What does being introverted mean to you? The definition of Introvert in the Oxford Learners Dictionary is:
Introvert: A quiet person who is more interested in their own thoughts and feelings than in spending time with other people.
Can you relate to that? I would definitely describe myself as an introvert and by that I mean, I much prefer a calm environment. When I socialise a lot I crave time on my own to reset. Apparently this Is largely because introverts’ brains respond to dopamine differently than extroverts’ brains. In other words, if you’re an introvert, you were likely born that way.
Many consider introverts to be shy which I don’t think is necessarily true. Being shy comes from a nervousness and embarrassment of meeting or talking to others. Introverts will not necessarily feel nervous or shy in social situations they are just naturally quiet and need to have time on their own to recharge.
I come from a family of shy and more anxious ladies, some who I would say are introverts, some not so much. We were all pretty quiet and shy kids but as with many, age and experience gives you ways to deal with social situations and gain more confidence.
Of my 3 children, my daughter has been blessed more than the others with introversion but is also very shy. I worry that because I am also quite socially awkward that I exasperate this shyness for her. Kids learn from their parents, right?
I’ve spoken to my eldest son about this. He finds social situations difficult and we have both had comments made like “lost your voice?”, “Do you ever talk?” and I’ve heard similar comments made to my daughter too. In my experience highlighting that someone is quiet is a perfect way to prevent them from opening up at all. Give them time and when they are comfortable they will join in or maybe they won’t and they would feel better in a one to one situation where if you really wanted to get to know them, you’d be able to.
I remember as a child (and even very occasionally now) I would go bright red when I was embarrassed or put on the spot in a large group of people, such as at school. The pressure of everyone looking at me was horrible. I would feel the heat rise in my face and then panic because I was sure everyone could see how uncomfortable I was. Then if someone commented at how red I was, I’d pray for the ground to open up and swallow me, right there and then. Now with years of experience I know that a lot of it plays out in my head and if I stay calm, take deep breaths and manage to control those panicky feelings, it all just fades away and I’m fine.
My daughter has the same shyness and social anxiety and she probably struggles more than I ever did. It’s heart wrenching as a mum because I can see how much she wants to join in, I know those feelings of thinking no one will want her to play with them so never pushing herself forward to join in and standing on the sidelines, that when she’s coughing in class she feels like everyone is looking at her and hates the attention or when she’s asked a question in class, feeling so worried she’s going to say something completely wrong and be laughed at.
Thalia Eley, professor of developmental behavioural genetics at Kings College London has looked at many studies on shyness mainly using dentical twins and says that only about 30% of shyness as a trait is down to genetics and the rest comes about as a response to the environment. Growing up around me and the females in my family has probably had an influence on how my daughter deals with social situations I’m sure.
Shyness can become debilitating if it escalates into an anxiety that means you are avoiding situations. No matter what happens, I try and Instil in my kids the belief that they should face their fears, as it will always get easier that way. Avoidance will make the problem much bigger than it needs to be. It’s not easy but essential in order to live a full life.
Society teaches us that out going people do better in life: in jobs, when dating, socially etc…. they are team players, leaders and better communicators and being someone who likes their own company or doesn’t need to be the centre of attention means your a loner and is not a trait that is seen as beneficial.
There are many benefits of being an introvert that many don’t consider or celebrate. Society needs all kinds of people with their own individual characteristics to work well and introverts skills are just as valid and useful but in a different way.
- Introverts are low maintenance.
- Introverts tend to be creative and original.
- Introverts are generally better listeners.
- Introverts are able to really focus.
- Introverts cultivate deep connections with people.
- Introverts are more independent
So look after the introverts in your life, support those who are shy and anxious in social situations but don’t make the mistake of thinking quietness means people are shy. They may just choose to spend time alone because they enjoy it. Everyone should be ok with spending time with themselves now and again, right? Even extroverts! Give it a go it’s empowering.