My parents have called me Mouse since I was 10 years old. If you were to ask them the reason behind the nickname, they would simply say that I was a quiet kid. Most parents equate silence with trouble. When it came to me, silence just meant I was reading.
The name took on a meaning I doubt my parents intended. Family members interpreted my quiet nature as an extreme case of shyness. Some made an extra effort to “draw me out,” while others isolated me as a way of respecting my space. My reactions didn’t help matters. I would withdraw when forced to participate, and I was apathetic when left out.
I remember a summer weekend spent with my cousins when I was about 12. Rhonda, who was a year older than me, signed up to dance in a community center talent show with a friend. While Rhonda was rehearsing the day before the show, the director asked me if I wanted to dance too. Before I could tell her that I couldn’t learn the dance in a day, Rhonda’s mom said:
“Oh, no. She’s VERY shy. She’d never get up in front of people.”
Was I a little shy? Maybe. But very shy? No, but I was starting to believe it.
I later learned there is a name for my personality, and it’s not Mouse or Shy. It’s Introvert. They are not the same. People who are shy may want social interaction, but it makes them anxious. I have no qualms about being around people, but I also value my alone time. It keeps me centered.
I try to keep the differences between introverts and extroverts top of mind as I raise my girls. I want to recognize their personalities so they aren’t misunderstood the way I was at times. So far, it looks like I have two extroverts, but time will tell.
Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Did your family treat you a certain way because they mistook you for one or the other?