Saturday, 21 September 2013

Being Introvert. Being Me.

Since I delved into the world of highly sensitive children I have learnt so much more about myself. Since I became a mother, I have learnt to accept being me.

For as long as I can remember I have been labelled as shy. It has negative connotations. Shyness is a negative trait. I have long wished I wasn't shy. Over the years I have put images on my vision board time and time again to motivate myself to do something to be more extrovert, to learn to enjoy networking events, to love talking on the telephone, to get out there and mix with others in the world.

The reality is not so simple. My idea of a nightmare? Put me in a room full of strangers and say, "go mingle". Put me in a room full of family and friends and I'm still not wholly comfortable. Don't get me wrong, I love the fact that I am surrounded by loved ones, but being in a large group doesn't put me at ease. I'm drained by groups. I'm exhausted by crowds. I feel uneasy.

Small talk doesn't come easy
Photo Credit: Linden Laserna
Making small talk is something I find hard to do. It is a huge effort. I need time to think and small talk, conversations with strangers, doesn't give me that time. When you ask me how I am, more often than not it won't cross my mind to ask you how you are doing too. The effort of interacting, of thinking on the spot is a mind boggling effort for most introverts that no extrovert could ever comprehend. It's not because I'm not interested, I really am. It's just not in my nature to make small talk with you and by the time I realise I should ask how you are, you've moved on, lost interest, grown bored of trying to pull basic information out of me.

I'm way out of my comfort zone talking to strangers. Add to that having to communicate in a foreign language and I am often floored by the fact that I converse with anyone outside my family. But I do. On a daily basis. In a language that is not my mother tongue. It used to be a lot harder. For a child, shyness can be crippling and stressful. I know firsthand.

I was the child that hid behind my mother's skirt tails. I was the child that needed an hour to warm up at my grandparent's house. I was the child in school that rarely put their hand up when the teacher asked a question, even though I knew the answer. I was the kid that dreaded hearing the teacher say "...and then you'll give a presentation on it...." I hated those forced debates we had in the classroom, one group pro and one group against one controversial statement or another. I hated it when our religious education teacher, Mr Strang, declared we'd make a play of the bible story we'd just covered. I felt guilty for acts I never committed. I was the child that felt a classmate's humiliation. The stress and dread was real in each situation. Being centre stage was not in my nature. It's still not in my nature. All grown up but I'm still shy.

Becoming a mother is learning to know and accept yourself. Becoming a mother is like holding a mirror up to yourself twenty four hours a day. You can't expect your children to love themselves if they don't have that example. Motherhood has taught me that my own childhood was not about shyness, it was about being an introvert. Introvert covers it better than the dreaded S word. I'm not flawed. There is nothing wrong with me. The fact is that I am an introvert. It's not a negative thing. And because I recognise that now, and accept introvert is what and who I am, I can pass that message on to my sons in a positive way.

Introverts need reflection and quiet
Photo (c) Amanda van Mulligen
Boys, it's okay to be introvert. It's okay not to want to play in large groups on the playground. It's okay not to want to raise your hand in the classroom and be the centre of attention. It's okay to need time in your room alone, even if we have company. It's okay to want things to be familiar around you, to be wary of the new and unknown. It's okay not to want to tell your story, to shout from the rooftops. It's okay to think before you speak, to reflect on things before you share them. It's okay to be quiet. It's more than okay to be an introvert.

I am an introvert. My children are introverts. It doesn't need to change. We don't need to change. As a mother I will reinforce this every day. I promise to make sure my children do not spend their childhood feeling like they don't match up to society's expectations. I will make sure that my children don't feel that they are not good enough because they don't shout loudest. I will make sure they don't feel inferior because they don't feel comfortable standing before the class to share their story. I won't allow them to feel crippled with the fear that there is something wrong with them. I will teach them ways to make space for their thoughts, to understand their needs. I will help them accept their introverted selves. I will make sure they are not labelled with the S word, that they don't see their quietness as a flaw.

I promise to raise my children with the understanding that the world needs introverts, just like it needs extroverts.


  1. I think that you make a lot of really good points here about the benefits of being an introvert. Both introverts and extroverts possess attributes that should be valued.

    I remember learning a while ago about how being shy and being an introvert don't necessarily go together. I've often considered myself shy but when I did a Myers-Briggs test a few years ago I came up as a clear extrovert. Apparently this can be to do with valuing being with others over being alone, even if you're a bit nervous about speaking to new people etc. (...well I think that was the explanation anyway).


  2. Exactly Jonathan. Introverts are energised internally whereas extroverts are recharged through being with others. Hence, why there is so much misunderstanding - very different needs. An introvert is not necessarily shy. An introvert could make a career from public speaking....
    Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts!

  3. I did that personality test, and I am an introvert and find it so interesting as you mention about the internal energy an introvert has. I am a quietly strong person and do not advertise my presence like an extrovert would, but could happily do public speaking etc.
    Great post!

    Molly xo