Growing up I loved watching romantic comedies. I always admired the female characters. The quirky, girl next door-type who, in the end, manages to land the perfect job and meet the perfect guy.
This was clearly an influence for me when deciding on a career. I envisioned I would grow up to be a powerful marketer, working in a nice corporate office, and forming all these great relationships.
But life isn’t a romantic comedy. And we can’t all be the female lead. As I grew up, I learned that I didn’t have the characteristics that I saw in my favorite characters. I’m quiet and more reserved. I’m very selective about the people I open up to and small talk makes me cringe. But my experience growing up with these female characters didn’t teach me anything about how to cope with being this way. Instead, it made me wonder what was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I be like the outgoing and confident characters I saw in movies?
It’s taken me a long time to realize and accept the person that I am (and I’m still learning every day). I’m an introvert which makes me more quiet, not because I can’t speak, but because I’m very careful and selective of when I do. I think this is something that people find really difficult to understand, especially for people who are not introverted. And in a society where extroversion is encouraged, it makes being an introvert all the more challenging.
Being an introvert makes me more thoughtful. I overthink and I analyze. This can be good, but it definitely has its negatives. This, along with my inability to understand why I am the way I am has resulted in some anxiety, which I continue to cope with today. I struggle in my everyday life to find a balance between my introverted self and my desire to be that “female lead”.
When I was working my first marketing job out of university, one of my colleagues said to me, “you’re so quiet for someone in marketing”. I hear this kind of thing all the time. And it upsets me when people comment about how quiet I am. There seems to be this expectation that we all need to be loud; that we need to speak, even when we’re not really saying anything at all because to remain quiet is, for some unknown reason, strange. I think this idea is encouraged everywhere – schools, workplaces, the media.
As a woman in particular, I feel the pressure to be a certain way if I want to advance my career or develop a relationship. But for someone who doesn’t fit that mold, I’ve had to work to understand and learn to accept the type of person that I am. I don’t know if we’ll ever get to a point where all different types of people and personalities are portrayed and celebrated in the media. But I think we need to at least encourage dialogue to work towards a society of openness that embraces different personality types so that people are not burdened with the feeling that they don’t belong. Life is not like the movies, and you know what, it’s okay!
Written by Kathleen Lagunsad