When I was younger, there were people in my life trying to push me to be an extrovert. I was told to go to parties, to participate in events, and to go out and talk to other people. And I tried to put this advice into practice.
I went to party after party, but I always felt like a wallflower. I participated in events, but I was alone in a crowd. I went out and talked to other people, but I couldn’t think of anything to say. It was a disaster.
I kept telling myself–and being told–that if I just kept trying, if I just practiced, if I just got used to it, I would succeed. So I kept trying and practicing, but I never succeeded. I felt like I never could succeed. It seemed like I was striving for the unattainable.
My conclusion: I was a failure.
So I spiraled down into depression.
But one day, a wonderful friend sat me down and told me, “Michelle, some people are meant to be the life of the party, and some are not. There are certain people who are meant to be ears–to listen to people. That’s who you are. And that’s good.”
It changed my life. I no longer saw myself as someone who simply could not measure up. I realized I had been using the wrong ruler and that the person I was trying to be not only was not me, but could never be me and was never supposed to be me. I was like a dog trying to be a duck. The dog wastes all his energy in trying to achieve an impossible duck-ness, and in the meantime he betrays his dog-ness.
This friend went on to say, “Some people are social people and thrive on being in a crowd, but others do better with one or two friends. Neither is better than the other. They’re just different.”
This wisdom marked the turning point for me. I stopped going to parties, and I met with my friends one at a time. I no longer felt like I had to be friends with everybody, and I was content with just a few really good friends. I didn’t feel like I had to be a talker, and I practiced listening really well.
I think a lot of us compare ourselves to other people and think negatively of ourselves because we don’t measure up to what we see as good in them. The problem is that what is good for them may not be good for us. We may not be able to have their qualities, but we can have our own.
If you are a mouth, be a mouth. If you are a hand, be a hand. If you are an ear, be an ear. This is partly what it means to be true to yourself. You will thrive once you strive to roll along your appropriate tracks. And what is more, you will no longer be depriving the world of the mouth or the hand or the ear that it needs. It’s better to be a first-rate ear than a third-rate mouth. You and everyone else will be far happier.