Guest Blogger, Linda Maxie, shares her journey of self-discovery. It is a common story that Linda captures in a moving and motivating way!
Like many introverts, I spent a large part life before age 40 trying to figure out exactly who I was. It’s a familiar story to many, I’m sure. I came from a large, tight-knit, extended Southern family. My mother was the youngest of fourteen siblings. I have never counted, but I would estimate I have nearly fifty cousins. Around ten to fifteen of these are close to my age. Growing up, I was surrounded by a cohort of anywhere from five to twenty kids on a regular, rotating basis.
"Rock in an Easter Egg Basket"
My family valued action. They reveled in excitement and noise. Perhaps other introverts will understand me when I say I felt like a rock in an Easter egg basket. Most of my cousins were boisterous, good at sports, enjoyed card games, and talking. I excelled at sitting nearby, watching the action.
Recently, one of my cousins put up an old 8-millimeter film that was taken of a family gathering in 1968. Most of the adults and children were playing an intense game of volleyball. One by one, I picked my cousins and aunts and uncles out. Even the toddlers who weren’t playing were running in between those who were, just happy to be a part of it all. Where am I? I wondered. After a minute or two, the camera rested on me. I was standing to the side, staring at everyone.
Donning the Extrovert's Mask
Early on in my high school career, I decided I had had enough of watching from the sidelines. I made up my mind that I would make friends, no matter what it took to get them. Luckily for me, I didn’t start taking drugs or drinking. What I did instead was change my personality. I started being intentionally silly. I tried out for plays. I talked loudly to get attention. And I inserted myself into groups uninvited.
For the most part, my methods worked. I did make a lot of friends and always had people to sit with in the lunchroom. The rest of my high school years went well, I was even voted Miss Timber Tints, which was our school’s yearbook queen my senior year.
But I couldn’t keep it up. Being loud, bold, and boisterous exhausted me. By the time I went to college I was done. I also started slipping into depression.
Following Life's "Plan"
But life continued. I earned a bachelor’s degree, got a job, and got married. For the next twenty years, I ricocheted between part-time jobs, extra classes, earning a Master of Library Science degree. After I became a mother, I finally settled down to a shortened career in school libraries after my youngest son started school.
I was never happy with my jobs, my performance as a mother or wife, or with myself. I always felt like that little girl on the sidelines watching the activity around me. Always, I felt pressured to volunteer more, to do more in the family and the community. And I felt increasingly alienated from myself.
I was in my forties when one day, as I was flipping through a magazine at work, I found an article on introversion. As I read it, I felt such a sense of excitement and recognition. The article was describing me exactly. It wasn’t derogatory at all; it even made being quiet sound like a good thing. That’s when I started exploring the concept of introversion and realized that there was truly nothing wrong with me. I just related to the world differently than most of the people I knew.
A few years after my youngest son graduated from high school and left home, I retired early from my job as the librarian at the local high school. I was determined to do what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. The problem was, I still didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. The only thing I was sure of was that I was tired of living up to the expectations of others.
I tried taking classes at our local community college but found that the classes didn’t interest me, and I chaffed under the assignments. At age 57, I didn’t want other people, even instructors, to tell me how to spend my time. After spending two years and a few thousand dollars on a copyediting certification program, I realized, finally, that what I wanted to do was write a book.
While working on the book, I discovered Steve Friedman and Beyond Introversion. I took the test he offers to find your introverted superpower and discovered one of mine is planning. I had never really thought about that before, but I am good at planning, and I enjoy it.
So, I created a plan for writing a book. I researched, wrote, and published it. It was well-received with a starred review in Booklist magazine and it was a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award.
Stretching My Comfort Zone
But what I didn’t realize was that writing a book was the easy part. The hard part for me would be marketing it. When you market, you’re generally forced to put yourself out there. You must interact with other people and talk about yourself effectively.
In the year since then, I’ve published another book. Pushing past my fear, I started a YouTube channel to gather more attention for my work. I’ve reached out to strangers, written guest blog posts like this, and been active on other social media platforms. None of this has been easy for me, but I think it’s been beneficial.
Over the past few months, I’ve started writing a novel. Fiction, it seems to me, reveals even more about an author than nonfiction, making it a bigger risk to tackle. For me, this is a very scary proposition.
Embracing My True Self
But somewhere along the line, while pushing myself to interact with strangers, I’ve discovered something important. I’m truly okay the way I am, and I no longer need approval from others to feel acceptable. People are sometimes less than kind about my work, but I don’t wilt. Instead, I stop and think, “Is there some truth to what they are saying?” If there is, I make adjustments, and if there isn’t, I wish them well and move on. I’ve decided what I’m willing to put up with and what I’m not. That alone has increased my confidence and my happiness.
My newfound self-acceptance spills over into my writing. Will my novel expose more about me than I am comfortable with? Maybe. But because of my experiences marketing my books, I know I can handle it.
Has all this made me more outgoing? Well. No. I’m not more extroverted. I can make YouTube videos because they require creativity and hard work. I use them to reach people who are a lot like me. I want the channel to grow, and I want to sell my books. But unlike the methods I used in high school, these do not require me to be someone I am not. I no longer push myself to be the center of attention.
I suspect extroverts have similar struggles in life. We introverts have no idea what they may deal with. I’ve discovered that the key to being happy is accepting myself for what I am, and not comparing myself to others. And I try to give others the same courtesy, accepting and appreciating them for who they are, and not for who I would wish them to be.
Our differences make life more interesting. I find people fascinating. None of us is inherently better than any other. I firmly believe that it’s not our traits that make our lives worthwhile, it’s what we choose to do with them.
BIO: Linda Maxie
Linda Maxie is a retired librarian with a passion for matching the right book with the right reader. After earning an MLS from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, she spent her library career obsessively poring over book reviews to build outstanding collections to connect her patrons with perfect books. After retirement, she continued her quest with Library Lin’s Curated Collection of Superlative Nonfiction (LCCN), a portable library of outstanding nonfiction covering the entire Dewey Decimal Classification system. She follows that effort with Library Lin's Biographies, Autobiographies, and Memoirs (LBAM). She lives in Virginia with her husband Roger, and their rescued mixed-breed canine, Dusty Marie.
My website (which has my books for sale) is: https://librarylin.com.
Or you could use: https://librarylin.com/buy-the-books/
LCCN: Library Curated Collection of Superlative Nonfiction
LBAM: Library Lin's Biographies, Autobiographies, Memoirs
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