When I was 12 years old, I overheard my class mates talk about how boring I was because I didn’t enjoy skiing, tobogganing trips or the fun fair.
At age 14, I was called a nerd for spending an entire summer holiday reading 53 books.
By the time I was 16, I had been labelled “odd” because I preferred my own company at home to parties, shopping trips and going out.
As I turned 21, my boyfriend judged my favourite hobbies of crochet, cross stitch and jigsaw puzzles as unsexy and embarrassing and implored me to change.
At the same time, some University mates jokingly called me “Grandma” for not drinking alcohol and avoiding social gatherings after 9 pm.
All my life I felt torn. I hated the hustle and bustle of shopping centres, bars and pubs. I loathed the unbearable noise and suffocating crowds in discos and at concerts.
I felt grumpy and irritated all day if I had to go to a party that evening. And once there, I wished I could be home in front of the TV with my latest needlework project.
While I loved my hobbies and never was bored myself, I felt that other people judged me: Look at that superbore! Could she be any more old-fashioned, dull and uncool?
I lived in constant fear of humiliation, ridicule and rejection. It hurt when others made fun of me. At times, I felt isolated and lonely because I didn’t socialise enough to meet new people. And my aversion to everything cool, hip or “in” suggested that something was seriously wrong with me.
And, back then, I only saw one solution to the problem.
My personality and interests were clearly unacceptable to others. I wasn’t good enough the way I was.
So, the obvious remedy was to become someone else. Someone other people could approve of. Someone cool, trendy and daring. A fun, outgoing socialite who never missed a bash and was always good for a laugh.
I got myself a tattoo, mothballed my crochet hook, bought trendier (less comfy) clothes, familiarised myself with popular music and tried to stomach the vile taste of Vodka while rocking it on the dancefloor at weekends.
But while my popularity and circle of friends grew, my true Self suffered in silence.
I felt more and more unbalanced, emotionally unstable. I regularly burst into tears because sudden explosions of hopelessness overwhelmed me without warning. My anxiety, discontent and general unhappiness stepped up a notch every time I prepared my alter ego for another awesome night out.
This wasn’t me. It wasn’t what I wanted to do, how I enjoyed spending my precious time.
Yet, I felt forced into this act that caused more harm than good. Because I was desperate to be considered cool, exciting and fun to be around. I didn’t want others to think I was boring. I didn’t want to be judged as dull.
But, in hindsight, there were only two reasons for all my problems.
I always believed that all people are created equal. That we were all meant to enjoy the same things. And that these things were the ones that were fashionable, cool and trending.
For years I felt wrong, defective, alien for not fitting in the mold. I disregarded my true hobbies, interests and preferences because I believed I had to behave in a certain way to be acceptable.
But all changed the day I took a personality test. I knew that people could be extrovert and introvert but never thought about it in more depth. But here it was, in black and white. I was an introvert.
While extroverts thrive in busy environments full of social interactions, introverts quickly feel drained in crowds and require regular silence and alone time to balance and recharge.
While most extroverts need action and excitement and enjoy going out, many introverts prefer peace and quiet and are happiest when they can stay in.
Suddenly it all made sense! I was an introvert (INFJ). I didn’t have to enjoy the hustle and bustle. I was born to live in calm environments and prosper in solitude with a crochet project.
It was what I loved. And I felt that I finally had the right to pursue it. Because I wasn’t faulty. It was my personality.
And I wasn’t alone either. Millions of other people shared my personality type (including Martin Luther King, Alanis Morissette and Jon Snow).
So, why did I feel for so long that my typical introvert traits were unacceptable?
While the spectrum of personality types is wide and every person is different, our society tends to celebrate archetypal extrovert traits. We admire sociable, out-going and talkative people. Whereas being quiet, reserved and keeping to oneself is often considered a weakness.
Just think of it! Which characteristics sound more desirable to you?
All of these attributes are intrinsically positive. But still, I always regarded the fun, exciting extrovert personality superior to my own silent and dependable introvert Self. To me, words like reliable, dutiful and responsible had a negative connotation. They sounded plain boring.
Somehow, while growing up, I had absorbed the belief that sociable and out-going was worth more than reticent and withdrawn. That partying and adventure was better than solitude and crochet.
I adored my uneventful hobbies and enjoyed time to myself more than anything else. Still I became convinced that my tranquillity-seeking personality made me dull, inferior, worthless.
Because I had become a victim of one crucial misunderstanding.
My whole life I considered typical extrovert traits worth more. Simply because I assumed that our personal worth depends on our characteristics, attributes and external factors such as popularity, confidence, success levels and social skills.
That’s why I believed I was boring for not going out much. Inferior for being uncomfortable in the spotlight. And worthless for not being a natural entertainer and socialite.
But it all changed when I discovered the truth. When I started to understand that our worth as individuals is not something we have, earn or gain through extrovert behaviour, kickass hobbies or awe-inspiring coolness.
Rather, worth is what we ARE. It is the essence of our being. Worth is the stuff we are made of. And as such, our worth never changes.
We ARE all worth the same. No matter how withdrawn or out-going we are. No matter how anxious or confident we are in social interactions. No matter how fun or dull our interests and passions seem to others.
Yes, as introverts, it is easy for us to feel boring, unexciting and wrong. We force ourselves to adapt to an extrovert world that isn’t ours. We deny our true nature to fit in, to feel worth.
But it’s not necessary. We ARE worth the same as everybody else in this world. Our interests, preferences and characteristics are worth the same as any others.
And we are not alone. So many other people out there go through the same emotions. Feel the same way and struggle with the same problems.
Our task in this life is to remember our true worth and follow our passions. Do what makes us happy. Without fear of judgement or rejection.
So, embrace your introvert personality! Get out that jigsaw puzzle, 1000-page sci-fi novel, model train and own it! You are awesome, you are good enough, you ARE worth! And nothing about you will ever change that.
Now excuse me please, I have to finish a crochet doily.
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Dr Berni Sewell, PhD is a health scientist, energy healer and self-worth blogger. She is on a mission to make you feel good about yourself, no matter what. Download her free guide Instant self-worth: an easy 4-step solution to heal your self-worth in under 5 minutes a day” and start to boost your confidence today.