Lenni Elias

Edit Desk: That quiet girl

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I have always been that quiet kid. 

You know me. I’m the one in the back of the class who sits silently. The one who does her work without making a fuss. The one who’s there, who you notice, but only vaguely remember the next year. The one who you’re referring to when turning to a friend to ask, “can she speak?”

Throughout middle and high school I was plagued by these comments. People questioned whether my quietness was a physical inability to speak or an innate urge not to. I hated it.

I hated that I didn’t always have something to say. I hated that I had to wrestle with my mind to say a few short words. I hated that the urge to speak, something so natural to others, seemed to be missing in me. I grew to hate myself.

I constantly thought, “what is wrong with me?” 

Why did I have to be that quiet kid?

We live in a culture where outgoing personalities are celebrated, if not already considered necessary, and quiet demeanors are looked down upon. 

Some want to raise their hand in class, want to talk to everyone they can and want to dominate the conversation. But I never wanted to—it just wasn’t me.

It felt as if something was wrong with me. I was treated as if something was wrong with me. As if I needed fixing.

It’s one thing to hate your appearance; those characteristics predetermined by genetics. It’s another to hate the innermost aspect of your being. 

While personalities are certainly moldable, to a great extent, you are who you are and there is very little that can change that. Your tendencies become more subconscious, your actions more predictable and your words, more routine. 

To hate who you are creates a fight within that simply cannot be won. This is a fight that I had struggled with for years. 

Upon coming to college, I told myself I was going to change. I was going to be more outgoing, more talkative and more outspoken. I was going to “put myself out there” as I had been advised.

I failed. 

I kept trying and I kept failing.

I found that the shy, reserved and quiet girl who had lived inside me for the past 18 years was very much still living there, and she wasn’t going anywhere. She is who I am. 

It was only after being at school for about a semester that my perspective began to change. 

Different personalities exist because they are necessary. Not everyone can be a talker because someone has to be a listener. It is the dynamic between the two that allows for the success of exchanges. Maybe my quietness isn’t a weakness, but rather a strength.

It took me years to realize, but I believe there is a certain power inherent in being quiet. It is not my fatal flaw, but rather my inner power. 

When I speak, I have something to say. And people listen. People appreciate that I am there to listen to them, sitting quietly as they share their thoughts and feelings. People appreciate that I am comfortable with silence. People appreciate that I am keen on nonverbal cues as I use my other senses in the absence of my words. People have come to appreciate my quietness.

While I have grown out of my shell since my days in middle and high school, now speaking regularly in class, sharing my ideas and thoughts with others when warranted, I still remain quiet.

And now I can proudly say, I am that quiet kid.

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