OPINION: “Be yourself, just quieter”

Graphic by Meghan Joyce

There is an unwritten rule that all socially conscious individuals know to be true: One may not ever question the shyness of another. How rude!

We have been conditioned into this understanding; reservedness is still considered less than socially acceptable, but, nevertheless, admirable.

This is not to say there is anything wrong with innate introversion — insert “some of my best friends are shy.” Rather, there is a double standard to which extroverted and, yes, the “loud” among us, are held.

I am not typically reserved. Even at my most reserved, I am perhaps animated to a greater degree than most. I do not go one day without some smart aleck telling me to “use my inside voice” as if it’s the first time I’ve ever heard it.

I know this may shock some, but that is really just as rude as telling a gay man to “stop acting so gay” or telling a woman she “needs to smile more.”

No one has the right to tell another to be less than his or her authentic self. That principle applies to monitoring others in all realms of life. Unless you’re a parent (grandparents and guardians apply, too) or a teacher, butt out.

Even outside, I am quieted!

“But I’m using my outdoor voice,” I too often reply to random strangers who feel they are entitled to direct me how to talk, act, or behave.

Again, what would otherwise be an unthinkably rude and inappropriate incursion into people’s rights to live their lives as themselves is not given a second thought by the acquiescence of bystanders or by the individuals perpetuating restrictive societal norms.

Loud and boisterous people are frequently assumed to be extroverted and comfortable in their own skin. While this may be true for some, for others it is certainly not the case.

It may be quite distressing, perhaps even traumatic from a young age, for some livelier people to be told that by the very nature of being themselves, they are violating unwritten communal rules and contributing to their own ostracization.

Society busts the creativity out of kids. Ever since I was young, adults and (obnoxious) peers have commanded that, for the sake of society and my future, I sit still, write more neatly, stop doodling, and, above all, be quieter. Not speak more quietly — be a quieter person. I have been told to change who I am.

This brings me to one of my favorite phrases: “You do you.” Despite its questionable grammar, the sentiment hits home. It’s the true American ideal for which we constantly strive. It is freedom.

Indoors and outdoors, I am told to be something other than myself. Only in the solitude of my room and in the presence of no other person is it permissible for me to speak and conduct myself how I naturally would, enthusiastically and without reservation.

I am forced to present my tempered self in the classroom and around campus as I hope no one would be, but fear that many are. Let me do me, and I’ll let you do you.

Zachary Freiman PO ’20 is a music and public policy analysis double major from Sleepy Hollow, NY. He seeks retribution for Merrick Garland in everything he does.

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