What’s an introvert child like? Well, it’s sure to be different – depending on the person. Of course. For me, I was probably more aware of being an introvert as a child, than as a teenager and later on an adult.
Furthermore, I wasn’t only an introvert child, but I was also shy. These two characteristics don’t have to go together. They just happened to do so in my case…
To make matters even worse I’m also, like many other introverts – an empath – which means I’m very sensitive/receptable for other people’s feelings and take them on as my own. Because of this I have during my childhood had difficulties knowing which feelings are actually mine, and which ones belong to other people.
Probably sounds a lot like hoodoo for some, but this is life as me…
An introvert child – well, I often felt quite awkward around other people, somewhat formal, or rigid, or whatever. I was very sensitive for corrections and critique. So much so that it could have physical consequences. Especially the stomach. I had a really nervous stomach during my childhood, and during those days I had no idea why, but today I’ve learned – the hard way – that whatever gets into my head gets into my stomach. Mostly I know how to control this…
If I’d only known this as an introvert child…
An introvert child is actually happy alone…
An introvert child doesn’t usually have any problems keeping busy alone, playing all by themselves, and that was true with me as a child. I enjoyed that most of all. It was ok playing with one friend as well. More than one? Well, that turned awkward and draining. It required a lot more energy.
As long as I can remember I have been envious of those extroverted, kind of relaxed people. The ones that seemed so cool, and acted as one should! I mean those who were normal…
I don’t know if this “idolising” existed because society’s ideal is extroverted, or if I myself actually admired these characteristics that many extroverts have.
Still today I’m drawn to extroverts’ energies, because it gives me energy, as well. Well, yes, they drain me too, and of course there are exceptions… Some extroverted energies I cannot handle! At all!
No matter the reason for my attraction to extroverts as an introvert child, I wanted to be like them. A little bit cooler, a little bit more relaxed…
Little did I know that society soon enough would smash me into such an extroverted mold/template – the norm for the “successful person” – eventually, and little did I know it would break my soul in a million tiny pieces.
Most people go through traumas in their childhoods, molding them, you too. Some traumas might seem insignificant for someone else, but a child’s experiences aren’t always logical, or obvious, and an introvert’s reactions aren’t at all “normal”, we need to consider this. My feelings have always been so exaggerated! 😉
There have been a few things, call them traumas if you like, or regular events – regardless, they have especially molded me and my introversion.
The chase on the school yard…
In first grade there were a couple of boys who had some crush on me. During breaks they thought it funny to chase me, in order to catch me (!); and when they had caught me they held me down, so that they could take turns in kissing and hugging me. They seemed to enjoy this exercise and it seemed like they triggered eachother. The more hysterical and panic-ridden I became, the funnier it seemed to them. I hated this!
I felt so sick over this seemingly innocent act that my stomach was usually in uproar the evenings and mornings before school because I knew what to expect. Every break, every day. I basically enjoyed school, but this was a huge concern for me.
My first contact with anxiety, and I was only 7 years old.
Even though everyone saw this, including the teachers, noone intervened. Once I tried speaking to a teacher, but her answer still echoes in my head:
“Be happy they like you!”
For me, this wasn’t love, or like, nothing to be grateful for, but she had just told me to be happy about it. Did that mean there was something wrong with me?
Instead for someone helping me with dealing with this problem and my feelings, I had to learn quite early that it was wrong to feel like I did. My feelings were wrong! It was wrong of me not wanting them to chase me, it was wrong getting a stomach ache, and feeling sad about it. Most of all it was wrong of me to see this as a problem and to even take it up with an adult.
I learned quite early it was useless asking for help!
So I blamed myself for not feeling appreciation for this unwanted attention. It was all my fault, right, how could I else have interpreted it?
What my teacher failed to see, and something that I, as a 7-year old had failed to put words on, was that this was quite clearly an intrusion in my personal sphere (which is by the way pretty large as an introvert).
To me this was nothing less than abuse. And I learned that the blame should be put on me, for not appreciating said abuse!
Today as an adult I understand the boys meant no harm, of course I understand this, and I don’t harbour any hard feelings at all. However, my understanding as an adult is not able to minimise my experience as an introvert child, because I had a seriously hard time understanding. An extroverted child who likes the attention might have felt flattered by the whole thing, but I wasn’t an extrovert.
It is my humble opinion that you as a teacher completely failed when you’re watching something like this going on and don’t intervene; to not even making the effort to find out how the child in question is experiencing the situation. Well, to be fair, I tried to talk to my teacher, but was dismissed… For me there are no excuses for this negligence.
So much in my life, especially my emotional life, could have been so different had it not been for the adults around me constantly dismissing me because they felt I was exaggerating.
Instead one could’ve listened to me and at least tried to understand.
It is rather common that empaths and/or highly sensitive people are dismissed by others, not just by narcissists, and constantly get to hear they are exaggerating, which of course for a child can make it believe it actually is something wrong with the child’s feelings. So much so that the child instead starts shutting down and hides its empathy, its feelings and finally its soul.
I grew up believing there was something wrong with my feelings – they were “too much”. Instead of learning to understand how it was all connected I learned to keep a lid on my feelings, because they were not normal.
Well, hell yeah – your feelings are surely “too much” when you constantly absorb other people’s feelings and energies!
More school drama:
In second grade we moved and I had to switch schools, which was both a relief and a horror. Relief due to the boys in my class, and horror because I had to leave my friends I had known since forever. An introvert don’t like to get out there and get new friends. It is simply not just done. My friends knew who I was, and I knew who I was with them.
I was now forced to leave my friends… that hurt… and I was scared.
Another girl came new to my class at the same time. She had the same name as I, but we didn’t spell our names the same, and she wasn’t really like me in her manners either. She seemed bolder (at least seen through my timid eyes!). Since she didn’t have friends in the class either, she often wanted to play with me. I almost always declined.
Not that I didn’t want to, but because I was shy and afraid.
New friends have always been hard for me, not the slightest exciting. I hate the awkwardness in the air before you truly get to know someone.
Anyway, I overused the excuse of my mother taking me somewhere shopping. Gekås (Ullared) was a favourite. One time she actually busted me and exclaimed: But you went there the day before yesterday! I stammered and mumbled face tomato red as I tried to explain we had never gone, but today… yes, today surely we’d go. I’m sure.
She was just staring at me – probably thought I was full of shite. And maybe even a snob!
Maybe this was the cause for what came about a year later, something which really hurt me. During a period she played with another girl in the class. The three of us became the bestest of friends further down the road – after rain there is sunshine – but at that particular moment we weren’t besties. At all. And it actually happened several times they weren’t really nice to me.
One time they called me up to make fun of me, for something I’d written in someone’s “My friends” book. I wanted to become an elite gymnast. Who was I to want something like that!? They also teased me for my clothes, especially my denims, a special brand named “Tjabo”, which were sold at Gekås (no, I promise, no sponsorships here!). They were really flared and I loved them – they were so RIGHT!
I loved my Tjabo denims.
After that conversation I never used them again. I forced my mom to buy me a new pair – a couple of Crocker’s that were so tight and so right – only different.
This phone call hurt me, but I doubt any of the girls even remember it. I sat there squeezing the phone, my heart pounding and I heard them say one humilitating thing after another – how I thought I was someone, someone so cool with my ugly denims, which were so last decade. Who did I think I was? I wanted to become an elite gymnast? Really?
The sneering echoed in the phone, which I was holding as if it were glued to my hand…
Most of all they seemed to be bothered by the fact that I “thought I was someone”, someone better than everyone else or whatever. This is typical Swedish – do not ever think you’re better than anyone! I have never in my life believed such a thing, but this wasn’t the last time someone told me this – “Who do you think you are?”
Could it be my introverted, shy, awkward personality pushing people away?
It finally dawned on me: “Why am I even sitting here, listening to this crap when it only hurts me?” So I finally gathered strength to hang up the phone, but I was already a completely different person than the one who had picked up the phone just a few minutes earlier.
In that moment I decided that I would never ever bully or deride anyone. Something I really didn’t do before that either, but still… I feel honestly bad when people make fun of other people for any reason.
Whatever right do you have to make fun of someone? Who are you to take that liberty?
What is now the point of all this? An introverted child? So? And?
What is the point of ranting on about my childhood and random pointless traumas from said childhood? There are actual children who’ve been through “real” traumas, and here I am whining about “kissing games”! Yes, well, you’re right… that is correct!
My point is however this: Let your child be an introvert!
If you have a child, who seems happy where it sits, playing by itself, please let it! Don’t force your child to go out on activities and/or to play with other children just because. Don’t force your child to be swallowed up by activities all the time.
Give your child time to charge the social battery.
There is nothing wrong with being an introvert, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to have some alonetime after spending a day in school with a lot of impressions and friends and teachers all breathing down your neck. To be able to sit alone and sort it all out, do whatever you want, is the only thing an introvert really wants. Let your child do this.
Don’t force your child to “come out of its shell”. Don’t force him or her to behave in a certain way just to be able to suit your extroverted personality.
Are you an extrovert and you don’t understand your introverted child? Then i suggest you read a bit. Today there are plenty of great material – both traditional books and online – just to get a better understanding for introverts. Get educated instead of ruining your child by trying to make it an extrovert, like you. In the end it will only hurt both your relationship and your child.
Extroversion is not the universal mold!
Are you an introvert? How was your introverted childhood? Were you able to keep your true self, or were you, as I was pushed into an extroverted character?