All through the month of March, Softest Voices is featuring stories from all ages of introverts expressing how their life as a quiet kid was. Read the inspirational and relateable stories below and if you'd like to submit a story or provide feedback please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anna from Virginia, USA says: Thank you so much for your article about introverted children. Your article is offering solace to us introverts! I am an adult introvert now and people are now more accepting of this but as I child I had a hard time being quiet. In elementary school my school guidance counselor put me in he shy club because they were worried about us kids being so quiet. My mom was furious that they did this and this club kind of made me feel like something was wrong with me. Now I can see introverts are cautious, wise and watching individuals who are very alert and observant. I like to make sure I am with people I trust before I talk a lot.
Hillary, 18, from Sydney, Australia says: I like to keep my thoughts to myself most of the time. If I was to blabber on about a topic of my own interest I would be afraid that it would be perceived as arrogant or just down right strange, so I either say little or nothing at all. If I had an idea I tend to second guess myself a lot usually by revising my train of thought several times. Sometimes I think my thoughts are too strange to be spoken in normal day to day conversations. I find small talk very mundane and unsettling (especially with people I just met), I'd rather have insightful and earnest conversations with people I've formed a deep relationship with. Whenever extroversion is encouraged I draw further back into my shell of introversion, thinking that I am not adequate enough.
Miranda, 13, from California, USA says: I've always been very introverted. I try my best to talk to other people, and while I'm with close friends, I can be very outgoing. But there was one day that I just felt like being alone at lunch to read. My friends seemed worried about me, but they left me alone. All throughout lunch, 5 or so acquaintances approached me to ask if I was in a fight with my friends or if I was alright. I said that I was fine, because I was, but everyone had this look of worry and pity in their eyes. No one seemed to understand that I was just in the mood to be alone and read without the distraction of the other people around me.
Paul, 38, USA says: Thank you so much for the article on being an introvert kid! I'm 38 years old and still remember how frustrating it was to grow up as an extreme introvert in a very small town where one was labelled quite young and essentially had to live with that label for years.
Overall, elementary school was the worst. I was constantly harangued for being "too quiet" and treated as if shyness was some kind of disease that needed to be "fixed." I was discounted by teachers and considered "slow." I absolutely despised (and still DO despise) being placed in situations where teachers would put me "on the spot." Failure to answer immediately with confidence makes an introvert ripe for ridicule from other students as well as the teachers. Few understand that being an introvert often means that one is also highly reflective and needs time to process, reflect, and THEN respond. A bit of consolation I can offer to some introvert children who feel like they are struggling in elementary school is that the further I progressed in school the better I did. College was wonderful because classes met only three times a week and there was less emphasis on classroom performance and more opportunity to find a quiet place where I could carefully craft my answers.
Getting back to elementary school: recess time was horrible because I really just wanted to be left alone but I always felt awkward because of teachers who applied a lot of pressure to play sports for which I had little interest. I spent so much time finding corners of playground where I could hide from the teachers and find some time to relax after spending hours in the high stress classroom environment. Always being "on your toes" in the classroom was an exhausting experience and I just needed some time alone to recharge.
Today I am the father of three children and all of them - to a greater or a lesser degree - show introvert tendencies. Sadly it seems that little has changed. Teachers still seem quite challenged to relate to introverts. So often I want to pull my hair out when teachers and other parents have expressed surprise at their accomplishments even though they are "always so quiet." Sometimes their introversion still gets treated like a problem that needs fixing and I always wonder what is so bad about having a student who would rather quietly listen and respectfully (if unspectacularly) just do the work.
Just because we are introverts it does NOT mean that we are lacking in ability, confidence, or in any other way. Teachers - please take the time to get to know your introverts and applaud them for who they are instead of trying to force them into a mold in which they do not fit.
Susanne from USA says: As a young kid I was evaluated for ADHD and even put on medication that changed my personality for the 1
year I was on it...all for not talking enough and playing by myself. As an adult I feel angry at those responsible because I know it has some lasting effects on my mind but mostly I feel sad because they were so ignorant and uneducated about this.
Jenny from USA says: Thank you for speaking out about this. As an introverted adult, who was once an introverted kid, I can relate. I used to sit on the bus, watching other kids, and wonder what they could possibly have to talk so much about. I wished I had a window into their world. I always was criticized for not speaking up enough in class; but would sit in class suspecting other kids of asking questions for "brownie points" because it was so clear to me that the teacher had already answered the question -- it didn't occur to me, until much later, that it might have been that I was just a better listener. Like you, I've always had only a few, close friends, but the friends I've had have always been true. I wouldn't trade being an introvert, but it would be nice if the world recognized our value, and we didn't have to prove that being quiet is not a bad thing!
Rochelle from USA says: Thank You for the article! I'm an introvert and 45 but all my life people have tried to get me to be more social...to stand out...make a name for myself when i really wish they would leave me alone because that's when I'm my best.
A huge thank you to everyone who participated in this month's feature!
Stay tuned for another feature coming in late April.