Growing up, I was incredibly sensitive, shy, quiet, anxious, and serious for my age—qualities my school chums didn’t seem to share, which made me feel different. Of course, there were some kindred spirits along the way, but they were few and far between. I had some more outgoing sides to my personality such as a quick wit, an excitable nature, a love of adventure, and a love of performing, but these qualities didn’t usually make it past the front door. I preferred to keep them to myself or share them with a select few. I would feel my happiest not with friends but when I was at home, getting crafty with some paints, singing along to music in my room, reading a book, or watching television. I liked being in my own head, and I liked the quiet. I have always been introverted. I just didn’t know it then.
Along with my inner differences, I was also different on the outside. I was very overweight for my age, which meant I was teased and bullied at school. I was teased so much during primary school that I became extremely depressed. I started pretending to be sick on a regular basis to avoid school. I just couldn’t handle the idea of going to the place where I would be taunted and teased. I was so embarrassed that the other children were calling me these names that I didn’t even tell my parents the extent of it. I just tried to deal with it on my own.
I liked some people well enough, but I grew tired when I was around others for too long. I felt like I needed solitude regularly during the day to be at my happiest. This was hard to achieve during my school years. What I started doing to combat this was to wake up at 5 a.m.—three hours before I had to leave for school—lie in bed, and either watch early morning television or read a book for at least an hour, usually two. I felt like I wouldn’t be okay to go to school and be around many people unless I did this. It started in primary school, and it continued all through high school. Even now, on occasion, I still feel I need this ritual to get me through a particularly busy or social day.
When I went to high school, I lost a lot of weight, but I still didn’t feel normal or comfortable in my skin. I started pretending to be somebody I wasn’t by acting more outgoing. This made me feel a little happier because people seemed to like me more, but I wasn’t completely happy yet as I still felt like I couldn’t be myself. This didn’t change until I went to university. It was there that I met my partner who found my quiet personality endearing and who encouraged me to show my good qualities to more people when I feel ready. He does not ask me to change and has brought me the true sense of self‐confidence I’ve always needed. I’m no longer too much of anything, just more of some things and less of others. It’s blissful to finally feel accepted.
Now that I know about my introverted ways, I realize that maybe it wasn’t strange that my hobbies were mainly arts and crafts, and not sports. Or that celebrating the end of high school exams didn’t involve a party, but some chocolate, a good movie, and myself for company. I wasn’t being strange. I was giving into my wants and needs, which I’m happy for as there has been many occasions when I have denied myself these simple pleasures just to fit in.
I now see the value in my quiet and introverted personality. I still have all of my old qualities, and I’m happy that I do. I feel a lot, and sometimes it’s exhausting, but other times it’s wonderful. I used to see my sensitivities, anxieties, and quiet nature as my burdens, but now I look at them as my blessings.