“Remember that introverts react not only to new people, but also to new places and events. So don’t mistake a child’s caution in new situations for an inability to relate to others. He’s recoiling from novelty or overstimulation, not from human contact. Introverts are just as likely as the next kid to seek others’ company, though often in smaller doses.” (Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking)
I was a shy and keenly observant only child. When I was about 5 years old I went to a community picnic with my mom and dad. It was a sunny summer afternoon and I wanted nothing more than to sit quietly and eat hotdogs and potato salad with my mother.
On that day I received from my father one of the harshest scoldings ever, because I wouldn't go play with the other kids at the picnic. He berated me all the way home in the car and let me know how ashamed he was of my behavior. I cried for hours - one of those crying jags where you get the hiccups and can hardly breathe.
This incident was the beginning of my belief that something was undesirable about my introverted ways. My comfort with being quiet, listening, solitude, peaceful and unhurried activities. As time went on I became increasingly aware that parents and teachers and even friends had an expectation of more outwardly energized behavior. And so I began to practice being more "out there," more extroverted.
Some of the practice was beneficial . . . and some of it was not my truth.
Our world needs all of us showing up in our authentic gifts. The sensitive, empathic gifts of being an introvert and the more outgoing, competitive gifts of being an extrovert. Many of us are somewhere in-between.
How do you see yourself on the introvert/extrovert spectrum? Are you aware of past and/or present efforts to be someone you're not, in order to be more "acceptable" to others?