Since I was a kid I have always been told that I need to speak up and make my voice heard. I have never liked the way it made me feel. Somehow it always made me feel a little out of place, a feeling that has followed me no matter where I have been or whom I been with. I’ve always felt like the odd one out. The one that needs to go.
The way our society is built, extrovert qualities are premiered. The more extrovert you are, the better your odds are at getting a good job, making new friends, having an exciting life and being successful. At least if you look at what we tell our children and what we teach people in workshops on how to be successful. You have to speak your voice, look people in the eye, talk to strangers, be proactive, promote yourself, ask questions, network and mingle – be extrovert.
All my life I have been told that I have to work on my social skills, you need to speak up, and I have. I have walked up to people I don’t know, feeling physically ill, and talked to them. Hoping to become the kind of person our society likes. Hoping that my efforts will one day make me feel less like the odd one out.
If you never take time to listen, you may never know what person hides behind the silence.
Asking for a vacant room was like being sent out to die
When I was fourteen, our family went on vacation to the UK. We rented a car in London and drove up to Scotland. On the way we stopped in places we liked and stayed the night, exploring the country as we went on. My dad used to make me and my brother go in to hotels and ask if they had vacant rooms. A simple task that my brother had no problem doing. He has always loved to talk to strangers and can start a conversation with almost anyone, anywhere.
My dad, in all well meaning, wanted me to do the same, so one day he urged me in to this small hotel to ask for a vacant room. I remember how I protested but he persisted and as I tried to argue why I didn’t want to go – he looked at me with firm eyes and told me to just stop. There was no arguing. And in I went.
I remember the total panic I felt and how my brain was working on overload, as if I was in a life-threatening situation. For me, asking for a room in a small hotel on the English countryside made me feel like I was sent out to die. For some people even the smallest things, like asking a stranger for direction, can be nerve-racking.
Physical pain in your stomach, legs that are shaking, a voice that’s trembling and breaking as you speak and a mind that is flashing all sorts of warning signs as you’re forced to be something you are not. A feeling that people who never experienced this may never understand.
A long time to feel like the odd one out
Today I am 27 years old and I travel alone to conventions, conferences and business meetings. I talk to people I don’t know on the train, have no problem asking for directions or vacant rooms at hotels and I am an OK conversation starter even with total strangers. But I still do all these things with struggle. And I do it because I choose to. Some of you might think – well it worked, you are not longer afraid to ask for a hotel room, mission accomplished. The thing is, it took me 27 years to feel comfortable doing these things. 27 years. To feel comfortable enough in my own skin to walk up to a stranger and ask for direction, without dying inside of anxiety. That’s a long time to feel like the odd one out. Introvert people often feel like they are misunderstood, that’s not so strange since majority of people are extrovert. I belive that if we had more knowledge and patience with introvert people, maybe I wouldn’t have felt wrong for 27 years..
Trying to change the way introvert people are
If you are naturally outspoken it might be easy to think that people who are not like that just need to practice. That telling someone who appears to be shy to speak up and take more space, is doing them a favor. I understand most people do it out of love and well meaning. The problem is it insinuates that we need to change. We don’t.
Being aware of the fact that we are all different is the key to understand people around us better. Some of us need to think and analyze before we act, and others think as they speak and analyze after they act. We need both qualities to build a good society.
Letting time do it’s thing with introvert people can many times lead to interesting things. If you push them forward too quickly, you might never get to know what they are thinking.. And I promise, you don’t want to miss it.
So I ask you, the next time you end up next to someone like me, ask questions. Listen to the answers, even though it might take the person in front of you some time to get them out there. And never assume the person you are sitting next to haven’t got anything to say just because they are quiet. They might just be thinking and preparing what to share. If you rush ahead to the next subject, you’ll miss it.
And to all of you out there who are just like me. You don’t have to change. Unless you want to. The world needs us introvert people too. Be you ♡ always.
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