Tranquility in the Collective
How would you describe yourself? How would you describe the people around you? How would you describe yourself relative to others? Do you sense a boundary between you and them, or are you one in the many? Are you able to genuinely embrace community, or do you find greater virtue in solitude? Have you struck a balance? Do you believe there is such a thing?
It cannot be emphasized enough how influential self-perception and self-talk is. Others may be able to comment and attempt to influence our decisions, but ultimately the greatest sway is held by the voice we hear most often: the voice we hear first thing in the morning, the voice that keeps us company in the daytime, and the voice we listen to as it dwindles into silence before we fall asleep. This is us, you, me, and everyone in between. Yet, as persuasive as this voice is, rarely do we take (at least, enough) time to consider its effect on the most essential aspects of our identity. One such aspect being where we stand between strict independence and active fellowship.
Between the two, there is a popular belief that a person must be one or the other: a lone wolf or one among the pack. Such a norm is spawned by our urge to define and divide people. However, independence and togetherness are not opponents, but interact in a cyclical relationship, as they are interchangeable modes of behavior. Of course, we are allowed to have a natural preference to whichever mode is more comfortable for us. I only wish to say that it is important to embrace the mode we are not usually inclined to, for in each arena lies potential growth and self-discovery.
I am, quite truly, an introvert at heart. My zodiac sign is Virgo, my personality type is INFJ, and I grew up in a very studious household where any hollow statement was considered blasphemy. ( I don't mean to say that any of those classifications mean I HAVE to be a certain way, though, if any of that information helps paint a picture of how I might be in a social situation, go for it.) My natural ratio of solitude to socializing has thus been pretty skewed, which, again, is not a bad thing. However, the way in which I perceived this fact growing up -the way in which I spoke to myself- did not assist me in finding a balance. I began telling myself, in a tone resembling a bothered teen combating their parent, that my behavior is no cause to be ashamed, and (this is where it gets problematic) that I'm better than all these 'followers.' Due to my internalized insecurity, I essentially adopted a defensive attitude toward being independent, casting a palpable boundary between myself and those whose preference was to socialize. "I'm brave for being an individual," I'd think, "I never want to rely on anyone." Yet, anytime I would get to spend time with others, during those confusing years, all of those prior biases would fade. Looking into someone's eyes, hearing their experiences and opinions, I would feel a rush of vitality that is the reward of venturing outside of what I know. Enough of those experiences has brought me to my current state of mind, where I acknowledge that we all have our preferences, but no one is better than anyone else for it. We all are challenged to find the lessons on the other side of our natures.
Spending time with ourselves and spending time with others are equally as valuable, and it is the beauty of diversity that we all have our dispositions. The struggle is to prioritize both by realizing that we are nuanced beings who are able to expand our palettes, and overcome our insecurities. This struggle is one among the many in the pursuit of a balanced and centered life.Yet, as this process takes time, it is essential to speak kindly to ourselves while we improve. In order for positivity to be second-nature, we must practice it first.