This year I’m taking on a new challenge: the Cauldron Blog Project. Unlike the weekly alphabet soup posts of the Pagan Blog Project, this one is a monthly challenge, centered around a predetermined theme. The number and length of posts written during the month is left up to the individual blogger. January’s theme challenges us to write about Resolutions, Habits, and New Beginnings. That covers quite a lot of ground and I’ve touched on it a bit in my last couple of posts.
It occurs to me that a lot of resolutions are made, not necessarily out of a personal desire to change, but out of societal pressures that dictate how we should appear, act and think. I’m guilty of this- year after year my resolutions have consistently included some variation on the theme of becoming more extroverted. It should not be a surprise that American culture favors the extrovert – the social networkers, the shouting cheerleaders, the talkative stars of reality tv, the outspoken pundits. Introverts tend to be viewed as somehow broken and in need of fixing. There are plenty of resources to “help” introverts to become more extroverted and therefore socially acceptable, but very few books that actually address introversion as a positive and desirable attribute (Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking is a notable exception). So, introverts are expected to fix themselves by completely reconstructing the ways in which they interact with the world and how they process information. No problem right?
Actually, there is one small but significant problem: introversion is not a pathology and introverts are not, by virtue of being introverted, broken. While I could dedicate an entire blog to introversion in American society, that’s a project for another day (or possibly lifetime?). The point is that, in considering our resolutions, we often use standards that are not our own, standards which may be more harmful than helpful. Rejecting resolutions is not the answer. Setting goals is a valuable exercise, as long as we keep in mind that they should be set to improve those things about ourselves which actually need improving or changing, not necessarily the changes that others would dictate.
The ability to discern and differentiate between what is actually broken and what others perceive as broken has become an important facet of my spiritual path. There has been, over the years, no small amount of reflection, meditation, and conversations with deity about what parts of myself are actually broken. In retrospect, it’s not a surprise that the truly broken bits were the result of trying to conform to American culture’s gold standards for what is normal and acceptable. Being an introvert did not make me somehow broken; attempting to force myself into using a extroverted framework for interacting with the world did. I fit well into the cultural norm, but the price was developing social anxiety and an inability to deal with social stressors that I had once been able to easily handle. So I’ve learned that, when faced with the decision between the cultural norm and who actually I am, I need to just borrow a phrase from Joanne Harris and tell the world this: “Fuck off. I’m fabulous.” Because no matter what American culture may say to the contrary, I am fabulous. So are you.