I've always been the quiet one. For my whole life, people have treated me as though the volume of my voice defines who I am, as if my quietness is the only thing about me worth noting. People often judge me and make assumptions. Sometimes they're right. But more often, they're wrong. There is more to me (and everyone, for that matter) than what is on the surface. If you want to get to know me, just talk to me. Be patient and give me a chance. You might just be surprised by what you find...

1. I do talk.

Believe it or not, I do not exist is silence. I am perfectly capable of speaking when I choose to. If you haven't heard me talk much, it's probably because I don't know you well enough to feel comfortable talking around you. I just don't know what to say around strangers. And if I do know what to say, the words get caught in my throat. It's nothing personal; it's just anxiety. But if I do know you well and if I am comfortable around you, I will not shut up. I could talk forever about nothing and everything.

2. It's not because I "don't like people."

Many people assume that, since I'm quiet, I must not be very fond of people. That's not really true. I enjoy interacting with people, and I desperately wish to connect with people. I just have a hard time doing that. Almost every day, I tell myself I'm going to attempt to make a new friend. I tell myself I'm going to talk to that person in my class. I want to be social. But as soon as I leave my room and see people, I freeze up. I get nervous, and I decide today must not be the day.

3. I'm not boring. I can and do have fun.

Sure, I do prefer a night into a night out, and I may not exactly be wild or anything, but I do occasionally enjoy venturing out of my room. I enjoy listening to music much too loudly. I enjoy driving around. I enjoy exploring nature. I enjoy concerts, even though I hate crowds in any other situation. I say weird things and make weird jokes. I know I'm funny even if no one else believes that I am. If I feel comfortable around you, I am not afraid to say what's on my mind. Sometimes I like to turn my filter off.

4. I actually do have something to say.

There's a universe in my head and it's threatening to spill over. I have so many things I want to say. That's why I write. Writing is much easier than talking. But someday I will work up the courage to tell the world how I feel using spoken words, and I am eager for that day.

5. Telling me to "speak up" won't change anything. It's not something you can fix.

My biggest pet peeve is people who say, "Stop being so quiet. You need to speak up." If I could stop being so quiet, maybe I would. But it's not that easy; my personality isn't something that can change on command. And besides, there's nothing wrong with being quiet. I repeat: There is nothing wrong with me! Sure, sometimes I wish I could be a bit more outgoing, but I am able to recognize that being quiet does come with some advantages. Most of the time, I listen more than I speak. And when I do speak, my words have more impact because they are so rare.

6. Thanks, but I don't need your help to "come out of my shell."

I've always despised the common trope in which the energetic, outgoing person takes the shy, quiet person under their wing and attempts to change them. I am not a helpless creature who needs someone to hold my hand and guide me. All of these attempts to "help" me are more offensive than helpful.