A Thinker in a World of Talkers

By Amanda Slate

I am an introvert. I’ve always been an introvert, and I always will be an introvert.

While I admittedly dread the term introvert, it is an essential piece of who I am, and as hard as I have tried, I have never been able to escape the label.

I think my disagreement with the omnipresent reminders of my introversion stem from the fact that I did not realize my introverted behavior was not “standard” until I was told it was wrong. Throughout my early childhood, I did not think twice about my social patterns, nor did I see anything unusual about the way in which I conducted my life.

In preschool, I remember the other girls in my grade fighting over whose turn it was to wear the princess dresses, while I was busy watching the fish tank in the classroom and wondering what the fish do when school is over. I had a rich, vibrant inner life from a young age, and I did not see anything wrong with it.

It was in pre-kindergarten when my teachers first brought my reserved nature to my attention. At recess, they politely informed me that if I were to speak up more in class, I would be included more in recess activities with my classmates. This would be a first of many times when an outside source assumed I wanted to be a part of the crowd but just did not know how to do it.

Through the beginning of lower school, my tendency to get lost in my imagination worked to my advantage. Instead of getting lost in side conversations during class time, I would work my hardest on my schoolwork. I never felt the pressure to adopt that cool and aloof pre-teen attitude that seems to be pervasive among elementary-age children. Instead, I was a perfectionist who would pile green vegetables on my lunch tray, hold my hand high when the teacher asked a question, and craft two art projects when I was only required to make one. School became a place for me to use my creativity in a productive way.

Although I was quiet and reserved, my creativity and perfectionism led to my love for performance. When I was in first grade, my parents enrolled me in a singing program, hoping it would encourage me to come out of my shell. My teacher wanted me to sing a solo at the end of the recital. After the solo, I became completely wrapped up in the performing arts. I spent my time on the playground writing songs; I became involved in every musical at my local Jewish Community Center; and I was the lead in my school plays. Whenever I told someone about my love of performing, they were shocked and reminded me that I “seem so shy.” However, I never thought of myself as a shy child. I simply did not speak unless I had something to say, and when I was on stage, it seemed as if I had everything to say.

In middle school, this outlet for singing continued, but only on my singing YouTube channel and behind closed doors. When a group of boys found my singing YouTube channel and I became a target of bullying by my peers, I still did not stop singing. In fact, I turned to empowering songs about overcoming obstacles such as “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child and “Fighter” by Christina Aguilera. While I might have felt scared and withdrawn during the school day, at night, when I was alone, I was a self-assured pop star, singing to my stuffed animals, waiting for my big break.

I may have been alone, but I was not lonely. However, others did not see it this way. My mother and I argued constantly over whether I was happy alone. To a concerned, extroverted mother, there was no way I could have been happy without a bountiful group of friends behind me. As a result, I pushed myself to become louder, more giggly, and more outgoing.I finished middle school with a steady social life but I was not myself, so I decided I would start high school with a more genuine approach.

The beginning of freshman year was a difficult transition. I did everything I could to break into the social sphere, but it took me until the middle of sophomore year to become part of my first real “friend group.” For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by people who embraced my introversion instead of making me feel guilty for it. Little did I know, these girls may have liked my quiet nature because it made me seem aloof and non-threatening.

Over time, I intentionally made myself even more quiet because I knew that this persona was what led to my acceptance. I was afraid that speaking up would ruin my chances of fitting in. Unfortunately, my suspicions were correct. When I outwardly became more true to myself, I was no longer the person who was once accepted, and I no longer fit in with my previous group of friends. Although this change was difficult for me, it was important for me to realize that my introversion is not an excuse for me to hide my feelings and my truth.

Alone again, I turned back to performing to distract me. In the spring of my junior year, I was cast as the bookish Brigitta Von Trapp in The Sound of Music. Brigitta, who is independent and curious, reminded me of my younger self. I learned to fall in love with this role the same way I should have fallen in love with what made me different from a young age. The similarities I had with my character helped me reflect on my past, celebrate parts of me that I had once seen as flaws, and forgive myself for my mistakes and for being so hard on myself. I no longer needed to dwell on the embarrassment of being a quirky adolescent because my quirks make me a kinder, insightful, and more empathetic human being.

It was not until this year that I learned to fall in love with my introversion and accept my quiet disposition as a positive addition to my personality. I am no longer ashamed—nor will I accept being told that I should be ashamed—that I feel deeply, imagine vividly, and think often. I will not make myself more than I am or less than I am to please anyone else.

I have a rich inner life and intend to enjoy it without embarrassment to the greatest extent possible. I will surround myself with people who want me to reach my full potential and who believe in my abilities. I will no longer second-guess myself because I stray from a certain standard. My imagination has kept me grounded and content throughout the years, and I will not abandon what brings me joy.

I am an introvert; I am an artist; I am a thinker; and I am not ashamed of my past, present, or future.

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  • Found your article after googling – “Being a thinker in a world of talkers.” I am actually an ENTJ on the personality scale, but I live in my head, it’s quaint there and I need to think, but being around others who just want to talk is like a car accident in my mind everytime.

  • Melanie Pastuck

    “I have a rich inner life.” This sentence resounded within me. I sure do and never quite appreciated it or was able to put it into words that way. Thank you!

  • Karen

    I was that girl who, upon moving to a new area and new school at age 9, walked around the playground on my own thinking and looking at nature or reading. Quite happy in my solitude. Teenage years were tough as I just would not and did not conform to the girls’ ideas of “normal” and was bullied quite horrendously. I still struggle sometimes in my 40s. I moved to be with my now husband, leaving behind what I considered to be the best of friends. However they have moved on without me and I have moved on too. I have visited them on numerous occasions but they have not travelled the 50 miles to return the visit. I swing between being more than happy being on my own when hubby goes out on a bike day, to feeling very low and lonely. Strangely, I love nothing more than having a spa day by myself. I don’t have to talk to anyone or make an effort to be anyone other than myself and disappear into a good book!

    • Monica

      This was so me too! I was bullied as a child and also as an adult in a couple of workplaces 🙁 I have also moved a couple of times, taking the time to visit old friends and not finding that reciprocated, which hurts. I also love having spa days, and I have a massage every 6 weeks, after feeling guilty for wanting that “luxury” for years. I joined a book club (online), some 15 months ago and it was the best thing I ever did! I am immersed in the world of books, have become a reviewer of unpublished books and feel really good about my place in the world. If you friend me, I will join you up, if you like 🙂

  • Gineta

    Hi Amanda, great writing and so nice that you know who you are at a young age. Do you still have the YouTube channel? Would love to see and hear the videos of you singing.

  • aaron iruoghene sylvester

    I have never been so hold to accept my introversion personality. I feel ashame anytime I am reminded of my person. Thanks for this recipe. I think I have a stand now to take up from

  • Terry

    I’m so grateful to have found a place with people like me. I wish I had had your wisdom at your age.

  • Carl Oiler

    WOW…I am so proud of you.Introverts let your true self shine.We are AMASING!

  • Amanda Olivar

    Your story is very relatable. Kuddos to you for being true to yourself and pursueing your dreams. I have also had my fair share of self denial in order to belong. People can be so cruel, and ultimately no one wins when we all compromise our true selves.

  • Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Monica

    I LOVE this article and I especially love that you have come to the realisation and appreciation of who you are at such a young age. I have struggled with much the same things but its taken until I was 50 before I decided to embrace the real me. Good on you Amanda 🙂

    • Carl Oiler

      Me too.Im 51 and for the first time in my life I feel free and enioying myself like the child I didn’t get to be.Its so good!

      • Monica

        Hi Carl, for some reason, I only saw your comment today. I am glad that you are feeling like yourself for the first time too, never too late, is it 🙂 It’s funny, but I never expected this phase of my life to be as liberating as it is but I am so glad! Have a lovely day.

  • Amanda De Ath

    This article brought tears to my eyes, I admire your courage to be your true authentic self. Thank you for sharing your thoughts Amanda.

  • Michael Lapointe

    Awesome that you learned this at your young age. I too was seen as “quiet” in school and rejected the “in-crowd” … never trying to follow the status quo. This irks some extroverts with proclamations that you are somehow “weird” for being so quiet. I was in my 40’s before I felt comfortable in my own introverted shoes.

  • Nigel Thompson

    Proud, proud, proud of you! I have a thoughtful, brilliant daughter, a bit younger than you, of whom I’m also very proud. At the age of 43, I’m still feeling and finding my way with regard to introversion and high sensitivity. Clear, sincere voices like yours are inspirations to younger people and to those who are older as well. Wish you solid walking and ever-unfolding insight on your path.

  • Tsholofelo

    Reading this made me appreciate my introversion,being a thinker in a talkative world is not a bad nor embarrassing thing.Most of the times im more to myself and bury myself in books ,i love been alone and i must admit i dont feel lonely at alone.Most of my teen years ive been ostracized and laughed at and thought off weird and stupid ,but after reading this article it warmed my heart and appreciate the person that i truly am.Thank you Amanda 🙂

  • Whatsoever

    Exactly what i feel. Thank you, Amanda.

  • Lisa Cullinane Slate

    Hi Amanda. I know you don’t remember me because I haven’t seen you since you were a little girl…The last time was probably when you and Michael and Rian and Oie were in your Uncle Jason’s wedding in Florida. My name is Lisa, and I’m Rian and Oie’s mom. I just stumbled on your article on Facebook and didn’t see until the end who the author was! Your article is wonderful and so beautifully written. You have a gift for writing. Clearly it runs in the family! I, too, am an introvert and really appreciated what you shared. You are a beautiful young lady and it’s nice to know you are happily introverted 🙂 BTW, say hi to your mom and dad for me!

  • Statmom

    That was beautiful. It’s so great that you have accepted yourself at such a young age. It is only now in my 30s that I have become comfortable with who I am. I embrace it and I am not ashamed of it. The book Quiet by Susan Cain and this web site have been very validating and inspirational for me.

  • Thanks for this article Amanda. I don’t like talking nearly as much as the people around me. I’m a good listener though.

  • David Pool

    What a refreshing piece of writing Amanda! I’m so glad you are embracing your introversion. It’s a treasure, and something you share with billions of people across the planet. So even though you are alone at times, you are in great company 🙂