From a young age, you liked to spend time alone. Having friends around was nice, but you also felt totally comfortable being by yourself. You could play with your toys and let your imagination run free without external input. At the same time, you probably made friends easily at school or in your extracurriculars, but that didn’t necessarily mean you wanted to spend time with them outside of those events. By the end of an activity, you were drained. And as a child, you didn’t even know you were drained from the experience, but your parent insisted that you take a nap afterward to recharge. (This was probably for their own protection from your fierce words and actions after depleting your energy stores!)
Perhaps the adults in your life didn’t understand what you had going on internally. But, they knew your patterns and how to manage them. Even from the beginning, you needed time alone to fill up your cup after exacerbating your social energy.
Extroverted Parents’ Expectations of their Introverted Child
Your extroverted parent found spending time with friends to be a relaxing, enjoyable event. It filled up their cup and recharged them. And today, you probably agree with this at times, but not when it’s something you’re forced to do. As a child, your caregiver probably scheduled you for all kinds of activities and social outings, perhaps even without your expressed interest in them. Your parent got energized by interacting with other kids’ parents! But, didn’t realize that you had no desire to be there. You would’ve been totally content staying home with a show or a new toy. Their need for socializing was pushed upon you from a young age. Which, could have had a bunch of different impacts on you.
Often, extroverted parents try to push their introverted children into extroverted ways. But, it simply doesn’t work like that. And, just because you’re an introvert doesn’t mean you hate people (we all know that)! It does mean you are more selective with the people you spend your time and energy with. Your extroverted parent probably just didn’t understand this, or may even not understand now.
The Friendship Impacts of an Extroverted Parent on a Sensitive Introvert
Extroverted parents can unintentionally (or sometimes purposefully) create shame and guilt for their introverted children. Sending the message that you need to have many friends or a huge friend group isn’t consistent with the values of an introvert. So if your caregiver who guides, shapes, and forms you in your early years expects that you have many friends in different areas of your life, feeling the need for something different (or totally opposite) sends you the message that something’s wrong with you.
Navigating the world as a sensitive, introverted woman
Your parent may have told you repeatedly that you need more friends or need to spend more time with the friends you have. Or they may have noticed that you were an introvert, but made jokes or poked fun at the fact that you were “different,” perhaps calling you “antisocial” or even a “loner.” In actuality, you weren’t that different. SO many people are introverts. But as a child, when the person you rely on to navigate the world implies that you’re different for any reason at all, you take it to heart. You internalize that something’s wrong with you, and it impacts the way you view yourself and your friendship-forming abilities.
Friendships as an Introverted Child of an Extrovert
Receiving messages from a parent or caregiver about your friend-making abilities can have short and long-term impacts on you. Carrying the internalized message of “something’s wrong with me” while moving through childhood, the teenage years, and even adulthood can really weigh on you.
Moving through adolescence, you may have doubted yourself, questioning if people did really want to be your friend or if they were just being nice to you. You could have even wondered if people were pretending to be your friend just to be nice to “the loner kid” to poke fun. While you were just trying to figure out who you are and what you want out of life and friendship during your teen years, you also had the additional pressure of a parent insisting that you do something different socially.
Is this type of friendship actually a good fit for you, as a sensitive, introverted woman?
During adolescence or young adulthood, you may have found a group of friends that you liked. Only, you later realize they actually weren’t a good fit for you. You could’ve come to the conclusion that you really need three or four good friends, not a whole crew of seven-plus. (Just the thought of this many friendships at once is overwhelming!) And it might’ve felt pretty good for a bit, as you had successfully completed the task of having a friend group. But once the reality of the situation and your true feelings hit, you knew you weren’t being authentic. When you’re told and shown over and over that you need to have a big group of friends, you can mold yourself into fitting that narrative, even if it’s against your true desires.
Finding Your Friendship Truth as a Sensitive Introvert
Maybe you figured out from a young age that you were an introvert and were able to hold tightly to your values of having a few really close friends and being intentional about your social energy expenditure. Or if you’re like many other sensitive introverts, you probably haven’t realized until your 20s, 30s, or even 40s that you’ve been doing friendships inauthentically for quite a while.
So, you’ve spent years doing the mental gymnastics. Silly drama and over-booking your social calendar. Only to be left with an empty cup and unfulfilling relationships. Being raised by an extroverted parent can send you the message that friendship is something to be acquired and kept. Even if that means at the expense of your own values, boundaries, and energy. And, when you view friendship in this way, it’s toxic! Honestly, you end up getting so caught up in performing the right and wrong words and actions for fear of messing up.
The world’s unrealistic and unfair expectations of your introversion are NOT your fault.
When you do have a friend break up or you make a mistake with a friend, it feels so much heavier than it likely would for someone extroverted or who hasn’t grown up with the same messaging as you. You feel like a failure. Your parents were right. Perhaps, you aren’t normal and there really IS something wrong with you. It’s wild how we can carry these messages with us for years, even decades, without taking a pause to rethink the narratives we’ve been told.
I can confidently say that you are normal. There is nothing wrong with you.
You are a unique individual and introversion is one of your many special traits. It’s disappointing that our world pushes us so hard to be extroverts when we know our truth. We don’t need to be the flashiest, loudest person in the room. And we don’t need to be popular. But we can’t see past that if we can’t find the value in our own abilities. You can rewrite these narratives about friendship for yourself. Find what you really crave out of the connections you choose to pursue. Identify your truth as an individual, free from the judgment and criticism of your extroverted family.
The Radical Introvert Coaching Program Can Help You Find Your Friendship Truth
As a sensitive introvert myself, these experiences are all too familiar. That’s why I am uniquely able to help support sensitive introverted women all over the world. Whether you are in Florida, California, Texas, Washington, North Carolina, Oregon, Missouri, South Carolina, somewhere else in the United States, Canada, or even the United Kingdom and beyond…I want to help you THRIVE. To get started: