By Tiffany A. Potter
My mother swears I have never met a stranger.
Every time I leave my house, I meet new people, embrace new experiences and most always seem to have a smile on my face, but that does not mean that I am perpetually in my element; it simply means that I have manners. It means that I know how to be gracious and social while in my community, that I know how to be sincere and genuine when interacting with others. In short, I know how to play nice on the playground of life (thanks to the teachings of my mother) and I just seem to have a knack for making it look effortless. However, truth be told I am a card-carrying member of the Introvert’s Club.
Professionally, I spend my life in front of others on stages and in boardrooms because that is my talent, my gift, and I choose to honor my calling. Public speaking in some form or fashion has always been the love of my life. But, when I am able to walk in the door at the end of the day, be it at my home or some hotel room when I am on the road, I am most in my happy place. Digesting and processing my experiences in solitude or surrounded by only the people and animals that wholly know and accept me is when my creativity and inspiration comes alive and my soul is most at rest. I am not busy consciously minding my manners or making sure that my lipstick has not worn off. I am not consumed with making those I encounter feel special or exceptional (which I most often am because I want each person to feel valued). I never consider these chores or burdens mind you, but my little heart finds peace in my pajamas where I am expected to be nothing more than myself and yet am still loved.
It wasn’t until I went through my divorce when I was stripped down to my core emotionally and mentally when I had nothing to hide behind, when I was forced to get honest with who I truly am as a spiritual being having a human experience, that I began to honor this part of me. It became clear to me that I needed to drown out the noise of my current existence in order to maintain my sanity in an effort for self-preservation, and upon reflection, I realized that this was my natural state of being my entire life. Quickly, I learned that there was a word for it, the verb of introvert is “to turn inward,” which I do most often.
I have come to embrace my introverted-ness (clearly not a word but that’s okay) because it is that part of my soul that begins to warn me when I’m out of balance and not offering my best. When I am worn thin from all of my obligations, when traveling has taken a toll on me, when it is time for me to leave a party, when I have hit a wall while being in service to everyone else, the introvert in me speaks up loudly.
For as long as I can remember, I have felt as though I have a split personality that I could never quite understand; this girl who comes alive in front of audiences (e.g., as a cheerleader in high school) yet relishes small groups and intimate conversations. Sure, I did the house parties in high school every weekend, the fraternity parties in college, and now the holiday parties and fund-raisers but if given the choice, I would enjoy a glass of wine with a few girlfriends or a quiet dinner for two over it all. As a rule, I will never say “the more the merrier.” I typically do not enjoy crowds of people who I do not know, I loathe small talk and I usually have an exit plan when attending large gatherings.
I understand that to some this may sound utterly dreadful, but the reality is this, because I wholly understand this part of me I am free to enjoy myself and the company of others while in the moment (even if I’m only present for an hour or two versus closing down the bar). Because I know that this part of my personality finally makes sense to me and my well-being, I embrace it and I become open to the experiences that I find myself in, understanding that these moments in time will not last forever. I am self-aware, I am grateful for the resolution that comes with being attuned to my soul and I am thankful that I am allowed to give my best to every aspect of my life because I understand what the balance in my soul feels like and desires.
Some theories and spiritual leaders I admire greatly say that titles and labels tend to limit us and the light we have to bring to this world, but I challenge this idea. For every label that may limit us, I also believe those labels, if thought of in the most proper and positive of ways, can liberate us, empower us, teach us more about ourselves and create empathy for those we are lucky enough to meet.
For recognizing characteristics, not just in the same colors of skin or lifestyle choices but deeper (those things below the surface that are unseen) as defined by the labels we use bring recognition in seeing ourselves in others. Then all of a sudden our world gets just a little smaller, and it becomes even more apparent that we all belong to each other. When we recognize ourselves in others, we enter a space of empathy and compassion, of recognition of our individual struggles and the brilliance of our collective consciousness. I choose to see my labels as assets more than burdens. I believe there is sacredness in honoring what makes you sing or sit in silence.
So, my dear ones, what titles or labels befit you—empower you to be a human being? In what ways can you identify the best parts of yourself to be carried proudly because you embrace every part of you, and in turn, embrace every part of your neighbor? We’re not so different after all.
Tiffany is an entrepreneur, inspirational speaker and change agent. Find her at www.TiffanysTake.com.