Yes. Someone actually looked me straight in the eye once and asked everyone around us the wonderful question, “Does She Speak?!” Let me set the scene. I was visiting my boyfriend’s family at the time. Sixteen years young, dumb and in love. They weren’t all the easiest to feel at ease with. I didn’t see them often, so I wasn’t at that comfort level where I felt I could let my guard down. I had just met his sister that day. They had a large family dinner planned and there must have been 8-10 of us sitting around the table. Pause. Cut. Time out. This to a young girl growing into her own and figuring out her life one day at a time, nevertheless an introverted young girl, is a dreaded nightmare. I’ve never quite understood why his sister felt this was necessary to point out an already obvious “quiet girl” situation or what reaction she thought she would get out of me. Did asking if I spoke really guide a path to a wonderful, fun-filled relationship where I would suddenly open my heart up to her, chat her ear off and run off into a lighthearted sunset? Absolutely not. End scene. End relationship.
Let’s go even farther back in time. A little girl with an older, outspoken, social sister. My sister loved to order my food for me. She loved to speak for me. Not because I couldn’t or didn’t want to, but because that’s just what she did and I was okay with that at 4, 5, 6, 7 even 8 years old. I suppose I just got used to this. I got used to sitting back and listening to her talk and have the spotlight. I got so used to it, that I got too used to it and never had much to contribute to a conversation. I would just be quiet and let her soar. Honestly, I really didn’t care. I love my sister. What I did start to care about is when people felt the right to talk down to me or even compare the two of us. Someone asked my mom if I was deaf when I was a little girl and not in a considerate way. Distant relatives would come around and joke that I was “shy. Oh, she’s just shy! Why are you so shy, Rachel?” I hope they felt some sort of satisfaction having the shy girl as their icebreaker. It was almost as if they didn’t know what else to talk about so they began talking about how shy the quiet girl was at the moment. Kind of interesting isn’t it? Think about it. If you ask someone why they’re so “shy,” do you really think that’s the most brilliant way to start a conversation with them?! Tip: Ask a well-thought out intelligent question and you might be pleasantly surprised at what’s going on in that brain of theirs.
Bottom line. Growing up an introvert was hard. I felt labelled. I felt frowned upon. I felt like there was truly something wrong with me. I felt awkward in an already awkward season of life and often I felt alone unless I was home. My family understood me. I could open up to them. They didn’t throw it in my face that I was quiet. They loved me unconditionally. I remember a moment with my late Grandpa, Henry. I was sitting outside with him on his porch swing. He was a storyteller and I loved to listen. I would comment here and there while he was telling his stories. At one point, he stopped and looked at me with his tight-lipped smolder of a smile and said, “You know. You don’t say a lot, but when you do it’s good. I like that.” He never knew what that meant to me and how much it meant to me.
Pictured above: My Grandpa and me a little later in life, but on the same porch swing.
There is a common misconception that introverts are shy. If you’re shy, you don’t enjoy social situations whatsoever. If you’re an introvert, you love people. You’re just picky about who you choose to spend your time, energy and thoughts with. We love family and we love our handful of close-knit friends. We’d rather spend time nourishing and flourishing those relationships. So yes, introverts may appear guarded, cold and unsociable, but really we’re just teddy bears with a filter. You’ve heard the saying, think before you speak. Take it from this introvert. It’s one of the best pieces of advice out there.