Introverts, in my experience, are highly sensitive in other ways. We can be randomly fragile people (although many of us are, I have found, awfully strong in the long run and I think that comes from all that practice we get steeling ourselves). We are used to having our feelings dismissed. We are used to people telling us to get over it. We are used to hearing it from people who love us and who are otherwise kind to us (like our parents and friends and family).
Here’s an example. When I was a kid — like a little toddling kid still in diapers — I was afraid of carpet fuzzies. You know, those little fuzzies that get up between your toes when you are a sticky-footed toddler walking on acrylic carpet. I don’t quite remember being afraid of them but I do remember sitting, looking at my be-fuzzied toes and feeling despair. (Sensory issues — I’m telling you, introversion is a sensory issue and lots of us introverts have other sensory issues, too.) My big sister used to throw fuzzies at me and it would make me scream.
Of course it’s ridiculous to be afraid of carpet fuzz and it’s ridiculous to feel despair at the way they wind their way around your toes. But I was about two. And when you’re two you don’t have a scope of reference. You are still fresh and new and small things (especially if you are perhaps maybe a little sensory impaired) can feel overwhelming. You don’t know that the despair of unrelenting carpet fuzzies is part of being new to the world and will — for most of us — wear off.
It’s still a family joke about me once being afraid of carpet fuzz and it’s still something my sister teases me about. I am, of course, no longer scared of them. (I can walk barefoot across carpet with the best of ’em!) I’ve also long learned that there are much more frightening things than carpet fuzz and, too, I’ve learned that there is usually a light at the end of things and that I am unlikely to be permanently undone by temporary discomfort.
Of course I’m also over forty. You can see how that’s a lot for a little kid to know and why they need our help managing their sometimes incomprehensible sensitivities.
A version of this post originally appeared on my old personal blog, this woman’s work.