You can’t teach yourself to be an extrovert if you’re not naturally one of those people who walks into a party, says, “Hi Everybodyyyyyyyy!” and has a conversation with every person in the room before the night is over. You might try to be that person, and you will fail miserably.
Or if you are naturally gregarious, and you force yourself to be buttoned up and quiet, eventually you will explode and annoy everyone around you with your sudden burst of chatter. Or you will implode and be miserable.
As they get older, I see my husband and I in our children. They have their own personalities, of course. The mix of familiar characteristics that they exhibit are at times alarming and endearing, like when my son flies into a rage one minute and realizes his mistake and apologizes the next (me) or when my daughter sees the silver lining in every situation (my husband).
However, each of our children is growing into their own person, and it is interesting to see their personalities develop over time. I am learning to let them grow and not project my personality onto them.
Our daughter, who’s eight, had to make a PowerPoint presentation at school. It was to be given the night of Take Your Child To Work Day, that unofficial school-sanctioned day where teachers across the country get a break from educating our cherubs in lieu of parents supervising them for once. She took her presentation to Dad’s office to practice on his co-workers.
She’d forgotten her notes at school, and refused my help when I offered to help her draw up some new ones. She simply said she’d remember what to say.
Because I get heart palpitations any time I even think about being noticed in a crowd, let alone being the center of attention in one, it’s an understatement to say that I was nervous for her. I was so nervous that I may have passed some of it on to my husband, who is normally unruffled in public speaking situations. I worried that she’d mess up magnificently and it would set her up for future public speaking panic.
The time came, and when the room filled with 35 of my husband’s coworkers and children, she grabbed the microphone and made her presentation on wolves with authority and confidence, the likes of which certainly did not come from me. Her dad said that she didn’t seem nervous at all, and when I asked her if she worried at all about it, she looked me as I was the stupidest person in the world for even suggesting that being anxious about a speech was possible.
For that, I’m proud. Proud that she did well, proud that she wasn’t frozen by panic, proud that she has been spared by the social anxiety gene that I present so dominantly.
So far, so good.