It was the summer between my junior and senior year of college, and I was finishing a writing internship at a local nonprofit.
A few of the interns decided to attend a concert in the park as a final outing together. After the concert, we headed back to the house in the city where a few interns lived. Huddled on the sidewalk outside, we said our goodbyes and made plans to visit each other across the country.
We reminisced about our time together and decided to reveal our first impressions of each other, laughing as we poked fun and exchanged stories.
Turning to me, one of the interns exclaimed, “You were quiet, so I didn’t talk to you.”
His comment wasn’t meant as a jab at me — by the end of the summer, the group of us had grown to become friends. Still, when he uttered those words, I immediately felt a twinge in the pit of my stomach. Something as innocent as being quiet made someone not want to talk to me?
The people pleaser in me slowly died as he spoke the sentence — and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t sting.
His simple statement sent a whirlwind of doubts and insecurities swirling through my head.
Does everyone here think I’m awkward?
If I were more outgoing, more people would like me.
I’m never going to get a job because they’ll think I’m too quiet.
Suddenly, I began to view my quietness as a contagious disease that sent people running away from me in fear.
Wearing the Quiet Label
As an introvert, the word “quiet” isn’t a stranger to me. It’s a label that’s followed me for years. In fact, a lot of people use the word to describe me when they first meet me.
After getting to know me — and usually after witnessing some feat of silliness on my part — they exclaim something like, “Wow, I didn’t know you were like this! You were so quiet when we met.”
My friends and family know there’s more to me than the quiet label. Maybe it’s because they’ve had front row seats to my random laugh attacks and terrible attempts at talking in fake foreign accents.
But are there people who have missed out on getting to know that side of me because they don’t take time to see past the quiet? Have I missed out on getting to know people for the same reason?
I Decided to ‘Fix’ My Quietness
I couldn’t stand the thought that someone wouldn’t want to talk to me because I’m quiet. So I set out to “fix” my quietness.
After watching a number of YouTube videos about how to be more “outgoing,” I determined that I would do anything humanly possible to prevent people from thinking I was quiet. I packed my schedule full of coffee dates and events, all the while ensuring that my social media accurately reflected my “non-quiet” existence.
But I soon found that pretending to “extrovert” was exhausting, both mentally and physically. Each time, it required several days of recovery — complete with Netflix binges, candles, and bubble baths.
Quiet Does Not Equal Weak
Scrolling through Twitter recently, I came across an anonymous quote that stopped me in my tracks: “Never assume that loud is strong and quiet is weak.”
I read the words over and over, slowly drinking them in.
HOLY FREAKING YES. I love those words.
I put so much effort into trying to ditch my quiet label because I thought the terms “quiet” and “weak” were synonymous.
I believed the lie that if someone thinks I’m quiet, they won’t take me seriously. They won’t think I have anything to offer.
That summer, as the intern spoke the words, “You were quiet, so I didn’t talk to you,” what I really heard was, “You’re not good enough. You’re not interesting or worthy of my attention.”
But guess what? That’s not the case. Quiet doesn’t equal weak, unsuccessful, or friendless.
I’m halfway through grad school, have a dream job that I love (most of my teammates are introverted!), and a great group of friends — some introverted and quiet, others louder and more outgoing.
I may never be the loudest, most outgoing person in a room — and I’m learning that’s okay. While I’m making an effort to say “yes” to more good things that push me out of my comfort zone, I’m also learning the art of moderation.
Just because you’re quiet doesn’t mean you’re not confident. It doesn’t mean you don’t have great ideas. And it sure as heck doesn’t make you any less worthy of people’s time and attention.
If you’re an introvert who’s been labeled quiet or shy, don’t let it make you feel inferior. Quiet does not equal weak.
Talk to the Quiet Person
Have you been avoiding getting to know someone because of a label you assigned them? Maybe that label is “quiet” — or maybe it’s something completely different.
No matter the reason, take a risk. Reach out. Make a new friend. You may even discover that the quiet person isn’t all that quiet after all.
The same goes for you, fellow introverts. Being the first one to reach out is scary, but maybe other people are just as nervous to take that step.
Don’t hide behind the quiet label — embrace your introversion and take on new challenges with the quiet confidence that makes you who you are.
To all my quiet friends, never feel like you need to change. You are strong. You are worthy. You are capable of great things.
This article was originally published on my Medium blog.
You might like:
- 8 Confessions of an Introvert Living in a World Made for Extroverts
- 25 Illustrations That Perfectly Capture the Joy of Living Alone as an Introvert
- Why Many Introverts Are Drawn to Writing (and Are Really Good at It)
- Why Highly Sensitive People Get Mentally and Emotionally ‘Flooded’
- If You Relate to These 10 Signs, You’re Probably an ‘Extroverted’ Introvert
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