My name is Kelly Kyriacou, I am 21 years old and currently a senior undergraduate student at Siena College in Loudonville, New York. I will be graduating this May with a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Psychology and plan to attend Iona College next year to earn my Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. My main interests outside the classroom are reading, creative writing, listening to music, and attending concerts.
I was born in New York City on August 9th 1995 and grew up in Westchester County, New York, where I still live with my parents, my older sister Janine, and my younger brother Nick. We are considered to be a larger than average size family for the region according to the 2016 US average of 3.14 members per household. I am the middle child of the family. There are a plethora of myths about the so-called middle child syndrome; primarily that we are moody and more rebellious than our siblings due to a lack of attention from our parents. Another notion I have uncovered in my research is that middle children supposedly display a tendency of avoiding conflict and attempt to diffuse situations involving a high degree of tension.
In my experience, I find this statement to be mostly true. Growing up, I found myself usually taking on the role of mediator between my brother and sister—and sometimes even between my siblings and my parents. I have always been very introspective and engaged in listening and observation more than impulsively speaking or taking action. I feel that this has enabled me to enhance my ability to create an atmosphere in which people have felt comfortable enough to express their feelings and opinions, as well as being able to assess the severity of stressful situations and resolving conflicts. It is with these characteristics that I feel most confident in pursuing a career in counseling.
Another widely perceived “symptom” of being a middle child is a lack of high self-esteem and a tendency towards introversion. For as long as I can remember, I have always gravitated toward smaller groups and am usually shy and reserved in social situations, especially with people I am meeting for the first time. This reticence to socialize and tendency to be seen and not heard in a large group originates from a mild case of social anxiety. Anxiety disorders are the most commonly diagnosed mental illnesses in the United States, affecting roughly 40 million adults aged 18 and older. Specifically, Social Anxiety Disorder affects approximately 15 million Americans or 6.8% of the population, and is equally common among men and women. It is typically diagnosed during adolescence. I believe this places me in a subgroup of identified deviant behavior, as anxiety affects how individuals view and interact with their peers and the world around them. For example, I often feel my stomach twisting into knots or my heart beginning to race if an unfamiliar number calls my phone or I am required to network and speak to a large group of people. I also am constantly worried that I may appear cold or stuck-up to others because I do not always say “hi” or greet people that I recognize when walking by, or attempt to initiate most conversations. Socializing can feel like such a chore when you overanalyze every word you say and wonder if it came across the way you had intended. “Deviance is not a quality that lies in behavior itself, but in the interaction between the person who commits an act and those who respond to it” (14). My biggest fear is making a fool of myself in front of others because I said something that came off as dumb, or having someone think I do not like them because I did not smile or wave when I saw them in the dining hall.
Becker tells us that the notion of deviance comes from the communal norms within our society. It is a “consequence of the responses of others to a person’s act” (9). Our culture deems people who are reserved and quiet as deviants, making it seem as though extroversion is the norm when in fact, a third to a half of the population is made up of individuals who are classified as introverts. Being a college student on a fairly small campus, it is not uncommon to run into people you know from class, friendly acquaintances, and those who are part of your group of immediate friends. I often see people greet each other in passing or meeting throughout the day to work on a project or grab a quick meal together. While I do enjoy meeting with friends during the day, as an introvert I also enjoy my time alone to get work done and simply recharge.
Becker states, “The individual who has committed the impropriety may himself act as an enforcer. He may brand himself as deviant because of what he has done and punish himself in one way or another for his behavior” (31). I used to feel anxious about sitting alone in the dining hall because I worried that it made me look lonely and as though I had no friends. I thought of myself as an outsider and worried that others would view me the same way, which only worsened my anxiety and, for a time, forced me to skip meals or eat in my dorm room. This pressure to fit in was placed on me, by me, due to the social rules that have been ingrained in my mind by the traditional expectations of supposedly normal relationships. The actual ratio, however, based on the first official random sample by the Myers-Briggs organization in 1998 showed that introverts make up 50.7% and extroverts 49.3% of the United States. Therefore, it is important for people to understand that people with anxiety and a predisposition towards introversion tend to label themselves as the culprit for deviant behavior, when in reality this behavior is more common than we realize.
Becker, H. (1963). Outsiders Studies in the Sociology of Deviance. New York, NY: The Free Press.