someone else was taking it personally that I didn’t enjoy engaging in meaningless small talk or that I was very particular about how I engaged in social events. Can you relate? Swapping out one external source of validation for another? That’s like rowing a boat with one oar, you mean well with the effort and it seems as though some progress is taking place, but it’s not. You’re working, but you’re still in the same place because you’re doing the work with missing tools.
I needed internal validation, that was the missing oar. Internal validation isn’t simply ‘loving ; yourself’. Raise your hand right now if you have ever given someone that advice. Now take that same hand and smack yourself on the back of the head. Before you can love yourself, you need to be comfortable with yourself. Recently I told someone that people often fear being alone (in any capacity) because in order to be content alone, you must be comfortable with the company you keep; yourself. Being comfortable with yourself means you have a growth mindset toward knowing yourself. It means you can sit in a crowd of people without telling yourself what you think someone else thinks of you. It means you can sit alone at home and not try to justify behavior that doesn’t align with the kind of life you want to live. To become comfortable with yourself, start with these two steps; 1) pull down the curtains of pre-conceived notions and expectations that you are supposed to fit into some sort of box defined by the world around you. That world will come and go, like a stomach ache, so don’t tell yourself a story about who you are that’s heavily influenced by something or someone that might be gone or changed tomorrow. Your time would be better spent evaluating if your personality traits are hindering or bolstering your efforts toward being your best self. 2) Be ready and willing to accept what you find when you take an honest look in the mirror. Keep in mind that acceptance does not mean permanence. Acceptance is the first step toward evaluation and correction. If you’re an asshole and you no longer want to be an asshole, you have to be able to first say “I’m an asshole”. There’s no greater way of sabotaging self-development like the phrase, “this is the way I’ve always been”. People say this like it’s a badge of honor. It’s not. The badge of honor is the consistent pursuit of evolving that can take place when you have become comfortable with the company you keep; yourself.
Pulling down the curtain of social and external expectations led to asking myself two very important questions; Did anyone ever actually make me feel uncomfortable? Did I go into situations looking for something to take personally? What I realized was that there were very few times that someone had made me feel uncomfortable and in most cases, it was someone that simply did not know me well or didn’t care to know me well. So should I take that personal? No. I also realized that more often than not I would tell myself a story about ‘x’ situation where so and so misunderstood me or that this person didn’t ‘get me’. But the truth was, that was not the case at all. I let myself react to events before they ever happened. Talk about not living in the moment! Nothing good happens when you project a bunch of what-ifs into the future. Answering these kinds of questions made something very clear to me; the world around me, by and large, does not care. And if that is the case, it seems silly to allow a world that doesn’t care to have so much influence. If you have read this far, hopefully, it means you are interested in doing the work, perhaps the most fulfilling work you’ll ever do; learning, assessing and evolving who you are. Truly knowing yourself goes hand in hand with being comfortable with yourself. In a later post, we will dive into some resources and simple strategies for helping to uncover who you are and what you are all about. Loving yourself is important, it’s crucial and I would never make light of that. But, like any other love that lasts, it must be authentic. I didn’t truly love myself until I came face to face with and became comfortable with my authentic self. The work never ends.