As an introvert, I do not always make a great first impression.
I was never the person to raise their hand in class, opting to send emails to my professors or speak to them during office hours to express my grievances. I was the quiet one, the woman of little words, as a professor so affectionately dubbed me. My lack of expression always brought up questions and concerns.
I’ve had complete strangers ask me, “Tell me, who hurt you?” Even throughout my life, I was always asked the golden question in school, “Why don’t you talk?”
Maybe because I don’t know you?
Ever since I was young, those questions and even the way people reacted to me, made me wonder if there was something wrong with me. But as I got older I learned the difference between an extrovert and an introvert. The difference between them is like salt and sugar. I’ve always seen extroverts as the sugar. They’re usually seen as having the more desirable personality: loud, aggressive and overly expressive.
These were the people who have no trouble during job interviews and know how to throw a party.
Introverts, though, we’re the salt. Too much of it is never a good thing.
The media describes us as being low energy, shy, and awkward human beings. I’ve had people tell me that I was too quiet, and unresponsive. But it was simple. If I wasn’t with my immediate family and friends, it would take a while for me to warm up.
Introverts don’t just loathe social interactions.
It’s true I do hate small talk, but I have no trouble discussing the dangers of our current political climate or debating which pizzeria in Brooklyn is the best. It’s just after being around people, we need a break. We need some time to be by ourselves and recharge. Other people can go from one social interaction to another, without feeling as if their energy is drained.
After I hang out with a group of friends, I have no interest to communicate with anyone else. The first thing I want to do is binge watch Netflix for the next eight hours, wrapped up in my covers and stuffing my face with snacks. But society has deemed this behavior inappropriate and strange.
We live in a world where enjoying our time alone is not celebrated, but a cause for concern. Sometimes I need to be in my own solitary confinement. I don’t always need contact with the entire world. Being by myself has allowed me to clear my head, and gives me the strength to elaborate on my own ideas and thoughts.
I have my own thoughts and opinions, but I just choose not to share them out loud all the time. Unfortunately, there is a general consensus that those who don’t share their opinion don’t have one. It isn’t that I don’t have one, trust me I have a lot of things to share, but being quiet has led me to make fewer mistakes than some of my counterparts. I’ve always been an observer, watching how people reacted to their environment and learning how to blend into the background.
But blending into the background does not always head to great results.
When you’re surrounded by extroverts, it’s easy to lose yourself in the back and forth conversation that you’re not a part of. You are not the participant, but once again, the observer.
My status as an introvert usually leads to others ignoring or dismissing me. Some people even see it as a reason to take advantage of my own docile nature in order to further their own agenda. It would be easier for me to stay in the background and let them walk all over me, but I’ve learned to use my voice especially when someone is trying to take advantage of me. I’ve had to fight not only those who overpower me but myself. I have to push myself to speak loud and let myself be known in a room, even when I want nothing more than to blend in.
It’s easy to assume that because I am not involved, that I become forgotten, which can be the case, but usually people take note of my silence. Even during group projects in school, I tried my best to speak up. It was always difficult when dealing with people I wasn’t comfortable with.
Each word I said had to be carefully thought out and planned.
When it came to presenting in front of a class, or any audience, my social anxiety increased. My face would get hot, sweat would start running down my back and sometimes, if I made the mistake of having Chipotle for lunch I would be gassy.
But people always dismiss my anxiety as a little hurtle. It was always something that I had to jump through in order to make it in the world with my extrovert friends. It’s not like I can turn off my personality whenever convenient.
Being “quiet” or “reserved” is who I have been since I was born.
Over the years, I have opened up a bit and learned to get over my social anxiety.
I have learned and accepted that I was salt, but salt is a basic necessity to any dish. I am not perfect, and I’ll probably never be the most vocal person in the room. But I do not let my flaws hinder my own success. I have been able to flourish as an introvert. I have learned from not only my own mistakes but from others because even though I’m quiet, I still make mistakes.
I’ve learned to accept who I am, maybe it’s time the world does too.