Being Brave

Thursday, September 27, 2012

If you've ever taken one of those Myer-Briggs personality tests you know that there is one indicator that measures levels of extrovert vs. introvert behaviors. This isn't as straightforward as you might imagine. Having higher extrovert marks doesn't necessarily mean you are the most popular person at a party. Similarly, having introvert tendencies doesn't mean hanging your head, averting eye contact, and not talking to anyone. Like any psychological test, when defining the scope of human personality it is nearly impossible to be 100% accurate. After all, being human is complicated. 

This is what I think about whenever I am faced with a new social situation. Especially when I'll be meeting people for the first time. Putting myself in a vulnerable spot, where I have to be both engaging and reflective at the same time. Which camp do I fall into? People often see me as gregarious, but in truth, internally, I often feel the antithesis. And this was the case last night, when I made an honest effort to attend a gathering of women in my new ward (church congregation).

I arrived right on time and found the cultural hall already full with women of varying ages. Most were right around my age, early to mid 30s. I was handed an auction paddle, since the activity was a service auction, and I then submitted a couple last-minute service contributions on index cards. I was excited for this activity and had high hopes of learning about the women and their various talents. 

Then I started to talk to people. I was the new gal and many people kindly acknowledged this fact. The next question I was prepared for. But every time it rushed forth What brings you to the area?, a little piece of self-identity died inside me when I answered My husband's job. You see this is the first place I've ever lived as a married lady. This is the first place where I have an identity other than just myself and that's an adjustment. It's okay, but it is still an adjustment. These well-meaning women would then ask what GH did and then the conversation moved on. People didn't ask me what I did. Ever. And whenever I asked one of these smart women what they did, they responded with their husband's occupation or scholarly pursuits. My mind raced to keep up. NO, I thought. I didn't ask you what your husband does, I asked about YOU. About YOUR interests and pursuits. About how YOU identify yourself as an individual. The evening progressed and I continued to get glimpses into the lives of these women. Women that were new to me, but fell into a familiar cultural pattern. 

After the initial socialization we moved into the auction phase of the evening.

How did we bid on items? I'm glad you asked. We received a certain number of points for things like: showering before noon today, attending a wedding reception in the last three months, praying, and other "righteous activities". I sat back and waited for the male auctioneer to begin. (In recounting this story to GH, he couldn't understand why a guy was assigned auctioneer duties. But that's a discussion for another time.) The auction started and it didn't take long to detect a pattern. Babysitting and baked goods. This was nearly 85% of the auctioned items. Startled, I wondered what else would be offered. Surely these smart women could provide service that didn't involve babies and bread pans. To be fair, there were two different instances where people offered resume/writing coaching services and one instance where someone offered five French lessons. Classy, right? You better believe I bid high on that last item, eventually selling out to the women who was actually taking her family to France this January. But overall, the trend remained consistent. 

I was pleased my two auctions received high bids. I mean who wouldn't want someone to wrap all their Christmas gifts?  The second item I offered was auctioned as a service, but it was purely motivated by my selfish desire to meet new people. I offered to host a dinner party with one other couple. The couple didn't have to be a husband/wife combo, in fact when I wrote my index card I specifically wrote "A dinner party with us, you, and your companion," which was somehow still difficult for the auctioneer to process. I knew there were women in the audience who didn't have a spouce. Heck, I've been one of those women for the majority of my adult life. I knew there were bright women who had solid girlfriends that would have made lovely dinner companions. I wanted my auction item to be inclusive, but instead the auctioneer said something along the lines of "Oh, this must mean for the missionaries."(I had to speak up and quickly correct him.) And as the evening wore on I worked hard to continually push back the thought you're not like them. This is a fresh slate and I desperately want this to be a positive experience. A place where I can find associations and friendships that enrich my life. A place that I can find a community rather than just a congregation. I'm a believer in the power of women needing other women. And somehow we need each other with all of our differences. I just wish we didn't have such obvious boxes of which category defines us. After all, being human is a complex business.  

UPDATE: Turns out I published another post with the same title about two years ago. Must be something about autumn and change. 


  1. I still have those moments and I've lived here for 6 years! You said it, 'being human is...complex' but it all works out in the end. Hold tight my friend, you'll make it!!

  2. I love this post. Every single word. You are brave. You will find your place.

  3. Thank you both for your encouraging words. I'm creating a new home (both in my head and heart) one day at a time.


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