Ever since I was a little girl, people often used one specific adjective to describe me: quiet. Just the word alone would make me cringe. I have memories that go all the way back to grade school, classmates, or even teachers asking me, “Why are you so shy,” or, “Why don’t you ever talk?” I always hated getting asked these questions, wanting to yell back at them, “Maybe I just don’t want to talk to you,” or, “I don’t have anything to say!”

The word "quiet" played a huge role in my self-esteem growing up because the people I heard it from were loud and boisterous — the total opposite of me. It wasn’t exactly the word itself that bothered me, but the tone of voice that came with it. When people said it, it made me feel as if something about me was bad — that there was something wrong with me because I didn’t speak every thought that came to mind, or because I enjoy the silence rather than being afraid of it.

I used to think that as I got older, maybe something would happen inside of me, magically turning me into a beautiful, social butterfly: someone who could talk to anyone with ease. That didn’t happen. Although now, at 19 years old I have come out of my shell a little bit, I am still quiet. I still get incredibly nervous to do presentations in class or to talk to strangers. The word 'quiet' still gets thrown around when describing me. The only thing that’s changed is that I’m perfectly fine with it now. I love who I am, and I know that in our loud, hectic society today, we need people like me. People who are more thinkers than talkers, and who take the time to not only hear people but to actually listen to them.

I know now that being introverted is simply one facet of the person that I am. However, as an insecure middle schooler, I didn’t know that. I let one word define me. I let a few irrelevant, insignificant people in my life put a label on me, rather than listen to what the people who loved me had to say. Yes, people have called me quiet, but they have also called me kind, funny, talented, and smart. But I didn’t hear it. Often we hear only the negative words from people, and drown out the positive words because we don’t believe them. Getting older helped me hear and really listen to those positive words. I don’t cringe anymore when someone calls me quiet because I am. And I want all of the other quiet people out there who receive rude remarks from people who don’t understand to know: I understand. God made us all unique and special, and not everyone is supposed to be loud! To quote a famous introvert and fellow “quiet girl,” Anne Frank,

“I think a lot, but I don’t say much,” and that’s OK.