When you look back at your life, what little memories can you recall where you were made to feel guilty, inadequate, dumb, or unsuccessful about being introverted or highly sensitive?
As a child, I remember being told to “speak up”, “participate more”, “go play with the other kids”, “stop being so shy”, and “get your head out of your book”.
I hated class participation. I would do everything I could to avoid the teacher’s eyes when s/he was scanning the classroom, looking for someone to call on.
In 5th grade I remember not wanting to participate in “recess”. I was bored by it. It was forced socialization and anxiety for me, as someone who only had one or two friends. I even asked the teacher if I could stay inside the classroom and read instead. I remember sitting alone in the classroom, surrounded by empty desks, so happy, while the kids played outside. I think my teacher may have even called me a “little introvert.” I didn’t think what I was doing was that weird, at the time. I thought all the other kids were weird.
I also remember a class field trip to a roller skating rink in 6th grade. I didn’t want to go. It sounded stressful, tiring, and like I’d be made to feel like a loser all day, because you know all the kids would stick close to their friends, and I didn’t have many friends. Everyone would be standing around judging each other. I think my mom called or gave me a note asking if I could stay at school instead. I remember I sat all day long in the counselor’s office, reading books about ancient Egypt (which I was obsessed with, at the time). I faintly recall people treating me like I was weird.
In retrospect, I am grateful that my parents didn’t force me to go. They are both also introverts, too. Maybe they understood.
What a weird kid I was–I wanted to stay in during recess and skip a field trip to a roller rink!
My dad got me playing sports from a young age, especially basketball and softball. I was pretty good at softball through high school, but my basketball career ended as a freshman, and not just because I was short. I didn’t have the personality for basketball. It’s a very team sport, and one where you need to have a lot of confidence.
I remember my basketball coach saying that, as a player, you should always think, “I want the ball.”
I always felt like, “I do not want that ball.”
I was awesome at defense because that was easy. I was fast. But I hated getting the ball and would subconsciously run to parts of the court where I knew I wouldn’t be passed the ball, because then I wanted to get rid of it as soon as possible. I was too nervous about screwing up.
You might be thinking, what does being unconfident about a sport have to do with introversion or high sensitivity?
I think I was timid because I analyzed everything. Paralysis by analysis. It’s not that I couldn’t physically perform like the other girls. I feared that I would always make the wrong decisions and let down my teammates and coach. If I could have just relaxed and thought less, I would have done better. (Yeah, that’s it–I wasn’t good at basketball because I was too smart!! Ha ha. I like that excuse!)
I eventually took up tennis and that became my best sport. Why? Because it’s individual. I don’t have to worry about letting someone else down (except for doubles, of course).
Wow, it is amazing how many of these memories are popping into my head–things I have never even thought of before. Try it and let me know your memories in the comments!
This post was inspired by the great book The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney.