“We are each gifted in a unique and important way. It is our privilege and our adventure to discover our own special light.” ~Mary Dunbar
“I don’t want to sit by Teresa. She doesn’t talk.”
I was 10 years old at the time and attending a fundraiser dinner for my softball travel team.
It was the dreaded time when I had to select a place at a large table after getting my plate of chicken and mashed potatoes with green beans.
I sat next to my teammate, who I looked up too. She was two-years older than I. She was fierce and badass. She was honest. She didn’t take shit from anyone.
Clearly, she didn’t feel the same about me because in response to my sitting next to her she said, “I don’t want to sit by Teresa. She doesn’t talk.”
This occurred twenty-three year ago, but it is still so vivid in my mind, partly because comments such as this were commonplace to me when I was a child. Other forms of abuse included: “Why don’t you talk more?” “Why are you being so quiet?” “What’s wrong?”
Even though I got these comments often, they always took me by surprise, as my mind was never in a peaceful place.
When I was at the fundraiser dinner, I thought, “Was I really not talking? I guess I’m having a full-on conversation with myself in my head.”
I noticed all the different kinds of people that were at the dinner. I remember all the different sizes and shapes of people. I remember the noise and how frantic it was. Some people rushed to load their plates with chicken, mashed potatoes and other foods. Others stood in a corner waiting for the line to die down. There were little kids running around. Chairs screeched and were moved across the floor. I wondered why we were doing a silly fundraising dinner.
I dreaded the moment I would have to choose where to sit and fill up my plate. I noticed how our group was divided into usual cliques. I didn’t know where I fit in. I can remember feeling uncomfortable in my ten year old body.
So, when my teammate commented that I didn’t talk, I was initially confused because my mind was very active. When I became injured, I began to question my health.
Then I just froze. Now I certainly wasn’t going to talk!
If you’re introverted, quiet, or shy, then you know the debilitating effect such comments can have, especially as a kid.
This incident and others shaped my belief in myself from my teenage years to my adult life. I believed that I was quiet and that there was something wrong with me.
I felt the need to conform to a world where the loud, bold people seemed more at home than the timid, quiet introverts.
In high school, I remember hanging at friends’ houses so lost in my own head, spiraling about what I should say, which usually resulted in me freezing and not saying anything at all.
In college, I tried to fix my inadequacy with drinking because I found that with a little liquid courage I could open up and be “normal.”
As an adult I would hide in the restroom at conferences to avoid having to make awkward small talk with a stranger sitting at a high table, eating stale biscuits and drinking bitter espresso.
I didn’t really have a fear of talking, sharing, or raising my hand in class or in a meeting. The time between small talk and socializing was what paralyzed me. I felt that this was the time to crack jokes and make witty comments. But I felt helpless.
At thirty-three I have rewritten that story of fear and inadequacy and written a new one that is grounded intuitively. It’s a knowing that…
1. Perceptiveness and quietness are my two greatest strengths..
I can read the energy in a room and quickly determine what people want and need (sometimes). My quietness makes me a space-holder expert for my clients.
2. I welcome and appreciate my grounding earth energy.
Yesterday, I reconnected to a high-school friend who told me that she has always admired the power of my silence.
3. The few words I have to say in front of groups are thoughtful.
People have told me many times that they listen to what I say because they are interested in the content.
4. Sometimes, non-verbal communications that come from the deepest part of the body are even more powerful.
Through my eyes, I can have a full-on conversation with strangers. These conversations often leave me feeling more connected and full than verbal conversations.
To uncover these knowings, I excavated my inner landscape through all the usual routes—you know, journaling, meditating, running, breathing, dancing. I’d like to pause and reflect on the last point. If there’s one thing I know for sure in this life, it’s this: dance more.
Every morning I start my day by dancing to a song. This practice helps me to deepen my relationship with my body and myself. In dance I express aspects of my self that I cannot express verbally. By dancing, I’ve been able to release physical tension and break through limiting beliefs. Sometimes, our worries and fears are just energy that needs moving through the body.
Dancing is about embodying yourself. We can work on our mindset to help us understand and overcome our beliefs. But at some point, it’s time to stop trying. Just be yourself. I love to dance. It’s one of my favorite ways of being.
Let me leave you with some thoughts.
There is nothing wrong with you. There is no “right” way to be or to express yourself, except for the way that feels true and safe for you. We are all unique individuals with multi-faceted personalities and paradoxes. We are both introverted, and extroverted. We are also cautious and courageous.
Here are some things I would like you to know, as an introvert.
1. Don’t assume I am not speaking. If something is not right, I will be bold and clear about it.
2. Don’t mistake my introversion for aloofness or pretentiousness. I am deeply aware, engaged, and inspired by everything that happens around me. I’m just taking it all in.
3. I love people. I need time for recharge after socializing.
4. When you call me out for being quiet at a social gathering, it feels like I’m being attacked. This used to make me feel attacked, but now I don’t. Please trust me to speak up when I need or want to.
5. It’s fun to observe at social events. This brings me great joy.
6. Small talk is difficult for me. It doesn’t mean that I am against small talk.
7. It takes me longer than most to respond to a particular question. So please be patient.
All you extroverts reading this!I’m interested in you, too. Please feel free to share any information you would like me to have about you.
Here’s to me being me, and you being you, and us being connected through it all.
About Teresa Towey
Teresa Towey has been a mentor and coach for women since 2001. She curates both individual and group spaces that guide women back to their wild and visceral natures by connecting to the earth and to the body. She focuses on helping women to express their sensuality, and live in harmony with their menstrual cycle. Follow her on Instagram and check out her website. DM her for a FREE 1:1 session.
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The first time I saw this post, I felt inadequate. Now, my introversion is a superpower.