I wish I knew when I was a kid that I am an introvert

First-day-of-class introductions were my biggest nightmare in school. I only hoped I could skip it, or that my teachers would forget that I was even present…or existed. I would practice how I’d state my name in my head over and over and over until it was my turn to speak. I remember stuttering, or speaking too loud or too soft but never doing it the right way. It was an additional discomfort when teachers ask students to “Describe yourself!” as that would mean I had to talk for five more seconds.

I had been voted president of the class ever since first grade. That consecutively went on until I graduated in high school. My parents were proud of me for being voted president, and I feel like I was trusted by my peers; that made me proud. But I knew others wanted the position more than I do as I would see my classmates campaign for themselves, casually asking their friends to elect them and vote for them. I understand why they do it but I was certain I would never do it for myself; I never really liked the spotlight on me. I get jitters when teachers require candidates to come up with a speech about why they should be voted for. I am not into persuading people; I thought if the students don’t like me, they shouldn’t vote for me. End of discussion.

In school, I was on top of the class but often find myself feeling like a fraud. I find group presentations a pain – we had to act and afterwards, expound in class what we have just presented. Inside my head, it’s all panic and chaos. I often pass on the responsibility of explaining. I get anxious whenever I have to share what’s on my mind and when I know I’m being heard by many. I have only thought of my opinion for so long, what if it’s wrong? Ask me to report on a lesson that had points I can memorize, then I’d be more comfortable doing it.

Class participation was a big part of the grading system. It covered 35% of the overall computation of the grades (quizzes fall at 15%-20%, quarterly tests at 40%, and assignments at 5%-10%).  I remember a time when I was reprimanded for not reciting much. I had to push myself to be more vocal because I needed to maintain my grades and everyone expected me to talk. No one knew after each time I speak of my opinion in class, my heart would beat so hard it could come out of my chest.

I’d often get envious of my peers who speak articulately and who don’t seem to mind talking to anyone, at all. I thought there was something wrong with me; maybe I was not smart enough. I’ve seen outspoken and assertive individuals thrive, how they have been admired and how teachers and parents would tell kids, “You know, you should be like them.” My first year high school teacher spoke to me personally to tell me that I should be more assertive. I got hurt and felt like I was not enough. I later spent so much time looking for ways on how to be like ‘the rest’ only to feel disappointed and frustrated for failing to be how I was ‘supposed to be’ according to others.

If only I knew then that I was an introvert, I would never have learned to doubt myself.

I wish parents and teachers knew about the different personality types; how one kid could be introverted while the other, extroverted. Let the kids be and encourage them to hone their strengths rather than pressure them to be someone they’re not.

I wish that the quiet ones wouldn’t be pushed so much to speak -maybe writing feels more like home to them. Therefore, let them express themselves in writing. Want to learn about their views of the world? An essay would, perhaps, be better asked for.

So here’s to the quiet ones! Let’s continue to thrive in all places without ever changing the way we are.

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