I still remember the intense anger in my mother’s eyes, but it wasn’t her anger that stung me to the core—it was the disappointment and the shame she felt over the fact that her youngest daughter didn’t want to go to a party. I didn’t think there was anything to be angry or disappointed about. Parties are great and all, but I’ve always preferred small, low‐key gatherings, like when me and Kristine would play in our front yards and draw pictures, or when we’d join this girl Lea and her cousin from down the street to play hide and seek. What I didn’t like were big loud parties filled with endless scheduled games and the constant pressure to be fun and interact with 20 screaming kids. So when your own mother uses those words—social retard—to describe you at the age of 9, the self‐negating voices in your head begin to flourish. Maybe there is something wrong with me. Normal people like to go to parties. Does that mean I’m abnormal?
Soon, other people began to echo the same thoughts. Only now they were the teachers, relatives, bullies, snobs in high school, bosses at work, and even friends who encouraged me, “Come out of your shell!” I became so convinced something was wrong with me that even as an adult, one of the reasons I sought a therapist was to “fix my social problems.” And my therapist agreed! According to her, I really needed to have a big social circle.
How did I “fix” my social problem? Well, it took me a very long time to accept that I’m never going to be the outgoing, loud, center of attention, drinking kind of person. I’m just not. Some people crave big crowds and are obsessed with group work. I’m not. Some people love to tackle ten projects at once. I don’t. Some people enjoy hopping from one party to the other. That’s not me. It was never me. I would still rather read books, do my writing, play the piano, and sing in my spare time. And when I finally accepted this, gradually over the years, I began to like myself again and treat myself with kindness because I no longer had to feel ashamed of who I really was. I didn’t fix my social problem because there was nothing to fix. Instead, I found a word that fully described my newfound understanding and appreciation of myself, a word I can now relate to without shame. Introvert. I am an introvert. I’m a thinker. I’m an observer. I’m a good listener. I’m compassionate. And I can find pleasures in the simple things in life.
I am an introvert, and there is nothing wrong with me.