One of my students in the summer school I'm teaching at this summer is shy — shy to the point where she hides her head behind a book every time she speaks aloud, and on normal occasions it's almost impossible to understand her inaudible voice. It's not that she can't raise her voice; with close friends, she's unrecognizable, her tone petering out as I address her with some question or put the spotlight on her. The thing is, I see myself in her every time I call on her and though it may seem cruel, I constantly tell her to raise her voice and become a lion.
I learned the hard way that the voices of mice go unheard in a world of lions. I don't mean that the rest of the world are alphas, or out to tear my throat, or anything that drastic or even that being a lion is somehow something to be frightened of. It's more about having a voice in a world that won't always wait to ask your opinion — even if the decisions it's making are yours.
Meek girl, shy girl, quiet girl — I was always content enough to be described like that because, I figured, it wasn't as if I were likely to go out and exchange personalities. The older I got though, the more I realized that people didn't understand the issue with my voice. The way they put it, I was either crazy for not talking when I clearly had something to say, and were frustrated when my attempts at making conversation began and ended with flushed cheeks and a plethora of stammering and stuttering.
The problem wasn't my being shy, the way I'd defended to myself throughout the years.
The problem wasn't even that I was an introvert — because we've all seen the power of introverts alongside more extroverted personalities. The issue was with believing I could get by without having to change a single aspect of myself; regardless of whether that's a disposition geared towards crippling bashfulness or some other aspect of nature, we are none of us perfect. There is always some part of ourselves that we should be striving to improve and in my opinion, if a person can't find an area of improvement, then that area is definitely his or her ego.
I might still consider myself a mouse but I know that I can yank out that lion voice when it's necessary. And whether for good or ill, it's often necessary to pull out that voice because as content as I may be, I cannot be content with letting others run their spike-studded silver boots over my life. There are times when I have something to say, and a thousand crippling thoughts submerge me in their depths: What if I'm wrong? What if I get ridiculed? What if it's my fault? What if… That was the best part of having to find my lion voice — not eliminating all those what-ifs, but learning to quell them enough to make a tentative peace with them. I guess I feel more confident knowing that I can have a say, and it can be ludicrous but everyone is still going to hear it. I even have a catchphrase to repeat to myself when I'm having inhibitions: I am a lion, and you're going to hear me roar (it sounds much less crazy when you sing it to the similar catchy phrase in Katy Perry's "Roar").