Are You Ready To Find Your Weirdness?

What makes you weird?

Last week, I listened to a JP Sears podcast titled “You’re Weirder Than You Can Think,” which is all about discovering and expressing your weirdness. Now, maybe you think your weirdness is a bad/scary thing that you need to hide from others. Or maybe you think you’re normal and not weird at all. Why on earth would you want to discover and express your weirdness?

JP defines “weirdness” as the things that make you uniquely you. In other words, “weirdness” is the traits of your authentic self. It’s your personality, your quirks, your passions, your defining features, the things you love to talk about, and so much more. What makes you “weird” is what makes you “you,” and figuring out what that is can be a great step in your personal growth journey. With that framework, he challenged everyone to do a 4-step exercise:

  1. Write down three things that make you weird.
  2. Thank each of these things for making you uniquely you.
  3. Find a way to express each of those weird traits in your life today.
  4. Check-in at the end of the day to assess how you did on completing Step 3.

And then you do that each day for seven days in a row.

Journeying Into My Weirdness

I’m sharing this post on the last day of my weirdness journey. I thought for sure I’d have no problem coming up with 21 examples of my weirdness, but it was actually more challenging than I’d anticipated.

It’s not that I don’t have unique traits or perspectives. Rather, I was getting hung-up on Step 3 before I wrote anything down for Step 1. I didn’t want to write something in the first step that would end up being hard, uncomfortable, or impossible to express that day.

Of course, avoiding an aspect of my weirdness because I find it uncomfortable probably misses the point of this whole exercise. Read more

Advertisements

Introverts Need People Too: A Closer Look At Introversion and Social Anxiety

A lot of introvert-themed posts that you see around this time of year are things like “An Introverts Guide To Surviving the Holidays” or “How Not to Run In Terror From Your Extrovert Relatives.” That last one’s not an actual article, but it’s pretty close to some I’ve seen.

Often, writers of articles like this assume introverts don’t like people, that they’re always overwhelmed in social situations, and that they hate parties. But being on-edge in social situations, panicking when you have to interact with people, and going out of your way to avoid places where people gather aren’t actually signs of introversion. Those things are more a part of social anxiety.

Definition Conundrums

Part of the reason for this confusion is that people don’t understand what being an introvert actually means. For example, (despite numerous complaints and petitions) if you Google “introvert definition” the first thing that comes up is “a shy, reticent person.” Only if you expand the Google result to see translations, word origin, and other definitions do you finally get something a little closer to the correct result: “a person predominantly concerned with their own thoughts and feelings rather than with external things.”

Introverts Need People Too: A Closer Look At Introversion and Social Anxiety | LikeAnAnchor.com

Being an introvert doesn’t make you socially awkward. It doesn’t mean you hate people. Being an introvert means that you’re born with a trait that gives you a preference for the internal world. It also means you re-charge better in quiet, low-stimulation environments (usually alone, but not always). Introverts might avoid parties, but if so they do it because they’d rather be somewhere else (like at home reading or hanging our with a small group of friends), not because they’re inherently shy or scared of interacting with others. Read more

Crash Course In Ecclesiastes

It’s always puzzled me why so many people think of Ecclesiastes as depressing. For me as a teenager, it provided a map for navigating my way out of depression. Of course, I’m not saying it’s a magic cure for mental illness, but if you’re struggling with questions about the meaning of life or frustrated with how pointless it all seems, this book can provide a great deal of hope.

The book of Ecclesiastes contains the reflections of a deep thinker who works through an existential crisis. This sort of crisis happens when an individual starts to question whether their life (or life in general) has any purpose, meaning, or value. Solomon wrestled with these questions and records his thoughts for us to learn, as he did, that true meaning and purpose can only be found in God.

Ecclesiastes is one of those books that it’s not a good idea to read isolated pieces from. That’s one way you end up thinking there are few spiritual lessons in this book or misinterpreting its message. The whole thing is interconnected, with layers of thoughts building on each other as Solomon goes back and forth asking questions and contemplating possible answers. It’s vital that we look at this piece of writing as a whole before we start to dive deep into individual passages.

Cycles of Futility …

“Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher; “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity” (Ecc. 1:2 ,WEB). Thus the book of Ecclesiastes opens, and Solomon will repeat this phrase throughout and in the conclusion (Ecc. 12:8). He presents everything in life as vanity, or hebel (H1892) — a vapor/breath; a transitory or unsatisfactory thing. That might seem like a depressing outlook, but can you really look at the world and say he’s wrong? Do things of this life last? Do they make sense? Is this world satisfying? Not on its own. Read more

Letting Death Give Us Perspective On Life

Ecclesiastes records the reflections of a deep thinker who works through an existential crisis and concludes meaning can only be found in God. While many people find this book depressing, I think taken as a whole it offers a remarkably hopeful perspective that can actually help us work through the sort of questions that were weighing on the author (most likely Solomon’s) mind.

When I recently went back to studying Ecclesiastes, I had this grand vision that I would write a post about the entire book (similar to “Crash Course in Romans”) in less than a week and post it today. I’m currently laughing at myself for thinking that was an attainable goal. Instead, we’re just going to talk about a handful of verses in the middle of the book that have captured my attention, and save the Crash Course in Ecclesiastes for next week.

The Vanity of Everything

Like Romans, Ecclesiastes is hard to understand if you take bits and pieces out of context, so before we get to the verses that I want to focus on today we need to take a quick look at what came before.

Solomon had shown the vanity of pleasure, gaiety, and fine works, of honour, power, and royal dignity … [and] there is as much vanity in great riches (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on Ecc. 5:9-17)

He has also been questioning the meaning of life. If all the things that people pursue on earth are meaningless, then what is there for us? Several times he argues that there is “nothing better” for men than to rejoice in this physical life (Ecc. 2:24; 3:13, 22; 5:18). But that’s still not a satisfactory answer for him. He wants more, something to explain why we should keep trying and what’s the purpose in living.

For who knows what is good for man in life, all the days of his vain life which he spends like a shadow? For who can tell a man what will be after him under the sun? (Ecc. 6:12, WEB)

A Different Perspective on Death

Up until this point, there has been a, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we will die” theme running through Ecclesiastes (Is. 22:12-13). It seems that in Solomon’s mind at this time, death was the point at which hope falls apart. Sure you can enjoy this life, but it’s all emptiness because you still end up dead with no guarantee that you have anything to show for it. Now, though, Solomon suggests that we can use death to give us perspective on life.

It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men, and the living should take this to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter; for by the sadness of the face the heart is made good. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. (Ecc. 7:2-4, WEB)

We must not forget that there is “a time to be born, and a time to die … a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Ecc. 3:2, 4, WEB). There’s nothing wrong with feasting and laughter in its proper time, but staying there makes your heart foolish. Wise men keep their ends in mind. Death reminds us that we only have so much time to decide how we’re going to live our lives and what we’ll be remembered for.

Letting Death Give Us Perspective On Life | LikeAnAnchor.com
Photo credit: Rosie Fraser via Unsplash

The End Is Better

We just talked about verses 2-4 in chapter 7. Now let’s go back to verse 1:

A good name is better than fine perfume; and the day of death better than the day of one’s birth. (Ecc. 7:1, WEB)

There is much value in a good life well-lived. Solomon has already concluded that “wisdom excels folly, as far as light excels darkness” (Ecc. 2:13, WEB). Here he reinforces that a good name — that is “a name for wisdom and goodness with those that are wise and good”(MHC on Ecc. 7:1-6) — is worth more than all the pleasures, wealth, etc. that he’d found so empty.

if we have lived so as to merit a good name, the day of our death, which will put a period to our cares, and toils, and sorrows, and remove us to rest, and joy, and eternal satisfaction, is better than the day of our birth, which ushered us into a world of so much sin and trouble, vanity and vexation. We were born to uncertainty, but a good man does not die at uncertainty. (MHC on Ecc. 7:1-6).

Death is not the end of the story, and for a man who considers his death and prepares for it (as Solomon goes on to say in the next verses, which we’ve already talked about) he has the opportunity to die with “a good name.” The word for “name” here is shem (H8034), and in the Hebrew concept it’s always connected with your reputation and character.

Those who die having a good reputation and a good character are no longer subject to the evils of this present life and await their resurrection to a much better life in the future. That gives those of us left behind great hope even in the midst of sorrow (1 Thes. 4:13-14).

Backing Into The Future

Letting Death Give Us Perspective On Life | LikeAnAnchor.com
Photo credit: Ashim D’Silva via Unsplash

The idea that the day of our death is better than the day of birth can be a hard one for people to come to grips with, even given the context we just talked about. We still grieve at death even though we know (as Solomon also concludes by the end of this book) that “the spirit returns to God who gave it” and that He will raise believers up in the last day (Ecc. 12:7; John 6:40). But maybe another verse in this section of Ecclesiastes can provide further explanation.

Better is the end of a thing than its beginning. (Ecc. 7:5, WEB)

The Hebrew word for “end” is achariyth (H319). To understand achariyth, we have to understand that the Hebrew concept of time is like “the view a man has when he is rowing a boat. He sees where he has been and backs into the future” (H.W. Wolff quoted in TWOT entry 68e). That’s why this word translated “end” can also mean last/latter days, after part, future, or reward. The end of a thing is better than the beginning because you will have arrived at the future goal and can now look back on where you’ve been with a better perspective.

If you’d rather not think about death then the idea that the end is better than the beginning can be a depressing one because it forces you to confront something uncomfortable. But ignoring the idea of our lives ending is foolish. Everyone is going to die whether we think about it or not, so why not use the fact that our lives will end as motivation to make the life we have a good one?

 

Featured image credit: carolynabooth via Pixabay

The Difference Between Having Anxiety and Feeling Anxious

Every human being knows what it’s like to feel anxious about something, but that’s not the same thing as having anxiety. There’s a difference between normal anxiety (which is appropriate to the situation) and dealing with an anxiety disorder (which is a mental health condition).

In day-to-day life it’s actually really hard to define the line between normal worry and too much worry (as Dr. Ramani Durvasula says in “Why It’s So Crucial to Understand Anxiety Disorders“). What pushes you into problematic anxiety can vary depending on the individual. It will also vary for an individual depending on other factors in their lives. In addition, anxiety looks different for everyone who struggles with it. That means my personal examples in this article are an accurate reflection of my anxiety, but won’t be equally relatable for everyone with anxiety.

There are plenty of situations where it’s normal to feel anxious. But when anxiety starts to define your life, or keeps you from functioning normally, or generalizes to everyday situations, there’s a good chance you’re dealing with something different than normal human nervousness. Anxiety can also be a clue that something else is going on. If you think your worry might have crossed a line into too much worry, it’s a good idea to talk with a mental health professional.

Disclaimer: I’m not a counselor or therapist and this article can’t be used to diagnose anxiety or as a treatment guide. If you’re struggling with something talk with a mental health professional. They will be much more helpful than me. I also want to say that there’s nothing shameful about seeking answers or asking for help. And if you do get a diagnosis, remember it’s a starting point for treatment, not a sentence or judgement on who you are. You wouldn’t feel ashamed about finding out you have lyme disease or a heart condition, and there shouldn’t be a stigma against mental health problems either. Read more

Myers-Briggs Temperaments and Depression

Depression isn’t confined to a certain personality type, but we can use tools from the Myers-Briggs type system when trying to combat negative thought patterns. If you know what your four-letter type is, then you can easily find out what are some common stress triggers and negative thought patterns for your type that can increase risk of depression.

Myers-Briggs Temperaments and Depression| marissabaker.wordpress.com

Temperament Affects Behavior

Depression is a very complicated issue with lots of underlying causes. The Harvard Medical School points out that while people often assume depression is due to a chemical imbalance in the brain, it also has to do with our genetics, temperament, stressful experiences, past traumas, other medical conditions, and certain medications. For now, we’re going to focus on temperament.

Your view of the world and, in particular, your unacknowledged assumptions about how the world works also influence how you feel. You develop your viewpoint early on and learn to automatically fall back on it when loss, disappointment, or rejection occurs.” — Understanding Depression, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School

Our temperaments affect how we process the sorts of situations that often lead to depression, such as grief or a prolonged struggle. In Myers-Briggs theory, we use the four-letter types to describe the personality temperament which is built from someone’s genetic predispositions and early childhood experiences.

*** People frequently experience depressed moods that last for a short time, which is different than clinical depression. Studying ways to change patterns of negative thinking can help pull you out of depression, but for ongoing or serious depression it is no substitute for professional counseling. If depression is interfering with your daily life, and especially if you’re having suicidal thoughts, please seek professional help.***

Your “Inferior Function”

Your Myers-Briggs type describes your temperament weaknesses as well as your strengths. Every type has what we call an inferior function, which is also sometimes called the “shadow.” It is our least-developed function that we still have some conscious access to, and it’s the one that emerges when we’re stressed. Since it’s largely unused, it’s an immature and distorted way of looking at the world and can lead to unhealthy outlooks and negative thoughts, which can in turn contribute to depression.

Naomi Quenk’s book Was That Really Me? talks about stress bringing out our “hidden personality” in what she describes as an eruption of the inferior function. When we’re caught “in the grip” of our inferior functions, we are trying to deal with stress using a mental process that is unfamiliar, and it can have a profound effect on our mood.

Not every instance of stress will trigger our inferior function, and not all grip experiences are negative. Staying in your inferior function, though, increases stress levels because you’re not really using the functions that come most naturally to you. Learning about your inferior function gives you insight into typical sensitivities that might trigger a grip experience, describes signs that you are “in the grip”, and gives you tools for returning to a more balanced state of mind.

The Grip and Depression

Depression isn’t necessarily a symptom of being in the grip, but grip experiences do increase the tendency to fall into negative thought patterns. Our thought patterns directly impact our health, and “in many cases, depression can be caused by negative thinking, itself” (LiveScience.com). The tools each type can use to climb out of the grip can also help you get a handle on negative thinking.

As an example, INFJs and INFPs are two types that frequently report dealing with depression. An INFJ’s inferior function is Extroverted Sensing, and it typically shows up as “obsessive focus on external data,” “overindulgence in sensual pleasure,” and “adversarial attitude toward the outer world” (Quenk, p.198)  For INFPs, their inferior Extroverted Thinking causes “judgements of incompetence,” “aggressive criticism,” and “precipitous action” (Quenk, p.105). It’s easy to see how these will negatively influence your thoughts. If you feel like the outer world is attacking you, it changes how you think about everything around you and your own responses to external events and people. If you fall into a pattern of thinking you’re incompetent, it’s going to pull your thoughts in a negative direction.

Naomi Quenk writes that INFJs “need space and a low-pressure environment to regain their dominant” function (p.207). A change of scenery can help, and INFJs often appreciate having someone else around after a while to offer support and affirmation. Sometimes, taking time away from other people to journal about your thoughts and look at them more objectively helps redirect patterns of negativity. Talking things over with a friend or therapist also helps, though I find it works best after taking some alone time first. INFPs use similar methods for returning to equilibrium, but alone time is even more important for them and when they do talk to people, they need someone to listen more than offer guidance (Quenk, p.115).

A certain amount of alone time is critical for many introvert types, but not always so much for extroverted types. ENFJs, for example, fall into a pattern of “excessive criticism,” “convoluted logic,” and “compulsive search for truth” when in the grip. This type often benefits from exercise and a change of scenery, as well as having someone involve them in a project that captures their interest. Having a chance to talk things over with someone who takes them seriously is critical (Quenk, p. 163).

I highly recommend checking out Naomi Quenk’s book, or at least running a Google search to learn your type’s inferior function. It’s helped me quite a bit with my anxiety and in finding strategies for turning negative thoughts around, as well as with relating to other people who are struggling with different stressors in their lives.

Myers-Briggs Temperaments and Depression| marissabaker.wordpress.com

Credits for photos used in blog images: