Day 24 of 31 Days of Connecting
Three years ago I was pregnant, working around 15 hours a week, moving us into our house, taking care of our two year old, trying to potty train said two year old, and I could not understand why I was so.very.tired.
I looked around at other moms I knew. Moms who homeschooled 4 children. Moms who worked away from home full time. Moms who worked from home full time. Moms who had multiples. Moms who ran marathons. Moms who did as much or more than me and were bursting with energy. And I saw myself as falling short, so I continued to strive after them.
But my friends, my husband, my counselor and mentor – they all told me to slow down.
The distance between what I wanted to be able to do and what I was able to do could not have been greater. I didn’t listen to them. But I did go on a spiritual retreat for a weekend and God used these verses to change my life:
Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct. (Galatians 6:4-5)
Now, I have never done a complete exegesis of these verses, but what I heard that day was Stop trying to be like everyone else. You are responsible for your work alone, not what others want from you, not what you expect from you, but what I created you to do. You are trying to do too much. Stop and rest.
Susan Cain wrote in her book Quiet that to “introverts, who have spent so much of their lives conforming to extroverted norms … it feels perfectly normal to ignore their own preferences.”
Having lived in a fast paced world of high ambitions and great expectations, I was not used to caring for my own needs, claiming my preferences, or even voicing my opinions that contradicted others. Those closest to me were telling me to embrace myself by stopping. Could I accept who I was?
Acceptance of myself took understanding myself. I relearned my Kersey temperament type (INFJ). I reread The Highly Sensitive Person. I finally purchased Quiet. And I have discovered that by knowing who I am, I am not only able to stop, but I am able to start so much more.
I believe the same can be true for you, too. By knowing yourself you can:
- Confidently assert what it is you need in order to thrive. This is not a selfish thing. It is perhaps the most important thing you can do to become a flourishing employee, parent, partner, and friend. For me this has meant I needed to step back from many one-on-one meetings each week (which drained me) so that I could pour out my energy into teaching classes, leading moms group, and writing.
- Discover what fills you and choose to do those things. Are you an introvert? Then going to that Halloween party next week after a stressful week will only make your stress worse. Are you an extrovert? Then you need to find that party and crash it if you weren’t invited. As you know yourself more, you will feel more comfortable saying “no” to the things that drain you and “yes” to those things where you can not only find peace again, but are able to pass it on to others.
- Have a better sense of your giftings God gave you to serve others. I am able to do administrative work, but if you stick me in front of a computer entering data for an hour I will feel dead inside after an hour. Yet, some of my dearest friends can get 5x as much administrative work done in the that same hour. And they could pick up more! Do you thrive when teaching? Then find a place to do it and start trying. Are you teaching children’s Sunday School, but are more energized when vacuuming up the crumbs in the room at the end of the hour? Then volunteer to clean! Not all people are supposed to do all things.
- You can communicate more with your partner why you are unhappy. And this may or may not be about them. My husband needs to tell me to stop talking to him when he’s tired, because he needs his time alone. And because I know his needs, I know it is not an affront against me, but rather a way to care for him at the time. When he is rested, he’ll be able to be with me. If I hang around… well, suddenly I am the problem.
- You can help others discover themselves. When we can recognize that we are unique individuals created by God, we can stop expecting other people to conform to our image for them and can see the good God placed in them in the first place. We can release them from their preconceived notions of what they should be like in order to embrace what they are like. Have a messy friend? Unveil their creative energy. Does your son prefer reading to football? Enroll him in a creative writing class to create his own work.
My life has dramatically shifted over the course of the past 3 years. Beginning in September, I have been pursuing writing 10 hours a week. (It’s not all here on this blog) I had to say no to mentoring a few women at church, but I am regularly reaching over 200 on this blog. After staff meetings, I don’t plan a thing for the rest of the day because I know I need that time to process through every word that was said over the course of those two hours – yes, it’s as tiring as it sounds. I read. A lot. I take days off when I need them (hence no Day 23 post, because I just couldn’t).
And, because I’m taking care of myself, I feel like I am myself.
You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
Want to learn more about yourself? And more than just which Jane Austen character you are or which Beatles song is your theme song? Take a legitimate personality test, here.
Never heard of Susan Cain? Watch her Ted Talk. It’s pretty great.