Being an introvert is still considered a flaw

12:50 PM

A while back, I was writing about my being an introvert and proud to be, and while I’m happy being who I am, and secure in the fact that parties will never hold the same appeal to me as a book, or watching a movie at home, the world has in my past and still does consider introvert to be odd people, people that cannot be possibly happy, keeping to oneself is apparently a human defect that needs to be corrected, never mind that apparently one third of people are introvert (yes that means one out of three person).
I’ve been reminded of this  this weekend as my daughter’s school was holding a parent-teacher meeting one on one. During that meeting I was handed a sheet detailing the progress Ishita made in several areas of development, her motor skills, fine and gross are all fine and heavily developed, no big surprise here, but her language skills are for the most part all rated as “in developing stage” , the teacher blame it on the fact I don’t speak English home and urged me to do so, but that would be a different topic all together, though maybe not quite. The other thing that is not yet developed are her social skills, if we go by the assessment made by the teachers.

And that one I asked to have a little clarification about.

The teachers said that Ishita was keeping to herself, and not really playing with the other kids often. Hearing this I asked if there was a reason, they claimed it was the language barrier but to me it doesn’t compute, so I asked if the other kids were mean to her, or if she was scared and shy around them, to which they replied “No she is pretty much happy and content to be on her own” to which I replied that it was ok then. But apparently no, they urged me to have her socialise more outside school by taking her to the playground and strongly encourage her to play with other kiddos as they still feel it’s the lack of English that is making her keep to herself.
By then I knew better than argue, they made up their mind, keeping to oneself is a flaw, and it needs to be corrected. or maybe I should have voiced the fact that I the mother am a notorious introvert, that yes social gathering drain energy out of me, and that without solitude on a daily basis I go neurotic, aggressive and snap at anything.
The fact remains that 30+ years later people still think kids HAVE TO interact with their peer all the time, that keeping to oneself is not a normal behaviour, never mind that the child in question is HAPPY to be in their own little world. My mom spent years trying to explain it to my own teachers, who went to all kind of lengths sometimes rather cruel ones to force me to just mingle with more than just my two close if not best friends, they even sent me to the State psychology department to see if I didn’t have a mental or emotional issue (the shrinks never quite got why I got sent there in the first place as thankfully they understand that being introverted is not a big deal). And now I’m seeing that I’m probably going to hit the same road as my mom did, trying to explain that there is nothing wrong being reserved to a bunch of people that think extroversion is the only way…sigh!

Beside they blame language on it all, but I noticed on several occasion that if Ishita WANTS to play with another kid at the playground (and yes it happens from time to time) she doesn’t let language barrier stop her, and she definitely show no sign of being shy in approaching another kid, she just socialise on her terms, like her INFJ of a mother does, the other kids don’t seem to mind the fact she is not talking any language they understand either, so it’s definitely not another toddler making her feel bad about the lack of English that make her stay away from other kids. Beside it doesn’t even compute with the rest of the assessment made b the teacher saying she was active, eager to try things, and dances. If she is eager make signs on the nursery rhymes the teacher sing, and such, that clearly doesn’t mean she is shy. But a lot of people make the common mistake of thinking introversion is actually a synonym of shyness.
And my reason for not believing one moment that language is the issue in her alleged lack of social interaction is that in general she is a go getter and doer, she doesn’t speak much at home either, simply because she wants to DO things, not ask for them to be done, so as long as the word isn’t a necessity she will not say it. She likes to watch the word around her, and  process the visual cues quietly before trying to do them herself, and for a 2.5 year old child she is actually pretty clear on what she wants to do, to the point of being stubborn. So in pretty much the same way she will not eat if she isn’t hungry, she won’t go play with another child simply because someone else said it was the proper behaviour. And if my paediatrician said forcing a child that young to eat when they aren’t hungry can have some serious repercussion on emotional development, then why should be forcing a child to interact non stop with peers have any benefit I ask you.

I hope that one day, the world will cease to see us introverts as weirdoes and just acknowledge that maybe just because we aren’t a big majority we aren’t abnormal, and that we can’t all possibly perform best in group activities.

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  1. Hi Cyn, wow! I have the same issue's with my two older kids that are now 16 and 17. They like there own company and enjoy spending time in their rooms.They come out and eat when they are hungry, ask to go to the movies with friends when they feel the need for company, other than that they are happy to stay at home study,watch t.v or hang out on the computer.

    I used to run them ragged when they were little driving them here and there to school sporting events, to eventually they grew older and requested not to go. The school could not understand why and made a big deal out of it all. Recently Joshua who is 17 this year started a new school when he returned home from being in India for a year. The school called a meeting with my mother to ask her why Joshua is so quite and they feared he wasn't fitting in or settling well. Joshua didn't feel that way at all, in fact he told me that he likes his new school and has met other new students that have excepted and invited him to hang out with them.

    At the meeting my mother explained that Joshua is very happy and has adjusted well and that he is quite by nature and enjoys his own company. He likes to do many things on his own and is very independent. He goes to the gym regularly and enjoys his time their, he likes to cook his own food, watch the news and current affairs and spend some time on the computer.

    I understand the schools concern, however now that they have been informed that he is happy and quite by nature, I truly hope they back off and give him some space to adjust into his new surroundings.

    My other son Jordan who is 18 this year also enjoys peace and quite, loves to study, spends ample time at school with other kids, but enjoys his own company. He loves to swim, go to the beach and see an occasional movie.

    I would say that both of my kids are confident, well adjusted, well mannered, polite young adults that are happy just the way they are.

    In my opinion next time your child's school tells you she is not talking enough English or is to quite, go tell them to take a flying leap!!!

    Could you imagine if we were all the same!!!
    I find the loud voices, noisy music and busy traffic extremely stressful since I have been living in India and find myself retreating by myself just to have some alone and peaceful time.

    Nicky Singh.

  2. Yeah I think that if they mention the social skills "lack" at the next meeting I'll have to just explain to them that Introvert isn't a bad word, and that some people like the quiet and being in their own company. As for the English I don't know why they fuss so much, they knew from the start that she was exposed to mainly French at home, in fact when she started school in November she wasn't even speaing more than two words of English, and not understanding much of it, and in just 3 months I've seen a HUGE change there, so she is learning alright, just give the toddlre some freaking time people! Because on top of it she isn't a big talker in any language, and again I don't see where the problem is, I was a late talker too, my pediatrician in Bangalore sure didn't think it was a problem either. And I'm willing to bet that her being an introvert has something to do with the not talking much. What bugs the school is that she isn't communicating in something they can understand, some of the other mom told me that their children don't speak much English either, I guess the difference is that the kiddos speak hindi or mharati whcih the teacher understand.

    I hear you about the crowd and noise in India being stressful, I feel the need to retreat in my bubble more often than before since I moved to India. And the first store I actively located in m first neighbourhood after locating the supermarket back in 2003 was the bookstore :)There was a great second hand one within walking distance and I was there almost every other days :)

  3. Hi, I came across your blog recently. I can recognize so many similar issues I'm struggling with here in India. I am also an introvert who can happily spend a whole day at home alone (abnormal, right?). I am 100% fine with that, but what is making me questioning myself and the way I am, is the other people's (who obviously are all Indians) questions... do you meet your neighbors, what is your time pass, you must be really bored spending so much time alone, etc. All these questions are making me insecure of who I am and how I should be, and finally I end up feeling miserable and unhappy, whether in the company or alone.

    Of course I also like to meet people and spend time with them but I want to do that on my own terms. Fortunately my DH understands me quite well even though he is Indian, but sometimes he also wonders...

    I just wanted to thank you for this post and your blog overall. It is so refreshing to see someone writing so honestly and openly. It is giving strength to me also. :-)

  4. Hi Hippu :) thanks for commenting on my blog.

    Ah the nosy Indian neighbours! I had aunties asking me the same questions you faced, I had a neighbour in Chennai who decided I must be miserable because my husband (who was actually my boyfriend but no one knew) was travelling a lot, so she made a point of making sure I was in her home every afternoon as soon as she came back from her teaching job, while she was nice and I had some good conversation and learned a few things about cooking it was EVERYDAY, I never found a good diplomatic way to tell her I just enjoyed quiet evenings, that coupled with the gardner's wife who also thought I was miserable and made sure I had lunch with her instead, I think I was never really alone as much as I wanted there :)
    On occasions i even pretended to be tired, or a bit sick simply because I wanted to be alone.
    DH travelled a lot for his work through the years, and it never failed there were always people asking about how boring it must be and how I delt with it, I once told the landlord's wife "Boring? I finally get the time to watch all the late night silly TV shows I would otherwise not watch, and I don't have to fight for the remote to watch a girly movie when India is playing cricket somewhere" I never mentionned that I also got to play computer games as long as I wanted though :)

    I just don't know where people get the idea that introverts are sad, bored depressed people really

  5. Hi,
    This business of not speaking English is just plain silly! I am an Indian, living in Australia, and when my kids were starting kindergarten, they could barely speak English. We spoke our mother tongue of Telugu at home and I knew from seeing my cousins grow up here that the kids would pick up English and understand instructions in no time at all. Now they are 5 & 8 and I have a hard time getting them to switch from English to Telugu! Everybody seems to have their own opinion of how a child should be developing by certain ages and stages, but they can't all be the same!

    As for being an introvert, I am one, an observer rather than one who jumps in with chatter!

  6. Welcome Anamikaa, thanks for commenting.
    DH and I both feel like Ishita will just do well picking up English in school and outside, so yup it is definitely a silly thing the school pointed out.
    I wish people would just stop trying to apply the same developpment chart to all the kids, we are all different we all reached certain milestones at different pace, and we all grew up to be perfectly normal adults, and the beuty of it all we all have our own personalities....sigh!

  7. Anonymous2:04 AM

    Interestingly TIME (US version) had a cover story on the Power of Shyness, a few issues ago. The international edition, for the same issue, had Leonel Messi!

    ~ Krishanu

  8. I haven't seen the Time issue, but there are many famous figures that are introverts.

    There is one book I hope they will start publishing or distributing in India at a reasonable price : Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking by Susan Cain. Right now Flipkart has the imported version in stock for 1154 rupees, that's a bit pricey for me, but then this is one of these books I want to read, so let's see how patient I can be before I break :)

  9. Anonymous1:08 AM

    Thank you for posting this!
    I've been surfing around net about the book "Quiet: The power of introverts" and about Introverts in India, so came across your post. I am from Russia, mostly introvert, and married to a sikh guy with amazing loud Punjabi family :) So every time I come over to India, I am thinking "Jeez, how do actually introverts live here?" :)

  10. Hi Avatarkali, yes being an introvert in India isn't easy, I know there are days the crowd alone is enough to drain me.
    I'm waiting for the book "Quiet" to be a bit more affordable in India, right now I can't afford to bay over 1000 rupees to read it. :)

  11. well yea avartarakali i am introvert born in india so yea it is tough time i read quite 4 or 5 months ago it is a must thou there is not much bout india as far as i can remember

  12. awesome .you see there is nothing abnormal here being a introvert and a indian is perfectly .i always had on my report card need to engage in groups , need to make friends is insecure .thes think happen i do listen to me my peers but simply ignore them .i am an INTJ got problems to solve of my own haha

  13. Jobert5:02 PM

    I'm living in India in a joint household with my husband's parents, a sister in law, and two nephews. It has been an adjustment. This is my second time living in a country that is communal (I'm from US), but the first time, I was a volunteer in Africa. I had a house that I shared with another volunteer, and it was quiet at home. I found that I could go out, teach, and be social ok in Africa as long as I knew I had the house to come home to as a sanctuary. I could rest, and not have to engage with anyone. I also had a lot of freedom outside of the house, and would go into town easily on my own, etc. Here, I am part of a family so I have to respect the family reputation. So far, I have not gone out anywhere on my own. That means I am always with someone.

    Living in a joint household means there is no real sanctuary from all the social time. Even if I go in my room for some quiet (which isn't actually quiet--just isolated, I guess!), it is not the same as being home alone, because there is the added guilt of knowing that the family worries that I'm unhappy if I'm alone. And the chaos still continues all over the house outside of my room. Luckily, my husband is also an introvert and understands. But he is at ease here, because it is his own family.

    One thing that I have not been able to figure out yet is why things are done in the most chaotic way possible, when they could just as easily be done in a peaceful way. My mother in law is a very sweet person, and she is very dear to me. But she creates chaos where there is none, talking loudly, and rushing when there is no need to rush. Reminds me of children who, when walking into a clean room, feel the need to scatter toys across the floor, as if something is wrong with the room in its clean state. Ha.

    I was in the kitchen with two sisters in law and my mother in law, and I thought I would lose my mind from the noise, the rushing, the debating, the clanging of pots, and the urgency with which everything was done! They are all good people, and I respect and love them, but I am exhausted.

  14. Wow I sympatise with you here, I live in a nuclear family setting so fortunately it's just us, and each time I go visit the in-laws a similar scenario you describe unfolds, added to this that my MIL doesn't like me, but yeah, the chaos, the lack of privacy...totally get it and I am glad we deal with it only for a week or so at the time, more than the need to create chaos it's the need to make every simple task sound like a massive chore or any trip outside the home would it be just to go buy shoes feel like an expedition that need a war council.

    Is there a way you could escape to the rooftop terrace in your place away from the noise? We do that often in our in-law's place.

  15. Jobert1:25 PM

    Would be 100x more difficult if there was tension/dislike with the in-laws. I am extremely lucky that my in-laws are very nice. I've heard some horror stories, for sure.

    There is a rooftop, but it is currently not outfitted with furniture or anything. It is nice to get some sun up there during winter.

    I'm not sure how long we will continue to live with them, but as we are living now (just in the third bedroom) will not be permanent. We may build an addition to the roof that will be our apartment in the house. That will provide a bit of physical separation, which would help a lot. We need to remain close, though, as it was the sad event of losing my husband's brother that brought us to India. We help support his widow and sons, and the grieving parents.

  16. I'm so sorry to hear about your husband's brother.

    That's the advantage of independent houses in India, the flat roof ensure you can add floors when needed. I'm sure getting your own appartment in the house will make a big difference while you are still close enough to the family to support one another. I heard of many families going for that set up while remaining a join family.


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