I am tired of people telling me that being quiet is a bad thing. I think this is a subject we introverts can commiserate on, as it happens so much more than it should, and it can leave us feeling worthless. It happened to me recently at work, and it came from one of my coworkers this time.
I’m a server at a chain restaurant that essentially serves sit-down fast food. It’s a job I’ve been coming back to on my breaks from school where I’m a full-time student. When I work jobs like this one, it reminds me of why I’m going to school in the first place: to one day (hopefully) find a career that allows me to be more of who I truly am. My serving job plays on some of my weakest skills: the ability to work in a fast-paced environment, to interact with strangers, and to deal with the likelihood that people will find fault in something I’ve done and tell me about it. I’m an INFJ personality type as well as a highly sensitive person (HSP), and the kinds of situations I’m put in don’t usually play to my strengths. I’m a people-pleaser, an overthinker, and often a perfectionist. None of these qualities are very compatible with the life of a waitress. But higher education is expensive, so here I am.
As a result, I’m often quiet. My mind is constantly racing, and in a food service job, there is always a lot going on — often too much for my mind and body to handle. So I revert to my introverted self, a defense mechanism against the many affronts to my sensitive senses. My coworkers have noticed. They ask me if I’m like this outside of work or what I’m like at parties (which I usually don’t attend).
“You’re Too Quiet”
But one day, toward the beginning of my shift, a coworker began chatting with me while I clocked in and tied my apron. First he joked with me, asking if I was staying all the way until closing, even though we both knew I wasn’t. I’m used to being the butt of a joke; people tell me I’m easy to tease due to my willingness to believe others, and something about the way I react to them is amusing. It’s not something I mind all that much because it feels normal now. Like I said, I’m a people-pleaser, so I’m okay with laughing at myself and playing along.
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Then my coworker asked if I had a boyfriend, sort of out of the blue. Being perpetually single, I laughed and said that no, I didn’t. To this he said: “Why? Are the guys you know blind?” Again, I laughed because I’m notoriously terrible at accepting compliments. In between my nervous laughter, I said something along the lines of, “I don’t know,” and “thanks,” trying to enjoy his flattery for a moment. But it was only a moment, because then he said the ill-fated words: “You know, it’s probably because you’re too quiet.”
Being Quiet Is Who I Am
My quiet nature is one of the most fundamental parts of who I am. I remember when I first began taking personality tests, having already known I am an introvert but then learning I am an INFJ. As I researched, read articles, and learned about what it meant to be an INFJ, I was overcome with how deeply it all resonated with me. I felt like I had finally found a way to explain my quirks to myself and others. I was hungry for more knowledge about my own personality and the personalities of those I love. All that I have read has helped shape the way I see other people and myself. Being an introvert, an INFJ, and an HSP are all parts of my genetic makeup: they aren’t things I can just change.
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There were other moments like this, for instance, when I read Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. I felt so utterly validated and so much less alone. When I found the Introvert, Dear community and read the words of so many people with like minds, I began to realize how far-reaching our world’s introvert population truly is. And that I am not alone when I choose to stay quiet. I identify myself as an INFJ not to put myself in a box, but to remind myself that not only am I unique, but I’m also not. I’m not the only one out there like me.
What I Wish I’d Said
When my coworker implied that my lack of a significant other was because I have a quiet demeanor, it hurt, and I let that hurt trick me into doing what I do best: staying quiet. INFJs are constantly looking out for other people and that often leads us to neglect our own needs. I have spoken up when someone else was at stake, but rarely do I speak up for myself. Maybe my reluctance is due to a lack of positive responses from other people when I do speak my mind, or maybe it’s because saying something for me makes me feel like I do when I receive a compliment: awkward. But I do wish I’d said something to my coworker because being quiet is not a flaw — it can be a strength.
I wish I’d told my coworker that there’s nothing wrong with being quiet.
I wish I’d said that being quiet isn’t why I’m single, but rather it’s a series of other personal choices.
I wish I’d been able to say that my worth is not defined by how many words come out of my mouth.
I wish I’d told him that I say fewer words because I’m saving them, investing in a better thought to be expressed when it’s ready to be put out in the world.
I wish I’d explained that being quiet isn’t a weakness, rather, it allows me to listen and understand even more.
Most of all, I wish I’d just been able to say anything at all to stand up for myself, because of all things, I owe it to myself.
To all the other introverts out there, I want to tell you that it’s perfectly okay to be quiet but it’s not okay to let other people walk all over you about it. You have so much to offer the world and so much worth. Don’t ever forget that.
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Read this: Being Quiet Is Not a Character Flaw