There’s a beautiful quote from Bill Murray in Kevin Ashton’s fantastic book How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery, which I’ve always loved: “Work your best at being you. That’s where home is.”
I think I love it so much because it’s a vital reminder. Because for many years I did the opposite.
Did you do the opposite, too?
Did you work your best at being someone else? Someone who had thick skin (even though yours was naturally paper thin)? Someone who loved loud music and big, bustling parties (even though you needed a lot of alone time)? Someone who was passionate about politics or math or business (when you really just wanted to write poetry)?
Artist Aaron Caycedo-Kimura, a self-described “huge introvert,” grew up feeling inadequate and out of place. After all, our culture prefers and praises extroverted traits. We praise people who are outgoing and skilled at making small talk. We praise people who can quickly articulate a reply. We assume they’re clever and intelligent, resourceful, and competent. And we have all sorts of assumptions for introverts. They’re shy. They’re snooty. They hate people.
Caycedo-Kimura created the cartoon persona INFJoe to shatter misconceptions about introverts and to provide encouragement to anyone who’s felt odd about who they are, or unworthy. (The name was inspired by his results from the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator inventory; he’s an INFJ: deeply emotional, empathic and introverted.)
He includes his creative and funny comic-book illustrations, along with helpful insights on navigating life as an introvert, in the new book Text, Don’t Call: An Illustrated Guide to the Introverted Life. (The image to the right appears in the book.)
One of my favorite illustrations says, “The Loudest Sounds I Want to Hear Today: Water running, coffee dripping, pages turning.” (Totally me!) Another favorite is an illustration of a woman and her reflection. The reflection says, “I’m so peopled out that I’m not sure I even want to talk to YOU today.”
What is so important about Caycedo-Kimura’s work is how he uses creativity to help himself and others embrace and celebrate their natural tendencies. It’s an inspiring and powerful way to live. Because the alternative is feeling ashamed about ourselves. The alternative is becoming someone else. The alternative is getting further and further away from ourselves. And what’s the point, what’s the benefit, of doing that?
Accepting ourselves is a process.
It might seem overwhelming. It might seem impossible to you right now. Which is why you can start small. Start by creating something that embraces a part of you that you feel iffy about. Use your imagination. Play. Explore. Use humor. If you’d like some support, ask a loved one you trust to join you, and create together.
For instance, maybe you create your own book of comics and quips about being an extrovert or an introvert or a highly sensitive person. Maybe you take a series of self-portraits (focused on a body part or trait you actually dislike or feel uncomfortable about). Maybe you take a series of photos on your artist dates, something that the introvert in you loves to do. Maybe you pen a short story about a hero who channels one of their quirks into a superpower (and saves the day!).
Think about what you can create to validate, encourage, support or appreciate yourself. Because, again, you, the true you, that’s where home is. So pull up a chair. Hang out for a while.