Dear Family Foxhole,
I moved to a new school (7th grade, which is the first year of junior high in my new school district) recently and decided to be more outgoing than I was in the past. It worked–kinda. I’ve made new friends, but they expect me to the goofy, loud, opinionated one. This puts a lot of pressure on me to always have some witty comment to say, which means I’m making some borderline rude comments in class that have gotten me in trouble. Parent-Teacher conferences are coming up, and I think my parents are going to be surprised to hear me called a “class clown” (if my teachers are feeling nice) or a distraction (if they are not). When I get home from school each day, I’m basically exhausted from being so much “fun” at school, so my mom and dad think of me as a quiet introvert. I’m not sure how to handle my parents’ reaction, and I’m not sure if I can keep this up!
The Secret Introvert
Well, this is a fine pickle you’ve gotten yourself into. I assume you’ve learned “To Thine Own Self Be True” by now. It sounds like you know who you want to be (less of a smart aleck), but how do you get there?
If your friends are true friends, they’ll let you change in this positive way. They might be confused (After all, you kind of sold them on a person who is different from what they’re ending up getting.), but there is definitely enough room in a friend group for one more quiet person.
And if they don’t let you change, then they aren’t the kind of people who want to hang out with.
And it could just be that there are other people in your friendship group who aren’t getting to be who they want to be, either. If they see you change, they might be inspired to do the same!
Way to go! You thought that you might like life better if you were more outgoing, so you became more outgoing. Then you realized that this wasn’t the right fit for you. I admire anyone who is willing to take on this kind of challenge and do the work to make it happen. Congratulate yourself on taking charge of your social life!
It’s easy to say “just be yourself” but hard to do. The good news is that you do have a good idea of who you are. You’re an introvert. Rejoice! That just means you find that maintaining a lot of relationships and performing in public (like being the class clown) is exhausting, whereas some people find it invigorating.
It really is just as easy as stopping it. Tomorrow, don’t make any sassy remarks. If your friends are egging you on, tell them that you’re not feeling like yourself. Fake looking a little ill when you say it. They’ll think you’re just a little tired. After a few days of this, they’ll back off.
There is one solution to both your problems: Throw yourself on your parents’ mercy. Before that Parent-Teacher meeting, try this:
Mom and Dad, I’m not going to lie to you. I’ve been doing some things at school that I’m not proud of.
Trust me, your parents are immediately thinking of worse things than what you are about to tell them. That’s why they will feel relief when they hear you say:
I’ve not been acting like myself. I was worried about not making friends, so I decided to be more extroverted. But I misunderstood what that meant. I took it too far and have been disrespectful to my teachers on a few occasions. They are probably frustrated with me because I’ve been disruptive in class. But it was only because I wanted the kids in the class to think I was funny.
Your parents are going to hear this and think you are really self-aware and responsible. So you follow up with your request:
Now I feel a lot of pressure to keep that up. But I don’t like it. It’s not who I am, and it’s making me soooo tired. I’d like to use you all as an excuse to stop. When other kids are pressuring me into doing something stupid or rude, I’d like to say, “If I do that, my parents would send me to military school!” Is that okay?
They’ll agree–and, with that, you let your parents be the bad guys. It’s their job sometimes, and they’ll be glad to do it.