“Why can’t you be more fun?”
I grew up hearing that question from my extroverted mother. I could not explain to her why I was introverted, but I wanted her to be as proud of me as she was of my outgoing sisters. So when I was a teenager, I began a self-improvement campaign. I found a self-help book on how to become popular and followed the directions in Chapter 1: “Become more animated in your speech and use your hands freely when speaking.” I could have been a success story if you could get past the fact that talking with me looked like you were standing next to someone trying to shake spider webs off their fingers. I was fifteen years old, and I already felt exhausted trying to be someone else.
I’m a grown woman now, married with three children of my own. When I picked up my middle son on his first day of school, I had a million questions for him. But he bolted to his bedroom as soon as we pulled into our driveway.
“I just want to be alone for a while,” he said. I heard the fatigue of the day in his voice. He sounded exactly the way I had felt hundreds of times in my life. I stood outside of my son’s room. I thought, “To be no fun is bad,” and I began making plans for extracurricular activities to get him used to people. Then it hit me. He was like me, and I was like my mother. I was doing exactly what she had tried: to force me to be something I wasn’t.
My son is now a 17-year old teenager, and he’s grown into one of the best one-on-one conversationalists I know. I am in awe of how sure he is of himself and how much he likes who he is.
He is my introverted child, the one so much like me. And through him, I am seeing that there are a lot of things I like about myself too.