Last week, a friend invited me to an event her organization was hosting. As my friend escorted me to a seat at a table across the room, a woman whom I had never met (a member of my friend’s organization) jumped out of her chair eager to meet me. She glanced at me, looked at my friend, and said, “She looks afraid!” This stranger probably chairs the welcoming committee and must do a stellar job of it🙃😛 😂 

The next day, I brought this issue up with my friend, who said not to pay the lady any mind because “some people say the most ridiculous things.” 

After careful consideration of what happened at that event, I recalled what a motivational speaker advised: Don’t take good or bad comments to heart because such statements are a projection of themselves and their viewpoint. If they’re in a good or bad mood or having a good or bad day, that’ll reflect in what they say. And it’s true. That’s what others’ criticisms of me is really about: themselves.

That stranger whom I encountered wasn’t the first to criticize me or make such an ignorant statement. I’m an “ambivert,” meaning I’m a blend of introvert and extrovert. There are times when I’m out and about networking at social gatherings. There are other times when I keep to myself and observe my environment. So when I’m an introvert, people mistake my reservedness, lack of interaction, and thoughtfulness for me being “afraid,” “scared,” “weak,” “pathetic,” “easy to control,” etc.

In general, I do a lot of introspecting. I pour a lot of thought into what I write and say. I’m especially not someone who spits out whatever is on her mind onto social media. So it’s a shame there are many people in society who believe being an obnoxious, in-your-face loudmouth who shoots off every belief and opinion that crosses their brain is an ideal character to aspire to. Being that I’m not someone who fits that mold, I can see why many people have deemed me as a useless loser who should be cast away or tossed in the trash. I’m not saying this because I pay attention to or believe that narrative 😂; I’m just explaining my lived experience the way it happened. 

Many, many apologies that I’m not the way society dictates me to be 🙃 😂 — a society that prides itself on autonomy, individuality, and “following your heart” as long as the person abides by 99.9 percent of what everybody else wants. I guess I’d be a much better person — a “stronger,” “more fearless,” and “more assertive” person in society’s eyes — if said society would microchip and remote control me to behave however it wants me to behave. But for now, I’ll just do my thing, what I’ve always been doing, which is being myself.

I don’t expect any violins to play in the background when I say this: I’ve endured so much hate — being called nasty names, criticized, bullied, and others trying to take advantage of me. All these are methods of guilt trip and manipulation just because I’ve had the nerve (insert pearl clutching here) to set my boundaries and pursue my own happiness, which doesn’t hurt them except their agenda.  

So, to all those who have had such misconceptions about me (including the stranger at the event I attended): 

I see your mistaking my reservedness for being “afraid,” as if you’re comparing me to a caged abused animal. I don’t know you, but perhaps you’re having a bad day, a bad week, or experiencing some hardship. Maybe you’re hurt, fearful, angry and have whatever negative emotions welled up within you. Maybe you’re feeling a lack of self-love. I don’t know what’s happening to you, with you or within you but perhaps all you internalized created the perfect storm for you to project your negativity onto other people such as me. Maybe your saying I’m “afraid” is really you who are afraid of whatever that may be.

I hope and pray your day, week, and your life circumstances get better. Perhaps by loving yourself more and seeing yourself in a much better light, you will resonate that love and positivity in other people, and therefore project your positive self-image onto others. It’s okay to be happy and courageous. It’s okay to focus on the bright side of life. I’ve had my dark days; I used to be a cynic, but by working on myself and my boundaries, I learned I am worthy, I am loved, and I can give that love to others. So don’t be afraid😉. Just have faith, and everything will work out.

Blessings!

Teresa Edmond-Sargeant is an award-winning journalist and author. She released her first collection of short stories “Inner Demons” in October 2020. She is the author of the short story ebooks “Eve the First,”“For My Sister,” and “Sammy’s Butterflies.” “A Symphony of Silence” is her second poetry collection. She will release her debut novel “Warding Off Reality” in August 2021.