P A R A D O X
“There’s a disconnect between my mind and my heart, but I feel the truth.” ~Unknown
Paradox is seen, felt, heard, known, and everything but recognized out loud. It’s official. I’m deeming this year in this community the year of the paradox. It’s everywhere. It’s been in my own life for years (as well as yours). It’s come up more and more and more over the past several weeks, including in a beautiful e-course I just finished called “Closure & Clarity” from The Voice Bureau (a boutique agency that helps entrepreneurs show up in the online conversation).
We’re not talking enough about the complexities of our existence, not only as human beings, but especially as introverts.
And dang – can I just tell you that paradoxes are a gorgeous topic?
We’re gonna talk more about them this year – in detail.
I’m also going to open a new coaching opportunity soon where you can choose this as a theme for your sessions with me. Because the truth is this: paradoxes are what create the really nice tensions in our lives, relationships, and work.
If we don’t talk about them, we’re missing an opportunity to learn something really valuable about our own truths.
What the heck is a paradox?
I don’t think you need much education here, but for the sake of setting the ground work for this conversation, let’s take a quick look as a reminder.
Paradox – A statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth.
Whoa, how I love that definition! (Don’t you?)
Another one I like is “an opinion or statement contrary to commonly accepted opinion.”
With that reminder in mind, I want to explore a few of the paradoxes that exist for you that are more than likely keeping you from getting what you want in life, love, & work (or business).
And before we get too deep into assertiveness this year (and we will), this topic of paradox has to be understood, embraced, and explored. The reason we have to lay a foundation with paradoxes (I believe) is because they are the exact things that bring up the many sides, interests, & tensions that weave together our creative intelligence & self-discovery.
If we don’t have a full understanding of these creative & humanistic tensions, beliefs, truths, and nuances, it will inhibit you and I from stepping up to own the areas that matter the most to us (otherwise known as assertively leading our own lives).
For those who love us and deeply want to connect with us and know us introverts, it’s important you understand the constant paradoxes that exist in our world. Ignoring them, or desiring us to be like you doesn’t work for us. In the same way we yearn to understand you on a deep, personal level, we also desire to be understood in return.
Paradox #1 – I need creative outlets to express my ideas and I need to keep my thoughts and ideas safe and protected.
This is the tension between creativity and safety, and it can keep us in fear and out of action. I always advise introverted women who are struggling with this to start with some format where you can embrace this tension in your work and creations – like starting to write in a private blog first so you can get comfortable with your ideas before you just take the bull by the horns and launch a blog, feeling scared to death about what’s going to happen. Or start your own journal at home to begin bringing some structure & format to your ideas initially, then taking them online. Evernote is great for this.
One of the reasons the paradox is so strong for you is because there’s a long-held misconception that expression is opposite of protection and safety – that it’s by nature ‘unsafe’ to be fully expressive in who we are. And for you, it’s not about intellectual capital (that the ideas are yours and solely yours & you’re worried about someone stealing them). It’s more about safety from an expression point of view – “I’m worried if I publish ‘x’ or create ‘y’, someone will laugh or leave a nasty comment.”
I’m going to give you some really great tips today throughout these 3 paradoxes, but they aren’t the only way to approach the tensions. They’re just the ways I’d like to suggest you start with.
This first paradox of needing creative outlets and wanting to keep safe is best handled in my opinion, by slightly and compassionately relieving the tension.
It’s about embracing both sides of the paradox and what you feel, and filtering that through your introvert personality. When we relieve tension, then feel it, relieve it, then feel it, it becomes a healthy cycle of accepting the complexity and builds muscle – muscle to work through the emotions, muscle to say yes to expression, muscle to feel the scariness of it all. This is literally the first baby step to building the assertiveness and self-expression muscles you’re needing to move through this paradox.
Here’s a personal example: Occasionally on my blog I get nasty comments. Now, every time this happens, I have a few choices. 1) I can just delete the comment and move on (which isn’t possible for me because I’m a highly sensitive person, so anything negative will sit with me for a few days), 2) I can keep the comment in my publishing dashboard and dwell on every word, raking myself over the coals and downing my writing 3) I can actually publish the comment into the blog for this entire community to read, driving the nails further and further into my spirit every single time I read the comment or come across it, all the while also exposing that negativity to my community or 4) I can read the comment, process it, delete it, decide whether it warrants a response or not and also allow myself to feel the hurt or anger from it (because that’s what feels authentic) and know that in a few days or hours, I’ll be able to move on from it.
Do you feel that tension and muscle-building that comes from option #4? This is how I opt to handle my expression through this blog on a weekly basis. And it took me doing this over and over and over to really fully get it, understand the process, and be okay with it.
One of the things I’d like you to start learning to do is embracing what’s called “the genius and” instead of catering to “the tyranny of or“.
We don’t have to accept that there’s incompatibility between wanting to keep our ideas safe & protected and also fully expressing who we are. They aren’t incompatible – they work together to build the muscle you need to feel the most free.
In Jim Collins’ book, Built to Last, we find this concept, and it’s something I learned recently that has really transformed how I see these creative tensions, and I want you to learn it too.
In another book (whose author I can’t recall at the moment), he devoted 30 years of research to exploring these tensions in creatives, and found that we contain the most contradictory extremes, wherein most anyone else who isn’t a creative, has a more segregated experience. When we look at it in that light, it becomes a gift. You’re in an elite class of creative tensions, intelligence, and giftedness, to be able to even have these creative tensions at play.
If you can learn to embrace the genius ‘and’ in your own way, you’ll discover a whole new way of viewing your ideas – AND sharing them. Paradox has an unprecedented ability to show you the wholeness of experience.
Paradox #2 – I love my personal freedom to choose and do as I please in any given moment, but I’m also looking for a way to hone in on an identity that feels a bit more fixed and centered.
This search for identity is very much an individualistic trait (studied via the Enneagram). We will be exploring this type on the blog more throughout this year as most women in this community embody this particular idiosyncratic nature.
Because freedom is something you greatly value, this paradox can seem a bit frustrating, to say the least. Freedom is actually a core desired feeling for you, so also searching for an identity that’s more fixed and centered seems like a never-ending search. And it might as well be – in simple terms, it will be.
But since we now know that we can have both personal freedom and a fixed and centered sense of self, understanding identity more will help calm any anxiety around why you can’t seem to “feel” this, even though you know it’s possible.
There’s two particular schools of thought I’d like you to know about identity. Both are a great starting point in understanding how identity is structured and more about what it is exactly you’re looking for.
1. There are two types of identities – horizontal & vertical. Vertical identities are those traits you likely share with your parents. They are the things that are not controlled by you, such as skin color, genetic mutations, usually language, nationality, religion (in some cases), and myopia. Horizontal identities are those things which are learned and/or personally chosen – usually also foreign to the parents, such as prenatal influences, recessive genes, sexual orientation, values, preferences, physical disability, psychopathy, and autism.
2. There are three things an identity role needs to survive & thrive – a) commitment from you, b) support from others, and c) extrinsic as well as intrinsic rewards. (Based on research in this popular book by Springer).
I can work with you on all of your specific identity roles in The Introvert Effect, but for now, this is a start to understanding the construct of identity. An identity role needs some substance to be considered ‘prominent’ in your world. For instance, you may consider being a wife, Mother, and sister your most prominent identity roles (based on the above criteria). The more you understand exactly how you show up uniquely in each of those roles, the more freedom you can feel to smooth your existing roles and add new ones (such as being a business owner or branching out into other passions).
Identity that’s more fixed and centered can sometimes feel like an overwhelming task, in the midst of attempting to feel your most free to choose because you may not have a full understanding of your identity roles. This lack of knowledge is a breeding ground for feeling like you never get the things/life/career/job/spouse you want.
Having a full scale understanding of your identity roles and the construct thereof opens up a whole new world of possibility and self-discovery. You can better feel the ebb and flow that exists between these two tensions of freedom and finite-ness.
Paradox #3 – I have a really strong value around uniqueness, and at the same time, I want to find a way to see myself more like others, so that I don’t always have to feel so freakin’ different.
If there were ever a clear definition of contradictory extremes, it would be this paradox for introverts. This is the crux for us. We have now come to a place in our society where introversion can be talked about, embraced, and studied openly much more than before. We’re willing to say “I’m an introvert” out loud and on purpose, because we have given and been given permission to cultivate a uniqueness we have felt for some time.
However real though, we also realize the reality within this confession – that we aren’t like everyone else, and typically not even similar in disposition to those whom our culture sometimes tend to cater to – the more extroverted among us.
I’d like you to try something. This isn’t the only way, but it’s an innovative way I’d like you to approach this paradox and many of the others you deal with. It’s really a revolutionary way to embrace that genius “and”.
It’s called a Paradox Canvas – from the wildly popular Strategy Canvas great businesses use to build segmented and unique brands and distinguish themselves from the competition, without leaving behind the things that truly do work. They stay with the facets they like, and leave behind (and innovate) on the ones they don’t. Yes – it’s genius. And the coolest thing about this strategy for dealing with paradoxes is that it not only eliminates a need for further comparison, it creates an entirely new way of viewing yourself, your relationships, and your gifts.
At the basis of it, you would simply start by writing down all of the “typical” things that surround some area you’re wanting to work through within this tension & paradox (maybe it’s your business, a relationship, etc). Write down all the typical things that show up or exist that would commonly surround whatever the topic is at-hand. (I’m giving you a personal sample of one below).
Then you’re going to rank those norms on a scale (any scale – anything that will show the separation visually.
The idea of this exercise is to start seeing how you can uniquely show up in some way, role, relationship, etc. while also keeping with some things that “work”.
Get really creative here, and have fun with this exercise!
I started with a paradox about music as an expression for me: “I want to appreciate music as art and respect the art, but I don’t want to feel like I can’t use it to have an awesome time and even play with different ways of appreciating it.”
Paradox Canvas Sample: Music as an Expression
The final step is what I call connecting the “Points of Uniqueness.” What are all those ‘points’ on the canvas now you can circle that obviously show where you’re unique in some way? List them (write them down).
So, from the example above about how I prefer to interact with music: My Points of Uniqueness
- Most people buy whole CD’s – I prefer to buy the songs I like on iTunes, then create my own mix CD’s – I rarely buy whole CD’s because I feel like I get the most value out of the artist and his/her work that way
- Most people listen to music at an acceptable decibel rate in the car – I do not! :-)
- I do not keep my CD’s in a visor (they got stolen once, so I learned from that and don’t do keep them there anymore)
- I am keen on picking out the voices of artists very well in new & upcoming entertainment & movies, etc., whereas to most, they wouldn’t even notice
- I prefer many types of music genres, not just one
- I am not a shower singer
Pretty simple process!
You could literally do this with anything – your financial position, your role as Mom, your role as business owner, your business market space, your role as volunteer.
This canvas exercise has the power to transform how we see ourselves in specific identity roles, and how we uniquely contribute.
Amazing, right? We don’t have to choose one or the other, when we feel those contradictory extremes in our experience – we can have both AND feel unique at the same time. We can truly have both and leave room & space to be peaceful innovators, exactly like we want to be.
SO….Let me ask you…
1. What is one HUGE takeaway for you here in this post? (I’m anxious BIG time to hear what sticks out for you!) Is it one of the paradoxes, the canvas exercise, a quote….?
2. What is one key action you can take today to start transforming some of these paradoxes in your own life or work? What will you do to make that happen?
You know I’m delighted as always to be teaching you new stuff as I learn alongside you. I’d love to see you in the comments below with thoughts & ideas, and I’ll talk with you soon.
To all the unique & peaceful introverts- I dig your gifts and how you keep showin’ up.
PS – I have two more paradoxes I’d like to touch on – let me know if you’re interested in those also in the comment section!