I never want my introverted daughters to wish they were invisible or question their right to stand up for themselves.
I grew up trying to be as small, quiet, and invisible as possible. In part, this is due to my introvert personality — I hate having attention on me, so I’ll do almost anything to avoid the spotlight. But it’s also something I was conditioned to do as a female from an early age. In my mid-30s, I’m still dealing with the consequences.
I’ve always been afraid to take up space, to have a voice, to be loud. Sometimes, I’ve been afraid to even exist because I might annoy or frustrate or offend someone. I never want to be a nuisance to anyone. It’s a familiar feeling, even if it’s only inside my own head.
Maybe you’ve been there, too?
But I’m a mom now, so I’m challenging all of that for my toddler daughters. I never want them to wish they were invisible or didn’t exist. I never want them to question their right to speak up for themselves or say what’s on their minds. I never want them to feel less than because other people think it, say it, or believe it. Those people are wrong. So, so wrong. We all have the right to be.
As I’m learning how to fight through these barriers around me, I’m teaching my daughters to do better than I have done. Here’s how.
How I’m Teaching My Introverted Girls to Take Up Space
1. Take up physical space with your body.
Exist. Take up space. Be you. These are some of the most important things I could ever teach my children. I don’t want them to fold in on themselves at a young age and spend their adult years re-learning how to uncurl themselves and live.
I’ve bad posture because I literally did just that — curled in on myself. I have pictures of me from high school with my back rolled, my chest caved, and my head down. I’m a tall girl, and I always felt like a monster, a giant. I wanted to be tiny and petite because then I wouldn’t take up so much space.
But to hell with that! We all have a right to exist. It doesn’t matter what our bodies look like.
When I was in 7th grade, my assigned seat in Language Arts class was in the very back — thank heaven! — but it squeaked at ridiculous levels. It squeaked if I moved. It squeaked if I breathed too deeply. So, what did I do? Every day for the whole school year, I sat in an awkward, unmoving position so my chair wouldn’t squeak. If it squeaked, I assumed people would think I was fat.
I took shallow breaths so my intake of air wouldn’t disrupt the chair and everyone else around me. My legs cramped, but I kept with it, minimizing my impact on inanimate objects and hoping I didn’t annoy the two cute boys who sat next to me. Heaven forbid they ever think I was so large to make a rickety chair squeak.
For me, it’s almost a natural response to people being around me. I want to escape and I want to turn invisible. My posture is the direct representation of how I felt about myself for so long. And now I know it’s wrong.
Society puts value on things that don’t actually matter. So, to my beautiful babies, roll your shoulders back and be proud of who you are. Take up as much space as you need. You can’t experience the beauty of life if you’re hiding.
2. Use your voice.
When in doubt, I shut my mouth. Well, except when I have a bone to pick with my husband. I’m sure he wished I’d keep my mouth shut during those times. But for everyone else who I’m not 100 percent comfortable with, generally, my lips are sealed unless first spoken to. I’m sure I’m not the only introvert who does this.
Again, part of this is due to my naturally quiet personality. I speak when I need to or when I have something important to say; as an introvert, I don’t like to waste words. The other part was feeling like my words didn’t matter. As a child, there were times when I tried to speak up in class, my voice raw from being loud (or so I thought), and no one even responded to or acknowledged me. That child version of myself thought that meant I wasn’t important enough or worthy enough or funny enough. I just wasn’t enough.
So, I stopped talking. I stopped answering questions in class. I stopped joining conversations. We speak to be heard, but when we’re not, it causes damage.
When it comes to my baby girls, I will let them speak without interruption. I will listen because they deserve that. Everyone deserves that. I won’t use a louder voice to drown them out. Even though they still baby babble, I listen. I respond. I encourage. I desperately want them to find and hold onto their voices. I never want them to feel that their words and their thoughts are worthless.
3. Be loud for the sake of being loud.
I’m generally only loud when I’m beyond upset or tickled pink by something. As an introvert and a highly sensitive person, I don’t enjoy loud noise. It stresses me out and puts me on high alert.
With twin toddlers, the din in my home borders on obscene. But if they want to be loud, they can be loud. Every time I take one of my daughters out of the tub, wrapped in a towel, we stand in front of the mirror and yell, for no other reason than to just make noise. She loves it. It may just be a toddler thing, but it doesn’t matter. The point is that if you need to be loud, be loud. If you need to make your existence known to the universe by yelling or banging metal spoons on metal bowls, go for it.
Because you know what comes along with all of that? Smiles and loud laughter, and that’s the best loudness of all.
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4. Dance, laugh, and run if you feel like it.
I’m burdened by the perceived thoughts of others. I rarely step out of line because I try to be ultra-considerate of those around me. I don’t sing in public. I don’t laugh loudly. I don’t usually even share opinions unless directly asked for them. As an introvert, I exist in my own world, and I don’t want strangers there with me.
But I want to break that cycle with my girls. I’ll be honest, I still care too much about what others think of me. And it’s useless. It’s a waste of time and energy. When my girls want to run and dance in public, I’ll support them. And I might just join them.
Toddlers are great examples of how to be. Free. Self-assured. Exuberant. Joyful. These are things my girls teach me every day.
5. Set aside quiet time to recharge.
I also want to show my girls the beauty of returning to a healthy, calming silence. So many people are afraid of silence; it unnerves them. Instead, they fill their days with distraction and fun until they tire themselves out and go right to bed. There’s nothing wrong with having full days, but when it’s to avoid yourself, then there is an issue.
Finding joy and peace in silence shows that you are comfortable in your own presence and with your own thoughts — with your very existence. It’s important to be able to enjoy your own company. If my daughters turn out to be as introverted as their parents, they will need that quiet alone time to recharge and rebalance.
Most of all, I want my girls to be comfortable in their own skin because I never was until years after graduating from college. I want them to embrace and love all sides of themselves. The most beautiful person you can be is your unique, confident self. And with that in mind, I wish my daughters a lifetime of beauty and pure existence.
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