The strong, silent type. The one who rarely speaks, yet when they do, it speaks volumes. The powerful introvert with confidence, grace, and dignity. As a society, we think so highly of these people and often view them with such regard. I know I’ve shared this sentiment. Their stoic nature is admirable, and I’ve found myself envious more times than not. Their eloquence is something I’ve often tried to emulate in an attempt to make myself more approachable and poised. But the truth of the matter is this: no matter what effort I put forth, I will never be the quiet one.
If you have ever had the pleasure of speaking with me about a controversial topic, you undoubtedly know that I am quite opinionated. If you’ve ever asked for my thoughts on any given matter, you certainly know that I will be honest. To put it simply, I am incredibly passionate about…well, everything. I’m empathetic to the utmost degree, which renders me feeling as though I am personally affected by many of the issues on which I speak. Those closest to me, my patient and stoic husband included, would classify me as fiery. For a long time, I thought of these as profoundly negative qualities that would definitely hinder my success. It has taken me quite some time and introspection to realize that these characteristics are, truly, some of my greatest strengths.
You see, it is very difficult for me to not speak up on matters about which I feel strongly, and it just so happens that there are many of them. Most people mistake this for my desire to ‘win’. While I do admit that I am competitive, when it comes to the way other people are treated, or the quality of education in our country, or any other topic that I have a steadfast belief in, I can assure you my outspokenness has nothing to do with winning. It has everything to do with the fact that I seriously cannot stay quiet. Like, it’s not possible. I cannot keep my mouth shut about something that causes me such intense feeling. It is not a desire to speak that inspires me, it is an inability to stay silent while I believe I have something to offer, even if that something is simply words.
This ferocity, or fire, is not always the most likeable quality. Combined with my intense independence, many people find it (and me) off-putting. It is for this reason that I’ve tried to quell this aspect of my personality for so long. I’ve attempted to squash this part of me, this fundamental piece of my nature, to become more acceptable to others. I no longer wish to hide this part of who I am. While I realize that this is could be an unpopular quality, it is my hope that those who know me well will see it for what it is. A truth spoken not out of rudeness or malice, but out of love and a desire for a brighter, more peaceful future. A voice that is so consumed with passion about something that it just could not stay silent. A person who believes in what they are saying and must have it put out into the world to be heard.
This is not to say that I am correct–I should never be so arrogant as to believe my passion or opinion is the only one to be heard. We are only as smart as those who surround us and only as knowledgeable as those we listen to. I would never assert the idea that just because I am loud means that everyone should agree with me. Truthfully, I work hard against that notion. I strive to start conversations, not only so my own voice can be heard, but so that I can hear others. I wish to have my ideas questioned and my beliefs challenged because I may be wrong! It is when we cling to our own ideas and repeat them consistently that the trouble begins, and I attempt to always be open to the opposing viewpoint.
As I reflect on my acceptance of myself, I realize that those who misconstrue my nature as mean or abrasive will do so regardless. The false notion that my honesty and passion means I am incapable of grace or poise will not change. I cannot pretend that this is enjoyable for me or that it does not hurt to know that I will be viewed this way. It most certainly does. When I consider it, I almost want to attempt, once again, to be that strong, silent woman. Almost. But I could not be who I am as well as wear that mask. All I can do is continue to do what I believe is right, and work hard each and every day to prepare the next generation of global citizens to embrace who they are, no matter what that might be.
I am an empath. I am fiery. I am a human. And I am most certainly not quiet.