All my life I have been a quiet person.
As a kid I was called shy, timid, scary. Ok, maybe not scary. But ever notice how the quiet ones seem to scare everyone? Not because they have done anything scary, but because everyone expects them to eventually.
You always hear "but he was such a quiet person," right after they discover a secret graveyard in some guy's basement along with a collection of life-size Barry Manilow action figures.
Not all introverts are destined for such evil (Barry Manilow aside), but why is it that we always get a bad rap? Are we that different from everyone else?
Turns out we probably are.
Experts: Introverted youth have deep roots for behavior
Introverted children enjoy the internal world of thoughts, feelings and fantasies, and there's a physiological reason for this. Researchers using brain scans have found introverts have more brain activity in general, and specifically in the frontal lobes. When these areas are activated, introverts are energized by retrieving long-term memories, problem solving, introspection, complex thinking and planning.
Extroverts enjoy the external world of things, people and activities. They have more activity in brain areas involved in processing the sensory information we're bombarded with daily. Because extroverts have less internally generated brain activity, they search for more external stimuli to energize them.
"It's the different pathways that are turned on that activate the behaviors and abilities we see in introverts and extroverts," says Marti Olsen Laney, a neuroscience researcher and author in Portland, Ore., who is credited with connecting introversion with its underlying biology. "It impacts all areas of their lives: how they process information, how they restore their energy, what they enjoy and how they communicate."
When I was a little kid I didn't go out much. I mean sure I was young so it wasn't like I was going to be hitting the clubs at night. I never went to other kids' houses to play and you know what? I never wanted to. Any interaction I had with children was at school or with the neighbor kids. That was enough for me. I was content to stay inside read, write or play with my toys. I got along with other kids fine so it wasn't like I had a social problem. I just preferred being alone, it was easier. I didn't have to worry about talking to anyone or pretend to play games I hated.
So should a parent worry if their child is like this?
Introverted children need time alone more than do extroverted children, says Laney, whose book, The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child, is due in January. "Extroverts gain energy by being out and about," but "being with people takes energy from introverts, and they need to get away to restore that energy."
Laney says introverted kids also behave differently.
They're not slow, inattentive or shy. Shyness is behavior that may diminish as children grow; introversion is a character trait that lasts.
So there you have it folks. We are not anything to be scared of. So if your kid prefers to be alone, don't worry about it. Don't expect them to grow out of it either. I never did. But I think I came out ok, Barry Manilow obsession and all.
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