I have always thought of myself as different somehow. Like I don’t fit the mold of a “normal” person. From a young age, I can remember whispered conversations in the background—adults talking about how worried they were about me, and how I wasn’t like other kids. I was too quiet.
The truth was I didn’t want to be like the other kids, not one bit. I liked to sit back and observe. I liked to be by myself. Unfortunately, no one quite understood this and I often found myself being forced into uncomfortable situations: “Go play with the other kids,” “Sleepovers are fun!” and “Lunchtime is for going outside with your friends.” All of the things I didn’t want to do. But how could I, as a child, say no?
As I got older, I started to become more conscious of the fact that I was different. I would look around and compare myself to everyone else. For a long time, the constant comparisons really got me down. At school, I didn’t want to participate in class discussions or spend my lunchtime on a noisy playground with the whole school. And I didn’t understand why. I started to believe I really was abnormal, and to make things worse, those whispered conversations got louder and louder. Teachers were concerned and other kids were unforgiving. I could now sense that people were treating me differently, like I was fragile and could shatter at any moment. I just wanted to be normal and for other people to believe I was normal too.
Accepting My Introversion
Around the time I reached university, I started to get a better sense of who I was. I moved away from home for the first time and was introduced to a whole new life. I observed people, I read things, I learned more and more about people and life, and in turn, about myself. I realized I was different from those I had been comparing myself to in the past, but in no way was I any less of a person. I was just me, an introvert and an INFJ personality type. The more I learned about my personality traits and myself, the happier I felt. I grew more comfortable in my own skin. I felt confident being myself and I finally understood my need to be alone–something that I could never explain before.
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With this newfound confidence I started to do things outside of my comfort zone. I traveled to a foreign country alone for the first time and experienced new and exciting things. I made new friends and never once felt restricted or underappreciated. I started to do the things I wanted to do and I was happy. Everything I did, I did for myself. Of course, this surprised a lot of people.
They were surprised that I, that painfully quiet and fragile child, could do what normal people could do. Suddenly the whispered conversations had a new tone. I was impressing people with my actions and mindset. Were people beginning to change their minds about my capabilities? Was I finally being accepted for who I was in this constantly noisy world?
And was this what I had wanted all along? After years of not accepting myself for who I was, and never feeling fully accepted by others, had it finally happened?
As introverts, I think many of us seek acceptance (whether consciously or subconsciously) from the rest of the world—an acceptance that it’s okay to be ourselves. In a way, we try to prove ourselves as capable human beings who do not shout louder than the rest of the world in order to be heard. Some of us may need to work twice as hard to prove to ourselves that we are enough—and to convince others of the same.
After finally feeling a glimpse of acceptance, I felt like I could do anything!
My biggest “anything” to date happened almost three years ago when I made the decision to move solo to the other side of the world. The move from my small town in England to a big city in Hong Kong was definitely my biggest challenge, but it soon became my proudest achievement.
I’ve learned that even on the other side of the world, there’s no escaping those whispered conversations. There were now new people who were “worried” about me, “concerned” it would all be too much and I’d crumble under the pressure. But those distant voices don’t bother me anymore. I’ve proven to myself that I can do anything I put my mind to. I am enough and I am far more than capable. I have found that the feeling of acceptance from within is much more important than trying to gain approval from anyone else. Be who you are and let others worry about what you can and can’t do.