Lessons from Daffodils: Embrace Your True Temperament (and support others as they embrace theirs)

Mar 30, 2020

“For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.” 

― William Wordsworth, the final stanza of his poem I Wander’d Lonely as a Cloud

The arrival of the daffodil with its pronounced trumpet, strong, yet delicate, unique, yet unquestionably a member of the flora family signifies that spring has arrived, the earth has warmed, loosened and set into motion the gifts of Mother Nature which were hibernating for their annual rejuvenation period.

The daffodil is what it is, sharing its evanescent beauty, providing the opportunity to learn how to savor and not strangle, revel instead of control, the gift that will not last but a few weeks, but oh, what a gloriously fantastic few weeks it is when the daffodil comes into bloom.

Over the course of the most recent couple of weeks I have been reading about temperaments, specifically introversion, but as well the yang to its yin – extroversion. Contrary to popular belief, “the largest studies to date document that [introverts] make up a slight majority of the population“, not merely a third as has been largely circulated.

And while introverts like myself may be finding our current situation far easier to adapt to, we are not insensitive to the reality that while the glass may be half full for us, there is a negative tone to why it is half full, thus half empty.

Each of us, introvert and extrovert, falls on a continuum of the spectrum that is our natural temperament. Temperament, not personality. Temperament, as shared in my second book when discussing our individual toolbox, is a strength to understand as it is innate to each of us while personality is learned based on our conditioning, upbringing and influencers in our lives – parents, teachers, culture, institutions, etc.

What the daffodil can teach each of us is multifaceted. As introverts we are hearing from and seeing our extroverted friends and family members being forced to live differently than they would desire, and arguably need to be fulfilled. As an introvert, while our world has become more aware of the strengths of introverts, I would ask extroverts to not forget the current unwanted feeling they are experiencing because in many ways, that feeling of agitation, unsettledness, frustration and limitation is how introverts feel in a world that values extroversion – no pandemic induced, but a “normal” expectation of societal norms.

When we can acknowledge that we each have different needs when it comes to finding energy rather than depletion in order to feel well and therefore be our best selves in society, we can be more supportive and aware that different people based on their temperaments are drawn to different ways of engaging with the world.

As introverts, while we may crave more solitude, we are social creatures still, and we miss our one-on-one exchanges from our local grocer and baker to our colleagues and especially to our friends and anyone we have built relationships with over time but do not share a home with. The balance and amount may be different, but we acknowledge the balance is off for all of us at this moment in our collective history.

However, as Andrew Ferguson of The Atlantic shared earlier this month, this feels like a wonderful spring for us introversion in-so-much-as we are able to live in “our world” instead of living in an extrovert’s world. His tongue-in-cheek, yet sincere assertion aside, becoming aware and more appreciative of the power of solitude and slowing down affords us, should we choose to use it constructively, is an opportunity to become more emotionally independent, a key component of emotional intelligence.

Being emotionally independent does not mean you harbor all that you are feeling inside nor does it mean refraining from seeking guidance from those who know more about how to navigate and understand your feelings. What it does mean, and does require, as author Brian Johnston shares, is we refrain from letting others and exterior circumstances become a crutch or a shield so that we do not have to deal with the emotions that are present. Because when we acknowledge what we are feeling, we can move through them and progress as a person, improving our understanding of ourselves and how we can best live and engage with the world.

I have long been an advocate in the belief that while there are many genuine extroverts in our world, and going and doing and being with others is a joy for many, there are many that are simply following and doing and remaining excruciatingly busy because they feel they have to to “keep up” or to “be accepted” so they will not have to defend why they want to do or why live differently. I share this because I fell into that trap for a period of my life until I realized it was not true to my nature and there was something else far more fulfilling in honoring my introversion.

Daffodils are precisely what they are. They “push up through the dark earth to the spring, knowing somehow deep in its roots that spring and light and sunshine will come” as Madeleine L’Engle writes.

What a lesson for us all. Those of us who clearly know our temperaments – either extraverted or introverted – but especially a lesson for anyone who is confused or uncertain as to whether they should embrace something that society doesn’t embrace fully, or maybe just the people in your life do not embrace fully. Maybe you do want more social engagement but a different sort – not the busy, have-to, but rather a balanced full, want-to. Maybe you really do not want to be around others as frequently or as in large quantities as you have been, but you haven’t found the voice to let it be known. Take this time of “staying home” to determine how you will communicate this moving forward, how you will honor what you need (I have a few posts for just this, and this book I HIGHLY recommend). May this time help bring to us all the awareness and understanding of the different needs and pleasures of each individual, so that our most intimate relationships with our partner, our children, as well as our colleagues and friends can become strengthened and more respectful.

So let’s be daffodils. Let’s find our strength to acknowledge what we need, all the while recognizing not everyone needs exactly what we do, but what we need should not be dismissed but perhaps better communicated, and on the receiving end sincerely heard, acknowledged and honored.

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9 thoughts on “Lessons from Daffodils: Embrace Your True Temperament (and support others as they embrace theirs)

  1. “Excruciatingly busy”. That’s exactly what I observed around me and when I hopped off the Busy Bus, I was no longer taken seriously! Oh well.

    1. I am sorry to hear this. However, I have confidence that we change the world by leading by example, and when you model a contented life based on how you live, people will notice, because many of them want off as well, and the quality of work at such a pace in unsustainable (known by those constantly going at rapid fire pace, but not acknowledged or challenged). Keep doing what you’re doing. You have so many in this community that support you.

  2. Good morning Shannon Your first paragraph is a quote in itself. My first week in isolation was spent gardening and reading. As a fellow introvert living alone, I am enjoying my home and, like yourself, when the shop didn’t have exactly what I had intended to buy in the vegetable isle, I bought something else. My heart is with people, especially parents with children, who cannot go out at all and who are depending upon others. With very best wishes to all, Sue

  3. I saw your post on books. There is a website BetterWorldBooks.com where you can get books in that are inexpensive for the most part with free shipping. The money that comes from the new or “rescued” books goes back to literacy. Just a thought. ?

  4. Lovely spring daffodils, thank you for sharing! You may have inspired me to plant some this fall, my last house had hundreds of them all around the yard, but I just have never taken the time to plant a spring garden in my new home in the desert, thinking they would not bloom here. On a walk yesterday, I saw a house in my neighborhood with daffodils blooming, like yours! This project will be one of my fall gardening projects, for sure!

    Karen

  5. Pure joy Shannon. We’re so used to seeing shelves stocked all the time with our favourite things and getting what we want any time and now we’re faced with having to choose an alternative because our favourite item is out of stock it offers us the opportunity to enjoy someting else just as delightful. We could tune in to our resourcefulness My potager is a bit bare except for winter cabbage but I have also been enjoying the young dandelion shoots from my in salads, sautèed. Made nettle soup which is so delicious ?

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