For the most part of my 23 years of my introverted life, I have been happy to enjoy my own company but still eager to relish the company of a select few people with whom I feel comfortable. Wider, more unfamiliar social interaction, however, has always irritated and terrified me. It got to the point where I would wake up, heart pounding, from bad dreams about being spoken to by a complete, albeit imaginary, stranger. People, or specifically the art of interacting with them, have always been something I couldn’t quite grasp. I have always viewed this trait as a detriment to my public life. My career has required assertive and confident individuals, so it has suffered as a result. Forming and maintaining relationships has always been a long and exhausting process, one which my mind very rarely deems to be worthwhile.
Earlier this year, my girlfriend and I were blessed with our son. The greatest responsibility in the world—a human life—had fallen upon our unsuspecting shoulders, and we could not have been happier or more eager to take it upon ourselves.
After many sleepless but wonderful nights, I found myself staring incredulously at this remarkable bundle and wondering how on earth my girlfriend had carried such a thing for so long (he weighed just under twelve pounds at birth). I wondered who he would grow up to be, and I heard my inner voice ask nobody in particular: “Please, don’t let him be like me. Don’t let him be the way I am.” This was the moment I believe when everything started to make sense for me, when I realized I was carrying a glass-half-full mentality about elements of my introversion.
As introverts, we have a tendency to overthink, for better or worse, and this thought in particular had stayed with me for a while. Why was I so concerned that my son would inherit my introverted personality? Certainly, it has denied me some opportunities over the years, but it has also offered me so many more.
I can and do enjoy socializing and have developed friendships of a quality (not a quantity) that have lasted for most of my life thus far. I may not be likely to rocket to the top of my career ladder any time soon, but I can find ways to enjoy work that others might not. I can rejoice in ideas and imaginings that grant me unquenchable passions for the things in life that I love. I can dream and hope, and find a strength of character that I’d never know was there—I just don’t need to shout it from the rooftops. It is simply there, if and when I need it. I am myself, and I am pretty happy about that. Why should my son ever need to be anything other than who he is? Extrovert, introvert, or otherwise?
I now firmly believe (and see) that to be an introvert is to simply have a different perspective and approach to life. It is no better or worse than being an extrovert, and it is as much a part of a person as the color of their eyes or the sound of their voice. Introverts are simply the other, quieter side of the human coin.
As a father, and as an example to my son, I cannot do anything other than to nurture and encourage my son’s true nature, whether he chooses to grab the world with both hands or is content to sit back—to capture or to define it. If he becomes an introvert and sees the world as I and others like me do, I will be grateful for the chance to share it with him in that way. I will always remind him that to be quiet can also be powerful so long as his silence and innermost thoughts bring him joy. If he were to become an extrovert, I can rejoice in how much he will teach me as he learns, without him even knowing. I can help him grow in a way I never could or had.
Either way, whether he turns out to be quiet or assertive, I can and will be utterly and always proud of him. Having him become his true self—and be happy as himself—is all a parent, introverted or not, could ever really ask for.
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