The First Time I Felt Flawed

When I was in the second grade, I was a carefree child with no real worries that I can recall. I spent my days in my head dreaming up stories, which I now know is characteristic of my personality as an INFP on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. I was also an avid reader by this time, quickly consuming any book I could get my hands on. 

In the third grade, my parents presented me with a book right before bed during the time we usually said our nightly prayers. It was called, “God, I Need to Talk to You About Paying Attention.” This completely shocked nine-year-old me because no one ever once told me I had a problem paying attention.

This was the first time in my young life that I remember feeling like I was flawed in some fundamental way, but it wouldn’t be the last. I can’t say for sure that this was the catalyst; however, a self-driven quest for perfection would follow me for years and act as a stumbling block every time I would have a new idea. Creative ideas would bubble out, yet it was the implementation stage where I lacked confidence.

Around this time I began keeping a diary, and rarely was I seen out and about without a notebook. If I had a thought or idea, there needed to be a place to collect it. I’ve had hundreds of notebooks in my life—my constant friends that listened to every unfulfilled dream. How could I fulfill a dream when I couldn’t execute it perfectly?

I asked my mom about that book recently—why had they given that to me? It turns out my teacher had casually mentioned something about my attention span at a parent-teacher conference and suggested the book. However, my mom told me that was the only time a teacher ever said I had a problem with paying attention, and that I probably never really had a problem at all.

I agree. I don’t think I ever had a problem “paying attention.” Perhaps I just paid attention to too many things—at least in my teacher’s eyes. As an INFP, my interests were (and are) vast, and my imagination continues to run wild. Perhaps the subject she was teaching was not as interesting to me as the adventures I was dreaming up in my mind.

It’s a testament to how something so small, like giving a nine-year-old a self-improvement book, can impact a child so profoundly. What if she had never suggested the book to my parents—would I have charted the same course? 

 In any case, I am not angry with that teacher. Something else she did greatly impacted me that year, this time in a positive way. This same teacher who had said I had a problem paying attention—which set me off on this pattern of feeling flawed and imperfect—also told me I was meant to be a writer.

She was right about one of the things. 

-Jen Johnston

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Jen Johnston, CHHC is an introverted wellness writer on a journey of self-discovery. You can connect with her on Twitter (@JenJohnstonCHHC) or on Instagram (@JenWholeVibes).