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Nancy Okerlund
Volume 4, Issue 1, 01/21/10

That Inner (Introvert) Child

Lately I've had several conversations with people about their introverted kids. I always recommend Marti Olsen Laney's book, The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child - Helping Your Child Thrive in an Extroverted World. And I always add that I think the book is great for adult introverts too, as a way to get perspective on who you were as an introvert kid.

I've been talking about it enough that I got re-interested in my own life as an introvert kid and decided to give The Hidden Gifts another look.

I went straight to Laney's list of the gifts. Here it is:

  • Introverts have rich inner lives;
  • Innies know how to smell the roses;
  • Innies have a love of learning;
  • Introverts think outside the box;
  • Introverts excel in the creative arts;
  • Introverts have a high emotional IQ;
  • Introverts are gifted in the art of conversation;
  • Introverts enjoy their own company;
  • Introverts develop healthy habits;
  • Introverts are good citizens.

I was looking to see how much of this description I could relate to in remembering myself as a child. I find the language somewhat fanciful. At first I identified with only maybe half of the characteristics. I decided to read the explanations of each one and, to my surprise, found a way to identify with the whole list. Maybe I was in the mood to be convinced (the last time I did this I don't think it was 100%) but I liked the feeling :-).

The first chapters of this book focus on the physiology of both introverts and extroverts - lots of discussion on how the brain and nervous system - and the whole body - behave in little introverts and extroverts.

This time as I read about the gifts of introverted children, I was struck with how concretely they can be connected to the physical traits. Introvert kids know how to smell the roses because their busy brains, always processing what they're experiencing, don't need much outside stimulation to stay occupied.

Introvert kids tend to have a high emotional IQ because their inner focus gives them access to their feelings, which they process and integrate, and which tends to create empathy for others.

Introverts are dominant on the side of the nervous system that says slow down, relax, take it easy. So we tend to be easier on our bodies. And introvert brains are designed to think before acting, so little introverts have a natural potential to develop healthy habits.

As for myself, this latest review of me as a young introvert has resolved my softball guilt. I always dreaded those summer softball games that would get going in somebody's yard. In fact I hated them to the point that I wouldn't play. I'd pick being seen as a party pooper over playing. I much preferred practicing backbends and other gymnastic feats with my friend Joycie in my own backyard. It's a vague way I've thought there was something wrong with me - why didn't I like softball?!

Now I'm thinking it's just fine that I didn't. There may be thousands of little introverts who play softball with gusto. But I can also make the case for a team sport that requires your body to think on its feet not being a little introvert's idea of a good time. And I'm going with it.

End of food for thought, onto a practical idea:

A Practical Idea for Introverts

Think about reading The Hidden Gifts of the Introvert Child as a way to reflect on your childhood. Or muse about you and Laney's list of introvert gifts.

A Practical Idea for Extroverts

Think of a young introvert in your life and find a way to send her or him a vote of confidence.

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