Allow me to take you back a few years.
When I was at school, the majority of my school reports contained one key word. This word had nothing to do with my academic ability, but moreso the way in which I conducted myself during lessons. Teachers had no issue with my grades – in large part, I was a fairly decent student. Instead, it was the fact that, sometimes, I was a bit ‘quiet’.
Wrapped under the guise of ‘class participation’, the number of times I put my hand up or answered the teacher’s questions was often brought up and at points, seemed to be valued over the effort I had put into achieving the grades.
I was the kid that tried everything possible to avoid eye contact with the teacher. I’d rummage through my pencil case or write over what had already been written, in the hope that I looked busy and the teacher would choose another poor, unfortunate victim.
Why is it so important to ‘announce’ the correct answer in front of the whole class? I’ve got it written down in front of me, is that not enough? I’d often think to myself.
To add to this, my father is someone that can talk for an entire nation. He’d be able to cover all bases, from the rising of Sudan’s militia to the latest ‘one-hit wonder’ winner of The X Factor. So, you can imagine the amount of times bewildered relatives drew comparisons between us, wondering why I wasn’t the same. My mother, would respond in the most ‘mum way’ possible and claim that I was actually a ‘little devil’ at home. To which, I’d awkwardly force a smile and simply nod my head.
Though well-meaning in their intentions, my school reports combined with remarks from those seemingly close to me, made me question whether my quietness was a weakness, a ‘defect’ of sorts.
You might be thinking that I was simply an anti-social child, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I did and still do, enjoy spending time with those that are important to me. Nothing excites me more than a long conversation with those that I connect with.
Society has a somewhat of a cultural bias towards the loud and boisterous, as if it’s the way everyone’s meant to behave.
This brings me to the idea of self-help. It started with books your mother used to read such as ‘The Secret’ and has now transformed into YouTube videos about why you’re ugly, should be waking up at 5:30 a.m. and must have cold showers. With it rapidly growing into a very profitable industry, the only thing these ‘Influencers’ are influencing, is their bank accounts. Targeted at your insecurities, repeated viewing of these videos can make you feel as if there is something wrong with you, an aspect of your personality that you MUST change. Rarely, is there a video encouraging you to embrace who you are.
Cut to the present day and rather than tell you I’ve become a bold and brash individual, I’m going to be honest with you. Yes, I have changed in many ways, throughout university especially, but in equal respects, I’m still the same person.
What has changed however, is my acceptance of this aspect of my character. Rather than treating it as a personality flaw that must be ‘overcome’, I’ve slowly learned to be comfortable with my quiet side.
In general, I have become more talkative. However, I still require moments alone and now no longer feel guilty about this.
Strangely, I feel as though my acceptance of this has enabled me to naturally develop characteristics which may usually be attributed to an ‘extrovert’.
The reason I’m being careful with my use of labels such as introvert and extrovert is because, in my opinion, personality is fluid. The person you are to your mother, is not the person you are to your friends. The person you were 10 years ago, is not the person you are now. Hence, I’ve always had an issue with personality tests. Not dissimilar to how I view horoscopes, it amazes me that a 4-letter code (ENTJ etc.) is expected to sum up your personality.
I’m definitely not perfect and wholeheartedly acknowledge that there are attributes of my character that may need tweaking. My decision to travel and step out of my comfort zone as many times as possible, is a part of this.
One thing I will never apologise for, is my moments of silence. In a world where everyone wants their voice to be heard, as loudly and quickly as possible; it can only be beneficial to take a step back for a second and think.
A society without listeners, will not be heard.
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