“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.

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  202. Kanaishka Taylor says:

    Awesome keep bringing your personality to the world it will shine God Bless you

  203. Susan Cain says:

    Alexandra, just wanted to let you know that your words brought tears to my eyes. And your son is so lucky to have a mom like you!! Also, this thing about the word “fun” and how it’s usually defined in strictly extroverted terms — it’s a really big deal, isn’t it. I think about this question every year in summer time especially, because summer camp/pool parties/etc. are so based on a very limited idea of what fun involves…. anyway, thanks again for your post, and so glad you’re here.

  204. Clara says:

    I am an introverted young parent with an extroverted partner, and an extroverted toddler. I can relate to your experience of being told why one is “no fun” and “boring.” While my mother has been supportive, and so has my partner, personally the difficulty lies in telling myself time and again that there is nothing wrong with me. One thing I have overlooked in the past is the role of self-esteem for introverts. I like to listen to motivational speaker Robert Kiyosaki who outlines different “pillars” of self-esteem. What do other introverts do or listen to for improving their self-esteem?

  205. Susan says:

    My husband and I, both introverts, raised a quiet son. It’s so wonderful to watch him now set his goals and reach them. Because he was supported as an introvert, he always seemed to know who he was and was comfortable with it. The hardest year of his school life was 7th grade when he moved from a private to a public school. It was a nightmare for him, but he hung in there. Then when, from my encouragement, went away to college, it was another challenge. He looked so frightened, we almost took him back home with us. But he survived and I think he see’s it as an accomplishment to have made some strong friendships during this time. Thanks for reminding me about my son. 🙂

  206. ser.ici says:

    Thank you, Alexandra, for writing about your experience with your son. What interested me in particular was your comment on the relationship with your mother. I felt with these words of yours very much!

    My mother is highly extraverted and narcissistic, that mixture didn’t do good to me.
    Now being 27, I am currently working on my past and what I lived and coped with all my childhood and teenage years: a mother who denied my true self and who created stories about me in her head, she wanted me to accomplish and to fill with reality (or to bring sense to her own senseless life). To this day she invents scenes for my life, she can share with strangers.

    Since a few weeks now I stopped contacting her, she doesn’t understand.

    Last time I saw her, she told me “You are so different”, after thinking about it, I said to myself “No, you are not different, you were always the same, but she never saw you.”

    It makes me very sad.

    Great to see that you accept your son as he is.
    Best wishes to you and your family

    Alex

  207. Leigh Ann says:

    I always feel like the stick in the mud around some people. I can be animated and funny and energetic in the right groups, but I also can get headaches from the effort and ALL THE SMILING. My girls don’t get much alone time – they want to be around each other almost constantly – but I can tell when they get overwhelmed and need to decompress. Now the trick is to teach THEM that they need to decompress instead of acting out some other way.

  208. Me too, Alexandra.

  209. alexandra says:

    Amy, you always make me feel like I can do anything. THANK YOU for that!!!

  210. Amy Heinz says:

    Oh, if only I had had the book you read when I was in high school. I would have been awkwardly flailing myself—physically and metaphorically. I love knowing that I’ll find your writing here…your words always connect with my soul.

  211. alexandra says:

    So thrilled to meet everyone here, Alison. This is going to be great!

  212. A wonderful story. I have a quiet family too but we have fun in nature. Love your story and everything you do. xoxo

  213. alexandra says:

    SO much work done here. Especially with school. The classroom settings, the group projects that tear my son apart emotionally. It’s hard to explain, but telling him I understand has brought such a smile to his face. THANK YOU.

  214. alexandra says:

    Thank you, Rich. He is so much like me. And when I found myself doing the same thing as my mother had done to me, I had to reflect and question what it was that I feared. Thank you so much.

  215. alexandra says:

    Dana, I know I’ve told you before, but thank you so much for your kind words. I feel so lucky to know you.

  216. alexandra says:

    Ah, yes. What a great topic. I’ll be sure to cover it, but please email me. I remember when my therapist helped me realize I wasn’t a bad mother just because I needed to sit in the garage in my minivan alone for at least 20 mins a day. Ha! xo

  217. alexandra says:

    You’re such a support. I’m super excited about being here, Andrea. Thank you so much!

  218. alexandra says:

    Aw, Missy. Thank you.

  219. alexandra says:

    Together, we find it’s OK to be who we are. Thank you, Kenny. What a pleasure to meet you.

  220. alexandra says:

    Tears, tears, and pinching myself, Alice. This is MY PLACE!!

  221. Missy says:

    Absolutely lovely. As a quiet person, with a quiet son, I get this. I get it deeply.

  222. Andrea says:

    The trick is to convince others that being quiet can also be fun. Love this story, the reflection, the awareness of your son’s strengths, everything. xoxo

  223. This is lovely, Alexandra. Kudos for your self-awareness and self-acceptance. I lose my grip when I don’t have alone time to recharge, which happens more often than I’d like as a mother of small children! Any tips for surviving these years? 🙂

  224. You know we love having you here, Alexandra!

  225. Love this Alexandra! I too am more introvert than extrovert, and so are my children. And yet sometimes I have to remind myself of this, I find myself wishing they were more gregarious, and a little less like me. But they’re not me, they’re them, and I love them.

  226. Rich Day says:

    Love your story, Alexandra, and thank you for sharing. How often we find that the more people can become naturally who they are, the more endearing they become. It takes awhile for us to realize this, you son seems to be way ahead of the game.

  227. Kenny Ramp says:

    Yeah, I am with you about what writing and insight we can learn from and perhaps contribute to. I am certain you have a lot of insight that can help others, especially those with a child that may be introverted in an extroverted society and school systems that can be so very difficult on a young introvert. A serious matter you can lend a hand to among other bits of shared wisdom.

  228. Jocelyn Pihlaja says:

    So glad you had that moment of insight and let him just be. I live with three DEEP introverts, as was my beloved dad, and so I’m extremely comfortable with silences; however, the world at large isn’t. In fact, I sometimes use people’s reactions to my kids or husband as a sort of character test. If they “get” that my quiet people are full of riches, it speaks well of their ability to look past the surface.

  229. alexandra says:

    Thank you so much, Kenny! I am heart pounding excited about the writing we will be seeing here, and how I can contribute being an introverted parent with an introverted child.

  230. Kenny Ramp says:

    Alexandra, yeah, pretty amazing isn’t it to have “community” like this. Speaking of amazing, your parenting choices were so pivotal in opening a whole other door for your son, the one that led him to himself, his truest most natural self…as well as feeling seen and understood by a parent/parents. Priceless! Thus he is deep, confident and likes who he is and is becoming. His foundation is set, as is yours! Well done mom…and all the best with those pesky “spider webs.” : ) Kenny/Quietrev2

  231. alexandra says:

    Beyond proud to be part of Quietrev. Thrilled to feel myself among community, surrounded by acceptance, encouragement and understanding. Thank you so much, Susan Cain, for all that you’ve started, this Quiet Revolution.

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