I have spent my whole life knowing that I was shy. Often hating that I was. Always begrudging this ill-fated cross to bear.
Then I had a daughter. A brilliant, perfect daughter. Who, it turns out, may look nothing like me but is just as I am.
For the past five years I have contemplated to myself, does that make her less than perfect or me absolutely perfect?
My passionate desire for her to be true to herself subterfuged by my motherly need to protect her from the hardships I know lie ahead. With the best of intentions, I teach her to talk louder, make eye contact, join into that group in hopes that she can avoid the pain of isolation and awkwardness that lie in wait.
As I catch her eye in one such lesson, the spark of self-assurance that I am hoping to instill is grossly overshadowed by a pained expression of ‘What is wrong with me?”
Why, her eyes implore, do I need to do more, be more? Than she already is.
Shortly after this realization, Susan Cain’s book Quiet- The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking came into my path. I threw it in my ‘To Read’ folder and forgot about it.
Immediately, I know this is me. Feel it with every cell in my body. For weeks it sticks with me, popping up over and over into my brain as if it’s trying to have me see more. Then I watch Susan Cain’s TED talk. The entire thing resonates but one message sticks out. Introverts are most alive in quieter places. Most alive in quiet.
Which is when it hits me, I do not have to feel bad/guilty/shamed that sometimes I just want to be alone. This does not mean I am anti-social or grumpy or selfish. Rather, it means I am entering a space that rejuvenates and allows for contemplations and revelations. Just as hosting a party or performing in front of a crowd fills the extroverts soul, mine is filled with books and words, dreams and one-on-one conversations.
Most alive just me and my family out in nature. Most alive with wine and a few friends. Most alive with enduring characters I cry tears for. Most alive as songwriters sing and writers write.
Parties are fun too but don’t criticize me for not talking the most or singing the loudest (or at all!) or mingling amongst all. For me, a party is a brilliant time to observe chaos, chat lightly, laugh a lot. I’m happy to sip my wine and take in the events. I neither need, nor desire to be in the action.
And finally, it hits me, Aha!
Though I have tried to fight it, Kaya has been labeled shy. Shy, I have learned, is defined as a fear of social judgement. There are tools we can learn to overcome the fear, but what is clear to me now, is that she should never try to overcome being who she is at her core. An introvert.
Needing time to process, space to risk, room to try, quiet to chance, and close friends to giggle.
Introversion is not a negative. It is not, as I’ve presumed my whole life, a cross to bear.
It is simply a quieter way of being, in a society that does not celebrate quiet.
‘Grace us with your introversion’ asks Susan Cain. So I shall. Not by shouting it from the rooftop or boasting to the world but by embracing it, encompassing it and guiding it to those I love. Hoping as a result, Kaya will not be 36 and begrudging her shyness but instead quietly confident in her introversion.