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An Introvert’s Journey

Part 2 – Adolescence

For me at least adolescence was about finding out how to fit in with others and the world in general. This was a bit of a challenge for an introvert.

Especially for an introvert who was a thinker. It seemed to me that there weren’t clear rules; and the rules there were weren’t rational. Why shouldn’t I answer honestly when asked how I was feeling? And how to know when to answer directly and when not to? It felt to me that I was expected to do what others said without being given any good reason to.

The world seemed chaotic and irrational. And I wasn’t terribly interested in it anyway. One of my reactions to this was to do think that, “Well, I may as well just do what I want”. Another was to try and formulate rational principles to live by. Which lead to me being impatient with what I saw as others being inconsistent with their professed principles. I wanted a rational system – and it didn’t occur to me that there may be no all embracing system.

Meanwhile, my inner world was quite intense. Along with the usual hormonal realities I was part of Evangelical Christianity, with its sexually pre-occupied morality. My church had a youth group with weekly outings as well as bible studies. This group largely functioned for me as something of a refuge, for me it was on the whole quite positive. (I was white, male, middle-class, wordy and serious.) For others it was much less so.

The sexualised morality had a curiously complex effect. While pre-marital sex was frowned upon (and some sex sexuality abhorred), this meant that (straight, heterosexual) sex was discussed with some freedom (more than in secular Australian society at the time in my experience). This environment ill-prepared us for sexual relationships – but if anything the boyfriend-girlfriend relationships in the youth-group seemed happier than those I knew of in secular groups. We were also free of expectations about sexual performance.

One positive legacy of church was being part of a group that knew it was a minority. We got the message in many different ways that we were part of a minority and the majority were bad/deluded/not to be copied. For an introvert this was quite a blessing: it gave me some sort of license to not fit in. My church life was something of a safe place, a place where I was personally known and often liked and respected and always tolerated (despite my social ineptness).

At the end of my adolescence I still took my faith seriously and was wondering what to do with my life. And I really had no clue about what job I could do – I felt (entirely correctly I think) that I wasn’t particularly suited to anything. Through attending a conference I would discover a Christian group that I would be part of for my 20’s.

I’d like to know about your experience of adolescence too – whether you are an introvert or an extravert. I’m aware that my experience is probably quite unusual but I’d like to know if it strikes a chord with you. Looking forward to hearing from you.

If you like this post you might also like,
An Introvert’s Journey Part 1 – Childhood
An Introvert’s Authenticity

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I'm Evan Hadkins. To find out how to live a more satisfying life you can download my manifesto on living authentically. It is a book of exercises to guide you to finding, nourishing and living from the core of who you are.

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{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Chris Edgar 2010/03/07, 5:45 am

    Hi Evan — thanks for this share — I can definitely relate to trying to figure out “the rules” I was supposed to live by as a kid, and feeling angry when it seemed like adults were hypocritically failing to follow the rules they were prescribing for my behavior. I could even say my life, at least in the past few years, has been about trying to break free of these arbitrary rules, and my sense is that this is all about becoming comfortable with the shame I feel when I get the sense that I haven’t “done what I’m supposed to do.”

  • Evan 2010/03/07, 8:40 am

    Hi Chris, my battle is more about guilt than shame (that Evangelical heritage again?). Knowing that it was OK to play and that I needed to take my own time were breakthroughs for me. Thanks for your comment.

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