It’s no secret that I’m an introvert. I tend to be quiet, to keep myself, and to prefer my home over any other place on earth. That’s how I’m wired, and I consider it a blessing. However, introversion is not exactly a beneficial trait in my line of work. When your job is so people-oriented, you have to be… social.
Socializing was never my strong point growing up. I wasn’t a loaner by any means, but I didn’t venture outside the bubble of my friend group very often. This was true through high school, college, and even seminary. I always had friends and knew how to act in social situations (for the most part). But meeting new people and talking to strangers just wasn’t my thing.
I always wondered how this aspect of my personality would mesh with my career in ministry. And then, my ministry career started.
When I first began working at the church, I became socially exhausted very easily. I wasn’t used to being around people all day long. I was accustomed to the long periods of quiet, solo study time that came with being a graduate student. But at work, I was constantly talking to people: my coworkers, church members, random strangers who would walk in. It was a lot to handle.
Recently, though, I realized that all of this social exposure actually has the opposite effect on me now. I no longer fear talking to strangers (not even on the phone, which used to be terrifying). Chatting with coworkers is energizing to me, even uplifting. And I love greeting any and every church member I see with a smile. Honestly, I feel like a different person.
Which got me thinking about how I got here. What changed, whether inside of me or outside, that allowed me to become so much more socially capable? What was the secret, unseen element that allowed me to adapt to my new situation?
Here, I think, is the key: security. Once I started to feel more secure in my new environment, my social network, and the actual work that I was doing, I was able to put some of my energy elsewhere. Not having to constantly worry about what to expect when I came in to work or whether or not I was doing a good job freed me up to grow in new ways.
I didn’t even have to be all that intentional about it. Because I was in a good place, I was naturally able to excel and to improve my skills in areas where I was lacking. Over time, I grew into the person I need to be in order to succeed in the role I’m in. And all of it was possible because I felt secure in my environment.
If we’re going to become our best selves, and if we’re dedicated to helping others do the same, we must make creating a sense of security one of our top priorities. When someone is worried about their safety, unable to plan for the future, or overly concerned about measuring up to some impossible standard, they simply cannot be all that they are meant to be. Security is a basic building block of growth. That was true for me, it’s true for you, and it’s true for those we want to help as well.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m still an introvert through and through. I love my solitude, and I still hide away from people when I’m feeling overwhelmed. I can’t change who I am, but what I can do is grow and become the best version of myself possible. I’m always working to do that, and I hope you are, too. The first step is establishing a sense of security. It’s the solid foundation that we can start building on, and once we have that, there’s no telling how far we’ll go.