On the Road to Self-Discovery

personality designer

Outside my front door sits a snake plant. Beside the snake plant rest my Birkenstocks. 

And this bothers me. 

I am not bothered because I don’t like snake plants or Birkenstocks. I actually think snake plants are super cool, and I often say my Birks were the best investment I made before moving overseas. 

No, what bothers me is that I like them both. It bothers me that the plant sitting outside my front door has a hashtag on Instagram, a hashtag that’s been used over 90,000 times. It bothers me that 50% of the short-termers who come through my city are wearing the Birks I love so well. So to me, seeing these items parked outside my front door screams “Welcome to a trendy person’s home.” 

And I react to being trendy. 

Funny thing, but I never really acknowledged that about myself until it came up in the Myers-Briggs. Being imaginative is important to an ENFP, and following trends feels way too boxed-in for my style. Sometimes this is a great strength, and other times this plays out in ugly ways in my life. I needed an outsider to paint me an image so I could see that clearly, so I can recognize the reactions.

Oh the complexity of our internal make-up, of this powerful thing we call personality. Sometimes it’s our best friend, helping us crush the walk-off home run. Other times, it’s our Achilles heel. (Pardon me, I really love metaphors)

As an extrovert who values creativity, the personality God formed me with can be a great help to a team, a church, a community. Your specific personality has all manner of positives to offer. 

It also brings challenges. My own bent toward authenticity can make others feel cheap, or it can develop an independence that screams “I’m ok on my own.” Yours has its own downfalls. 

But somehow, God made us who we are as a part of His divine plan, and I believe He desires us to really understand who we are so we can best walk in those “good works [he] prepared beforehand.” 

If Christ’s bride is the church, and if the church is made up of people, and if we ourselves are those people, then would we not do well to know who we truly are, how we truly thrive, what our greatest weaknesses are? 

In David Benner’s The Gift of Being Yourself, he suggests there are three keystones in the journey of self-discovery: knowing we are deeply loved, deeply sinful, and in the process of being redeemed and restored. He also reminds us that “We do not find our true self by seeking it. Rather we find it by seeking God. For . . . in finding God, we find our truest and deepest selves.” 

To me, those words give me grace for this being a process. I understand and embrace that seeking God is a life-long expedition, but somehow I tend to think of this struggle of finding who I am as something we face as teenagers and perhaps hit round two in our mid-life crisis. But knowing yourself does not happen overnight, nor does it happen in isolation.  Sometimes it’s others who help us see areas we can’t see, or things we’re not willing to stare down. 

A few months ago, I sat at a table at my favorite breakfast spot and used all the one-ply Asian napkins within reach to soak up my tears. Across from me sat some dear, courageous friends, and something that was said touched a spot of vulnerability deep inside of me. I was, yet again, apologizing for being myself. Heading down the all-too-familiar path of believing that my personality is “too much”: too talkative, too opinionated, too everything.  My kind friends lovingly pointed it out, asking me why I find it necessary to make excuses for being the person God made me to be.

The master designer did not make a mistake when he made you. Those were the words that triggered the waterfall of tears. But as quickly as this truth settled over me, I had to fight away this overwhelming shame – I’m in my mid-thirties, don’t most people come to grips with their personality in middle school? What is wrong with me?

But I choose to push back the wall of shame and lean into the journey of knowing God and knowing myself. I intentionally make a choice to let the positives of my personality bring glory to His kingdom and to allow Him permission to refine the edges where selfishness claims supremacy. I will call to mind how I am deeply loved, deeply sinful, and that Christ is doing his work of sweet redemption in my life. I will probably need to keep this level of intentionality for years to come. Perhaps in time it will become habit, but until then, I choose to walk this journey of seeking God and finding my “deepest and truest self.” 

And I’ll try to be ok with liking snake plants and Birkenstocks. 

What areas of your personality have been a blessing to your specific work?  What parts bring challenges? 

12 Comments

  1. Amy Young May 13, 2019

    Maria, what I love most about this post is the title :). “On the road to self-discovery” — more of a journey than a destination, eh?! A couple of weeks ago I was helping with a women’s event at church (an act of service as those kinds of events often make me shudder) and was a table host. One round I had a group of mostly older ladies at my table (early 80s) and our “get to know you question” was “What’s an area you want to grow in?” and to a person, they all said, “Nothing!”

    What? I thought? and I said, “I want to grow in patience because I can see that each stage of life requires a different relationship with patience and with what I need to be patient about.” They looked at me like I was crazy :).. . . not the first time I’ve gotten that look!! Ha! Thanks for reminding us that we are on the road, and as much as I learn about myself and how God has wired me, there is more to learn and have God reveal to me!

    1. Ellie May 13, 2019

      Oh Amy, I hate it when that happens! I have felt like the “emotional one” in several places over the years with groups with older generations as I want to share somewhat honestly about things somewhere I think should be a safe group and ask for prayer – expecting that others might do that too – only to be faced by blank faces and something along the lines of “we’re all fine” (!)
      *Now* I know that they’re probably not totally fine, although it still feels hard to deal with, but at the time I just thought it was only me who was struggling with anything and that felt horrible . But some people don’t work the way I do or can’t be that honest with someone they haven’t known for a very long time (not always a luxury available in our lines of work?!) .. unless really everything is fine after you hit a certain age?! Maybe then I’m not sure whether I’m desperate to be that age or not?! 😉 Blessings in the journey sister.

    2. Maria May 13, 2019

      Amy -it really is a journey, isn’t it? And it’s also pretty easy to hit cruise control. Way to go in being the “weird one” in that situation and modeling what it means to keep a mindset of growth!

  2. Bayta Schwarz May 13, 2019

    Thought you were describing me when you said “following trends feels way too boxed-in for my style”. Yep! I will not read the book everyone reads, listen to the speaker everyone raves about etc etc. A very mature way to make decisions, I know… 😉 I am an INFP so clearly that characteristic is somewhere in the NFP part!
    And I love those three keystones! So very important not to lose sight of any of them!

    1. Ellie May 13, 2019

      Ha! Me too but actually on this I thought “I don’t know what a snake plant is” so I had to look it up and neither do I own any Birkenstocks so now I worry that I’m so far off trend it’s worrying? 🙂

      1. Bayta Schwarz May 13, 2019

        I also had to google “snake plant”! 🙂 And the only reason I own a pair of Birkenstocks is that we have a team tradition of giving new long-termers a voucher. Only wear them around the house though 🙂

        1. Maria May 13, 2019

          Trendy or not, I love my Birks so much!

      2. Maria May 13, 2019

        Haha! Living overseas keeps us quite unaware at times, doesn’t it? 🤓. And who knows, maybe their not as trendy as I think- I’m just making assumptions based on what I can see from afar.
        Awhile back some short termers came through town and kept using the word “extra” in a way I had never heard. When I asked what it meant, they looked at me like I was a dinosaur. In the US, I was a high school teacher so I used to hear all the terms, but that one was new for me!
        So I guess living off-trend is a bit of what this life holds.

    2. Maria May 13, 2019

      Bayta (haha, my iPhone spellchecker is suggesting I spell your name Bahrain), interesting about the INFP similarities! I guess that’s where this independent streak must lie. And yeah, it can play out in pretty childish ways sometimes, and also can be a real blessing to others. May we find the ways to let it be a blessing!
      And those three keystones: so good – you really should read the whole book. It’s short, but so so full of good things. I highly recommend it.

  3. Sarah Hilkemann May 13, 2019

    Thanks for sharing this, Maria! One-ply Asian napkins do not make good tissues. 😉 But what a sweet gift to have your friends speak Truth into your life. Thank you for sharing this reminder that the Master Designer didn’t make a mistake in the way He crafted our personalities!

    1. Maria May 13, 2019

      Love those Asian napkins! I usually have a pile of them by my plate by the time the meal is over. How on earth does someone find only one sufficient? 😂

      1. Michele May 18, 2019

        Hahaha… I loved this post for many reasons, but the image of you trying to use those horrible little napkins to wipe tears may almost have topped the deep truths and sweet vulnerability! Another good reason to carry plenty of tissues everywhere!

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