Jen Meyers Official Author Site

People are people

If you can find twenty minutes to watch this, I highly recommend it. Especially if you’re an introvert. Or an extrovert. Or a parent, spouse, friend, sister, brother. Okay, really, if you’re a person you should watch this. It’s a really lovely talk on about the importance of introversion. Yup, you read that right. Introversion is an important and desirable trait. (Being an introvert, I totally agree.) ;-)

(Also, can I tell you how much I love TED talks? I’m sure you haven’t noticed. It’s not like I’ve posted some recently, like here or here.)

(Thanks to Amanda for the link!)

One of the things—or perhaps the biggest thing—I find damaging about the misunderstanding about introversion is that children are told/taught that there is something wrong with them if they are not extroverted. If they are quiet. If they don’t want to jump right in on the playground with all the other kids running around or if they don’t join right in at preschool, kindergarten, any grade. Our society has this misconception that all kids must have the “desirable” extroversion traits, and if they don’t, then there’s something wrong with them which must be fixed.

I was one of those kids. In grade school, my parents were called in for a conference with the principal because he and my teachers were so concerned about how “shy” I was. My academics were fine, but they felt there was something wrong with me because I was naturally quiet.

I remember not talking to anyone during the first half year of my freshman year in high school. My family had just returned from living in Germany for the previous three years, and instead of going to the local high school where I knew a few people from grade school, I was attending a private school were I knew NO ONE. Talk about a nightmare.

And my first four months there—I kid you not—I didn’t speak to anyone. I didn’t speak in class when called on, I sat alone at lunch. I hated it. I’d never been so miserable, or felt so out of place. One day during lunch, a red-haired girl stopped at my table and said “Do you sit here alone every day?” I nodded and I’m pretty sure I didn’t even look her in the face. So she replied, “Well tomorrow you’re sitting with us.” The next day, I went right to my table, head down, but she came by and demanded I come sit with her and her friends. They were my first friends there.

I set out to be different the next year. To fit in. To act like an extrovert. Act being the operative word. It was acting. And I pulled it off. I forced myself to be someone I wasn’t—and don’t get me wrong, it was fun most of the time but exhausting because what I needed most was quiet and solitude. But I got used to pretending. I remember hanging out with my friends a few days before graduation, soaking up some sun out on the lawn during lunch, and one of them said that he had absolutely no memory of me from freshman year. None at all. I wasn’t surprised. I kept pretending.

But still, it’s not who I am. It didn’t fix me. I’m still wildly uncomfortable if I’m expected to be social amongst a large group of strangers. In small, intimate groups I’m fine, and I can chat with most people one on one with ease. But in a crowd? At a party with people I don’t know? I am so far out of my comfort zone I can’t even see it anymore. (I’ve always hated attending baby and bridal showers for that very reason.) All I want to do is leave as soon as I get there. Sometimes I’ve done that—left right away—and while it’s a huge relief, it’s also a source of guilt and shame. Sometimes I force myself to stay, pretend that I’m fine, relaxed, happy, when inside I’m trying not to hyperventilate, on the verge of tears, and every second I stay feels like an eternity.

So, I love this TED talk. I love the recognition that being an introvert is not something that is wrong with me or anyone else. I’m hoping this thinking will trickle down to schools, principals, teachers, doctors, and especially parents.

People are people. Introverts aren’t broken. So don’t try to fix us. (You can’t.)  :-)

Have a great weekend, everyone (introverts and extroverts, alike)!



8 thoughts on “People are people

  1. Eveli

    I haven’t watched the video because I’m on my phone but I absolutely loved your story. I’m also an introvert and it’s very hard for me to be in a large crowd. I’ve realized my limit is three any group larger than that I become very quiet and pull back from the conversation even if I know everyone in the group. I prefer being alone but I try to overcome nerves and the need to not speak whenever I feel I have to. To act, as you say, like an extrovert and yes it is a lot of work. Lol! Luckily I’ve never felt there was something wrong with me and nobody should be made to feel like that, everyone has different personalities and that should be okay. :)

    1. j meyers Post author

      Oh, Eveli, I wholeheartedly agree. It’s funny that it’s even there as a parent—we’re taught to be concerned (by doctors, teachers, other parents) if our kids aren’t jumping right in. Luckily for my introverted kids, I know how they feel. I don’t like to jump right in either. I want to hang back and check it out before I venture. Just like them. And I totally understand when they don’t want to stay or engage at all, and never try to force it or tell them it’s wrong. Their comfort level has grown as they’ve grown, and they’ve come to be really great one on one with *anyone* but they still hang back in a crowd. And that’s totally okay. :-)

      (You have a beautiful name!)

  2. Cate Dean

    Right there with you! I was painfully shy, until I wandered into the theatre department my freshman year of high school. It literally changed my life. Thank you for sharing your story, J.

    1. j meyers Post author

      I fell into theatre too! It’s probably surprising to people that so many actors and singers are introverts. But it’s a LOT easier to get up on a stage than it is to be social in a group of people I don’t know. Totally different feeling, totally different skill set required. ;-)

  3. Monika

    I’m quite certain you and I are soul sisters. People often think I’m rude or a bad friend because I don’t join them for group outings as often as they would like. They just don’t understand the emotional strain it puts on me. I do what I can, when I can. But always prefer to be by myself or with just a few other people enjoying some simple and quiet activity. Such is life, and I like it that way.

    Thanks ever-so for this post. It feels good to know I’m not alone in feeling this way.

    1. j meyers Post author

      Oh, yes. I’m sure I’ve disappointed friends when I’ve opted out, too. I think most extroverts can’t quite comprehend how exhausting it is to be social. Fun, yes, but also incredibly draining. It takes me a day or two to recover because it just takes so much energy to be “on.” You know? From what I’ve read, extroverts actually become energized when socializing, while introverts become drained.

      And it’s funny—for the people who’ve only seen me in small groups when I’m comfortable and gregarious, they are shocked to find out I’m an introvert. We’re really hard to spot when we’re with only a few people. ;-)

      Thanks for commenting, Monika. Glad to know I have a soul sister out there. :-)

    1. j meyers Post author

      Blogging is perfect for us introverts! I totally agree. :-) And I loved your moment. So sweet. Thanks for stopping by, Hannah!