Friday, May 29, 2009

growing toward grace

This month’s scientiae is about moving forward. My own career is progressing but under embargo right now (in case you didn’t notice), so I’d like to discuss another long-term work in progress.

I was born small, and I ended up small when I eventually finished growing. I had the pleasure of being developmentally delayed, physically, so while growing up I was dwarfed by my peers. I was also sensitive. I liked people, I found them fascinating…at a distance. Everybody was so big, so loud. I was happy to hang out on the fringes, watching other kids. I was equally happy entertaining myself.

In junior high, if anybody took notice of me, I was…punished. Not physically (it didn’t take much to cow me), but I was quickly cut down. High school was better – I was left alone. In college, I never found a clique I could break into. I perfected the art of being…if not invisible, then unnoticed.

But when I started working, I quickly found out that I wasn’t invisible. I was given more responsibility relatively quickly, and I was supposed to order around subcontractors, lead meetings, and otherwise assert myself. I realized that I did have a lot to contribute, but that my ingrained wallflower habits were interfering with that.

So I set a goal for myself: to overcome all those years of being shy. A more concrete goal is to be able to navigate a big social gathering effortlessly. Whether I’m wandering around the posters at a conference, waiting for the big client meeting to start, or just attending a wedding where I don’t know many people, I’d like to be able to start and continue a conversation with anybody. I’m trying to find grace.

It’s not easy to overcome 20 years of negative reinforcement and become a confident, social person. But I’m working on it. How’s my progress so far?

I’m a lot better in formal interactions, such as when giving lectures or doing safety meetings with subcontractors. I’m still working on internalizing the habits and social skills that I should have picked up when I was younger: Using the right amount of eye contact. Interrupting when appropriate. Answering questions (“how was your weekend?”) with more than a one-word answer, and asking my own questions.

It’s funny – when I was a teenager, I was convinced that I had completely matured. It’s nice to know I’m still capable of changing what I thought was a fundamental part of me, still growing.

1 comment:

Silver Fox said...

You remind me a lot of someone I worked with last year, in some ways.

It can take a lot of effort to go beyond whatever makes us shy/introverted (me, when growing up), and from your posts, I'd say you've gone farther than I did at your age.

(That first sentence now seems like a non-sequiter, but I'll leave it.)

I was born large (weighed a lot), and rapidly became small and short!