I was never much of a talker, growing up. I was told that I was – and in turn, believed that I was – shy, quiet, reserved, serious, you name it. I preferred to listen and then speak, instead of the other way around. It’s too bad that society – school, work, etc. – prefers the other way around. Being loud, speaking right away, giving an answer when called upon… it’s what I’ve been conditioned to think of as the right way to communicate with others. I thought that speaking loudly, boldly, and even out of turn was what it meant to be confident or popular or smart. Not listening intently, paying attention to others, and mulling over one’s answer.
I had tried to become that ideal confident, popular, smart person. Speaking out of turn in a matter-of-fact, “hey look at me” tone of voice happened every now and then, but it always felt fake. Putting up my hand to give an answer to the class didn’t feel natural to me. But I still believed that I wasn’t mature or brave enough to do those things. It was like I was building up to being that kind of person, because that kind of person was the ideal.
But here’s the thing: I didn’t realize that I was fine the way that I was. That it’s okay to be quiet, to think before speaking, to speak only when you deem necessary. That it’s okay and normal to be introverted. That’s the word that I didn’t hear throughout my childhood. People tend to associate “introverted” with timidity, when it has to do with where we get our energy and how it gets used up. Introverted means that you get your energy from within (a nice, lovely thought), and that being in very social situations (parties, concerts, big crowds) uses up a lot of your energy and so you have to get away from those situations in order to recharge. That’s me.
And while I’m becoming more and more comfortable with being an introvert, lately I’ve been becoming bolder in the way I speak to others. Whether it’s at work or with friends and family, whenever I think I have something important to say, I say it. Before, I would have not said anything. And whenever I did, I would feel bad and apologize for speaking out of turn or speaking so boldly – that might be another reason why I didn’t say anything. So, there’s two parts to why I didn’t speak up as much.
Anyway, what I’m trying to get at here is that while I am still introverted, I’m not shy or scared to speak my mind. I’ve been dubbed sassy and blunt because of this, which I am definitely proud of. I have actually stopped apologizing for adding my opinion to conversations when other people are talking. I had thought that this was rude at first, but it turns out that people actually invite that kind of thing. Who knew?
It feels good to speak up. I feel important. I feel confident. I feel smart. And most importantly, I feel me.