I’m not naturally an extrovert, so I have to put in the effort to put myself out there. I used to think becoming a PA would be 10x more difficult because of my introversion. But it turns out I can turn my preferences into a strength if I understand them.
Now I say preference rather than nature, because I don’t believe we’re born with personality traits. We’re all products of our genes plus our upbringing, as well as of our environments such as what friends we have, what schools we attend, what jobs we take, and so on. Everything around us is out, whether consciously or not, to get us to change. We can either let that change happen to us, or we choose which path we take. Our chosen path is our preference. And even then, our preferences may not be the best fit for us.
Additionally, I don’t think anyone is a pure introvert or pure extrovert. Perhaps dead people are pure introverts. But other than that, we the living exist on a spectrum. We all have some areas of our lives we keep private, and we all have those we love putting out in front of others (whether spectacularly or not again depending on your ‘version). The audiences we deprive of or provide with those secrets and ties can vary across our social connections, both across time and space. For example, I’m comfortable talking to my best friend about something I wouldn’t dare mention to my boss. Or speaking across the dimension of time, as I’ve grown to befriend him, what I hide and what I reveal do change as I gain trust. Or in the sad case of betrayals, as I lose trust in a person. It’s a messy world out there.
But turning back to my introversion. Most people would say I’m quiet and reserved by nature, but that is a preference I’ve developed over my lifetime. Some of it is for coping: I’ve been rejected so much that I’d rather stay hushed than be hushed. Another is that I’ve been let down, betrayed, neglected—so I’ve thrown up walls to keep anything hurtful from ever finding a way in. Thus I am an introvert in this way. Some do enjoy their introversion. I am one introvert who does not.
Therefore, whereas my preference leans towards introversion, my ideal leans back toward extroversion. Again, I don’t believe in extremes of either, but I do subscribe to picking and choosing qualities I can assimilate into my existing personality. I want to change, but for what I see as bettering myself, all the while still holding on to the good I already display.
What are some good things about extroversion I wish I had? Qualities that would help me in my practice as a PA, for example would be assertiveness, intentionality, and initiative. Do I not have these? I have some, but I could use much more.
What are some good things about introversion I already have? I listen well, I keep confidence, I reserve judgement. Or as the Bible says, “be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” I keep a good deal of my emotions in check, especially when dealing with patients who are themselves hurting, whether physically or emotionally.
Now there are a good deal of emotions I do not have in check, but this lack of restraint manifests in areas outside my professional life. For example I can be acutely envious or jealous, feel rejection where there is none, or annoy others as I seek affirmation. I can be a pain. This is one aspect of my existing extroversion, then, that I would like to modulate.
But the good things about extroversion I would like to apply and then amplify are what I might call true friendliness. I call it true because this friendliness radiates outward without selfishness, giving out good emotions and vibes without expecting them in return. I want to be honest about myself with others, but also honest about them to them. Tempered with non-judgment, I believe this approach can make honesty a purely desirable thing, as opposed as a thinly-veiled excuse to be a jerk (aka “keepin it real”). No, because friendliness, which is a form of love, does not seek to do harm to its neighbor, but instead to build up that person. That’s where the selfishness must step aside so the love can be more than the introverted feeling of warm fuzzies to an extroverted one of action, loyalty, and self-sacrifice.
Not that I don’t desire the warm fuzzies—if cultivated, these produce affection, even love itself. I believe, then, that extroversion and introversion can be combined, the best parts of each, to produce a loving me so focused on others, yet healthy in his self-image.
Ah, the self-image. Something I really need to work on. You might call it self-love (as opposed to selfishness). The above photo impressed me by how dissonant it looks compared to how I see myself. Which is why I have been prompted to improve myself. You see, a wise saying I once heard was “you can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself.” Or in other words, you as a candle can’t light the world for others if you are burnt out. As a PA, I need to keep from burning out. As a friend, son, brother, and Christian, too.
I would say that in developing a good self-image, having healthy relationships becomes essential. I speak of those friends who would do like my ideal self would: build up others rather than tear down, process emotion alongside reason rather than artificially separating the two, and keep a good image of self and others. The last one can be restated thus: give yourself and others the benefit of the doubt.
So this is me, a work in progress. Fortunately I have some good people in my life already who are helping me along. Your reading this has helped as well!