Modern culture often feels like a world that caters to the extrovert; to the one who shouts the loudest. Outgoing and loud over reserved and quiet in a duel. It can be tempting to think of those who are quiet or soft spoken as weaker than that those who are loud and abrasive. The description of “good leader” is often in step with “charismatic extrovert.” I used to try and try and try to be louder and less reserved – for so many years I thought, “to be loud and outgoing means to be good enough to be liked.” Or in the professional realm, “to verbally contribute every meeting is the only way to make sure I’m seen as a good employee.” I’m not sure when exactly I came to the realization that gregarious doesn’t actually mean better, or when I settled in the place of acceptance that I’m never going to be a loud person (and that trying to be isn’t going to help anybody). But I have come to that place, and in doing so, I have uncovered a bit more of the joy that can be present in life – the sort of joy that only shows up when I own my characteristics rather than being ashamed of them.
The world needs more quiet leadership. More listening. Less shouting and trying to be the one who gets the attention. Less trying to be something you are not just because culture says a certain way of being is desirable.
So, if you have ever been described as quiet, introverted, or perhaps even the dreaded “shy” – know that it’s okay to be those things. Know that your voice is needed, and that it can be heard in ways that come through without trying to be something you are not. Know that there is strength in softness. Know that while being assertive and speaking up can be important, you don’t have to shout and be at the front of the room all the time to make your voice heard. Know that you can make a positive difference in the world by being who you are right now.
If it feels good to push yourself to step outside of that much discussed “comfort zone” – do it. There’s room to grow and do hard things. But there’s also room to own what makes you who you are and to lean into the ways of being that suit you best. If being quiet and soft spoken is who you are, don’t try to be loud. Use your strength in the quiet ways that work best. Because when you do, you’ll be stronger for it.