"Wow, you're as quiet as a mouse!" "I bet she's sitting there thinking we're crazy!" "Don't be afraid to speak your mind, it's okay!" "Really, we're just joking around...come on!" "You haven't said a word yet!"
I get these a lot...almost everyday. I've always described myself as introverted, but I think people overuse and misuse the term. Let me explain. I enjoy public speaking and hanging out with people, and I'm not really that shy. I just prefer to have a good bit of alone time. I like to think. And yes, sometimes I get weary if I'm around other people for too long, because I feel I have to kind of be "on" to interact appropriately.
I don't talk unless I have something to say. I don't talk just to talk or to fill the silence. I don't need be the joker in the group or the center of attention. Some people interpret this as being serious, nervous, awkward, stuck up, scared, or upset, but that's not the case at all. When I do say things more off the cuff or just blurt out what I'm thinking, it usually doesn't come out the way I want. I've learned to make my words count so people will listen.
Especially in professional settings, I tend to clam up and be careful of what I say. I want to be taken seriously, and I feel that is an even higher mountain to climb as a new grad. People view you as a kid, and I even graduated a year early so I'm really young. I feel I have a lot to prove sometimes, and I have the highest expectations for myself.
I've actually gotten several pep talks from superiors at different jobs trying to tell me that "it's okay to be myself" and to "say whatever I'm thinking."
What I'd like to say to those people is...I am being myself! Myself is quiet.
And why isn't that okay? It's like no one believes quiet people exist anymore so they just keep prying and trying to get me to "open up." The extroverts are the only ones valued, because they are seen as more fun, humorous, and personable. If you aren't the life of the party, you're the weak link.
I'm fed up with it. I am thoughtful, respectful, hardworking, polite, and yes, quiet. Those traits should be valued and encouraged, not made fun of or ridiculed. I know who I am. Please let me be that person.