Here’s What It’s Like Growing Up in a Family of Introverts

A mother and daughter, who are both introverts, sit far apart on a couch

After a social event, we’d all take some alone time to recharge. It was just how we did things at our house.

As an introvert, I have read quite a lot of articles talking about being the only introvert in a family of extroverts. However, I am an introvert from a family of introverts. Our home is no different than a regular home — except for the fact that the “wanting alone time” quotient runs on steroids in our family. We are a sensitive, empathetic, and creative bunch. However, I’m sure society would view us differently, as people who want little to do with the boisterous world. But this isn’t necessarily true.

Growing up, introversion was the norm in my Indian household; alone time wasn’t something that was looked down upon. Like many introverts, our home is our safe haven, which means we respect each other’s needs to have quiet time and recharge.

In fact, I remember we would spend our Sundays relaxing at home, quietly reading books, each of us occupying a different space in the house. This gave us the “animal warmth of our family sitting right next to us, but also the freedom to roam around the Adventureland inside our minds.” These brilliant words are by Susan Cain in her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

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Varying Degrees of Introversion 

My family is a mix of varying degrees of introversion. 

My father is a very private person. No, he’s not shy. (There’s a difference between being introverted and shy.) He just likes keeping things to himself. There are occasions when he liked to talk, and it would be about things he’s radically passionate about. His idea of a perfect Sunday would be spending time indoors, learning something new. 

Then there’s my mother. She hated getting together with people just for the sake of socializing. However, she has many close friends, as she likes getting into deep conversations with them. She is also observant, which is another introvert strength that makes her a great friend. 

As for my brother, he’s a voracious reader who reads as many books as he can get his hands on. While growing up, he had a couple of close friends — and he’s still friends with them today. (We introverts are very loyal!)

Then there’s me, the quietest of them all. At social gatherings, I would sit in a corner and observe everyone. At home, I was happiest with my dolls, as I felt they demanded nothing; at school, I was one of the smarter students in class.

People Thought My Quiet Family Was Secretive

Growing up, we had few family friends and relatives, and the ones we did have lived far away from us, which meant few social gatherings and even fewer evenings out socializing. (An introvert’s dream come true!) Our holidays were spent having deep talks among ourselves about current topics. Other times, we would spend time meditating and exploring the power of solitude. 

After a vacation or social gathering, each of us would retreat to our personal introvert sanctuaries to recharge. It was an unwritten, necessary norm at our house. 

Since we disliked small talk and oversharing information, our relatives assumed we were purposely hiding things. Our Indian culture thrives on collectiveness. Our neighbors and relatives expected us to be loud like them and to participate in as many social events as possible. However, we’d decline, as we had strict boundaries in place to preserve our energy.

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Surprise, Surprise: My Family Was Not into Loud Family Gatherings Either 

My extended family, the non-introverts, would always make themselves known at obligatory family gatherings with their larger-than-life voices and outspoken personalities. In fact, my aunts and uncles would arrive a day or two before the main party started, whereas my family and I would arrive a couple of hours before the celebrations began. (I often thought that nobody would miss us while we weren’t there.) 

Between bouts of laughter, they played cards, told jokes, and teased one another. Meanwhile, my immediate family and I would sit off to the side and have one-on-one conversations. Other times, my mother would stay busy by helping the hosts prepare food or set the table, anything to stay out of the limelight.

As a family, we would pick and choose the events we’d go to. This would often entail thinking of out-of-the-box excuses to explain our unavailability. When I was younger, it came as a surprise to me that a percentage of the population (I’m talking to you, extroverts) would try to attend every social event and get-together. How did they have the energy?! 

Over Time, I Became an ‘Extroverted’ Introvert

My introverted teenage self thought the world was skewed toward extroverts… so I decided to become an “extroverted” introvert. Plus, I was tired of standing out from our extended family. Slowly, I started to exhibit extroverted traits, like talking to people more and attending more events.

But — there is no such thing as a “pure” introvert or extrovert, according to Carl Jung, the renowned psychiatrist who popularized the idea. In reality, depending on the situation, our objectives, and our energy levels, we all exhibit introverted and extroverted behaviors at different times.

So I then realized, Wait! I’m not an extrovert! (Not even a fake one!)

There’s Nothing Wrong With Being an Introvert

While I thought that being extroverted was a sought-after virtue, I eventually accepted that the four of us — my immediate family and I — are introverts and have our own superpowers. There is nothing wrong with us; we are not “broken.”

Because of the way our brains are wired, for example, we think things through before making a decision. We’re also great listeners, great friends, and highly empathetic (my family often feeds the hungry, for example).

Over time, my family and I have come to realize that we have to work with our introversion rather than against it. Yes, my extended family still labels us and tries to ask us a lot of personal questions. But we have learned to accept them for who they are, too.

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