All my life, I’ve been “the quiet one.” The one who doesn’t participate in class. The one who’s trampled all over because she “can’t stand up for herself.” The one who’s “too nice.” The one who “sits in a corner” and “does nothing but read and write.”
I’m 22. I’m only just starting to step out and see what the world is like. And…you know what? I’m beginning to see that the world has always preferred outgoing, ballsy and gregarious over contemplative, reflective and gentle.
Needless to say, I fall into the latter category—and perhaps that is why I sometimes feel as though I don’t belong. I value thought over impulsive action. My tone of voice is quiet. I don’t feel the need to be loud and attract unnecessary attention (to hell with the ones who keep pushing me to ”raise your volume; how else will you get what you want?”). When I do things, it is with immense self-awareness. I yearn to meet people who embody what I just described.
I have always been extraordinarily aware of my introverted nature. In school, the idea of group projects didn’t go down well with me. I’d sit in a corner, sigh heavily, put on my grumpiest expression and do what was required. My teammates complained that I was “too detached.” I pretended not to know what they were talking about.
The only person to whom I felt that I didn’t owe any explanation of my so-called “abnormal” behaviour was my French teacher, Mrs. Anuradha Karkun. To this day, she is my biggest inspiration and my most enthusiastic cheerleader. She is warm and real and just there, and I know that I can count on her no matter what. She sees me better than anyone else in the world. While everyone else kept nagging me to “do more, talk more, participate more,” she would sit, calm and gentle, and listen. Her capacity to listen is incredible and amazing in every sense of the word. She did not push me to be someone I was not. Never once did she point out—in class or outside—that I was “too soft-spoken.” While most people implicitly judged me because “Oh, she’s too quiet; it’s almost as though she doesn’t exist,” Anuradha ma’am unconditionally accepted me just as I was. She encouraged me to write; she let me be me.
Thanks to her gentle but persistent coaxing, I developed the lifelong habit of keeping a daily journal. Slowly, I learnt to express my inner turmoil through writing. I wrote articles and poems; not only in English, but in French, too. As Wordsworth would say, I filled the pages with the breathings of my heart. I wrote until my fingers started tingling. And that’s when I knew that something magical and powerful within me was in the process of coming alive.
When the superficialities of the external world started getting to me, I’d retreat into myself, and write, or, for that matter, read. Reading was—and still is—an activity as natural and unquestionable as breathing. Reading and writing are what sustain me and ensure that I get from one day to the next, relatively unscathed.
I wear my personality like a badge. It shows in the way I move, the way I speak, the way I write, the way I conduct myself. I can feel that I’m different from my peers. Most people I know are preoccupied with their clothes, make-up, hair. And as for me? I have slightly different priorities. I want to foster healthy and unconditionally loving relationships. I want to tell the world that my quietness is my greatest strength. I want to be able to go up to a stranger on the street and tell her how much she is loved. I want to reassure people that where words fail, hugs will do the talking. (Never underestimate the power of a good, long hug.)
As I take in everything around me, absorb the sights and sounds and smells of life, just beginning to open myself to infinite possibilities and could-be scenarios—hesitant, apprehensive, vulnerable, but trusting all the same—I feel…unsettled, for the most part. However, I know that I have one unfailing strength, which will be my light in dark times: my quietness. My quietness empowers me to be the most authentic version of myself every day.
Very often, we introverts tend to shy away from the spotlight—and for that very reason, we are perceived as passive rather than active. We are supposedly “the victim” of ridicule, of needless jibes about “how we can’t survive in the world.” And… you know what? I’m here, writing this, to prove all of those naysayers wrong.
We may not be brash and impetuous and in-your-face, but we are perfectly capable of standing on our own feet without needing a spokesperson all the time. We’re just very selective in our social interaction.
Here’s what we do love with all our hearts: meaningful conversations with the right kind of people. Given the correct environment (minimal noise and people), we can open our hearts, and talk for hours on end.
I have only one piece of advice for my fellow introverts who are scattered far and wide: don’t ever be afraid to put yourself out there and be your flawed, apprehensive, vulnerable, perfect self. You are not defined by the number of people who dismiss or taunt you: you are so much more than that. You are worth your weight in gold; you have only to look inside yourself to find that diamond which exists. Polish it, so that its sparkle takes people’s breath away. Throw all your insecurities and inhibitions to the wind. You are quiet, and scared, and sensitive, and gifted, and in competition with no one but yourself.
Shine your own light—fearlessly. You are enough.
Author: Shreya Iyengar
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Author’s own