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We have all seen the many articles online on Thought Catalog where introverts are encouraged to embrace their true selves and to not be afraid. This is due to the fact that generally the western world tends to value being outspoken and outgoing.
Serving as a direct contrast, Asian cultures tend to undervalue those traits in favour of conformity and being dutiful. This thus leads a reversal where introverted traits tend to be valued and praised in favour of more extroverted qualities.
Growing up, I was always an extrovert and an outgoing individual. I had come from a Westernized family as both my parents had taken many parenting lessons from the western world.
“To be a friend, you first need to be a friend.”
This has been instilled in me by my parents growing up, and I still hold it dear to me to this day as I find it very true and relatable. In fact, I am usually the initiator for hangouts or catch-up sessions and would be the one to reach out to friends long gone.
Despite this, I had also grown up going to a Chinese primary school. As one would expect, the stereotypes of Chinese schools are indeed true as they all tended to be very studious and quiet for the most part. I stuck out like a sore thumb here as I loved making friends and getting to know people.
In fact, I have had classmates who long and desire to talk to certain people they admire or want to befriend but wouldn’t as it would be improper or rude. I found this notion absolute nonsense and told them as such but they would not budge.
“Your son talks a lot during class, if he keeps his head down he can really be a top student.”
My teachers used to tell my parents this every report card day, as I was an average if very talkative student. In fact, I had my position as class monitor stripped due to the fact that I was a very talkative person. It was a crushing blow at the time, but I soon have taken that to be the norm.
Ironically my teachers had recommended me to be appointed a prefect, which I had come under some stern warnings for not being as strict with my duties as some of my other peers.
As I went into a government high school, I actually felt some of the confines of Chinese school fall away as government school was not as results-based and I could actually breathe.
Funnily enough, I still got the same lectures that I tended to be a bit too talkative as compared to my peers and my group of friends were more laid-back and were generally considered the slackers as opposed to some of my overachieving classmates.
One thing I hated the most was that we were expected to be inquisitive but if we questioned the teacher or if we wanted to offer a contrary point, we would be seen as ‘disrespectful’. This caused me an immense amount of frustration as you can’t have inquisitive minds who are too afraid to question their teachers. I remember being told off by my teachers for being ‘rude’ when I questioned or spoke up.
“Your son is a disruptive influence in class.”
To illustrate this point, I have had some peers who have gone to a tuition centre where they are expected to memorize essays in order to score well for their English exams. I especially despised this, as it inherently defeated the point of learning said language, to begin with.
I also always hated periods of isolation or cutting off of social contact, which is why I always preferred group study sessions or brainstorms rather than isolated working which I found counter-productive. I understood that periods of individual work are the norm and compartmentalized work could be more effective, but I found this incredibly stifling.
With this in mind, I have had moments where I have been justifiably labelled a smart-ass for piping up with an bad joke to keep myself amused. I have also come under fire for being quite willing to answer questions in class rather than shirk under the infamous glare of our teachers.
“Children should be seen and not heard.”
This was an old school proverb that has been drilled into me growing up. I vehemently disagreed with just showing up for appearance’s sake and this has caused quite a few familial arguments over the various family gatherings.
On this end, I never understood the requirement of being a quiet child and never adapted to it as well as my brother did. I have been told off for speaking out of turn as “the adults were speaking”, to my parents’ credit they did take me aside to say that sometimes I need to be mindful of the company I am in and some mindsets are different.
Despite this, my tale does have a positive spin to it. I am currently pursuing a postgraduate qualification in a profession that fully requires public speaking, speaking up and interacting with a lot of people.
Malaysia is quite a Westernized country but we are still quite Asian by nature. This extends to the view of extroverts as being brash, loud and rude. As we strive to improve ourselves, we would need to shake this perception and view them to be just as valued as introverts.
To my fellow extroverts out there, my advice to you would be to never suppress your extrovert nature but always be mindful of the situation and context at hand. Cherish your boldness and outgoing nature and never let anyone devalue you otherwise for that.