Today, we live in a society where if you cannot be heard you will not be found. Being social and outgoing is held above everything else no matter where you turn: job interviews, college admissions, classroom discussion or any other sort of group setting. Where does this leave the quiet and contemplative? Here the line is drawn between the extroverts and the introverts of the world. The common reaction is to think that being an extrovert is the key to success, because that is what our culture supports. Marsha Pinto is here to tell you oh how wrong that is.
“For a while I was known as the quiet kid and faced a lot of misunderstanding and bullying from both teachers and peers at school. There was the tendency for them to think that being quiet meant you had no potential for success.” Pinto easily identifies what a lot of introverted students feel throughout their school years.
Garam Kim, a West Ranch freshman, talks about how it can be difficult to participate in classroom discussions, “Sometimes they [extroverts] have loud voices and it’s like, when can I jump in?” She says she tries to participate as much as possible, but makes the point that, “timing is very important.”
Pinto and Kim were both asked about what they wish people in authority knew about introverts and responded with similar answers. They, like so many other introverted kids, want teachers, parents, bosses, and more to understand that introverts and extroverts cannot be compared or judged based on how much they speak.
“Shyness is not who you are but rather how you feel. Shyness is not a disorder and there is no reason to label a person as shy without really getting to know them,” said Pinto.
How can this social stigma be changed though? That is what Pinto set out to achieve when she founded softestVOICES, a mission to let the world know they should never underestimate the power of a quiet person. So how could this 19-year-old self-proclaimed introvert find her voice to start such a movement?
“When I was a sophomore in high school I entered my speech called, ‘Being Shy About Being Shy’ for the school’s public speaking competition,” Pinto moved on to the county-wide Lion’s Club Public Speaking Competition where she was met with outpouring support. “After I recited my speech, there were so many people from the audience that came up to me and began thanking me for speaking about accepting a quality that so many had tried to reject.”
Pinto’s speech spread through the Internet like a new cat meme, later published in the Huffington Post and recognized by “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” All over the world people began to stand up, and urged softestVOICES to be born in August 2013. Since then, Pinto hasn’t strayed from her goal.
“I’ve heard various stories from people from ages 40-80 years old, about how towards adulthood they began to hate themselves for being quiet all because of the negativity for the quality during the time they were growing up. My aim is to prevent the current generation of quiet youth from feeling this way and to let teachers, parents, and students know that being quiet is not such a bad quality to have. By speaking at various schools and connecting with people through my Huffington Post blogs, I aim to emphasize the benefits that come with being quiet and amplify the voices of quiet youth by bringing awareness to the mistreatment that many of them face at school, home, and in the schoolyard.”
So what’s an introvert to do?
“My best piece of advice for introverted people would be to continue being themselves and be the person they are comfortable being. People may continually ridicule you for being quiet, but do not let it stop you from reaching your goals. You can do anything you put your mind towards.”
To participate in the softestVOICES campaign, tweet out your thoughts with #softestvoices or visit the website to read and share stories with people across the world. Studies show that introverts are about one-third to half of the United States population, so stand up and start connecting. Let the softest voices be heard!