When I was seven, I was among the rowdier kids in my class. I remember hitting boys with my water bottle, countering the popular girls of my class, revolting against my girl gang and being thrown out of said gang for being a rebel. There was no regret. For me, my actions were justified.
We had just moved to a new city. A few weeks in, I was invited to a birthday party of a girl who was my age. I remember being very excited because I loved parties and meeting new people.
I got ready and went to the party. There was a DJ – at a seven-year old’s birthday party! I was shocked, but made the most out of it. I did not know a single person there, not even the birthday girl, but I went to the centre and started dancing. I danced as if there was no tomorrow. That’s how I made many new friends.
Three years later, we shifted back to the city where I was born – where most of my relatives lived. I was introduced to a lot of new faces. I think I was overwhelmed. I became unusually quiet. One reason was the language barrier. People around me did not know Hindi, and I knew Hindi better than my mother tongue, the local language of the city.
I made friends, but started to feel shy while talking to them – a new feeling for me. As the years went by, I became more and more reserved.
Throughout those years, my relatives and friends would repeatedly ask me questions like “why are you so shy?”, “why are you so quiet?”, “why don’t you talk openly?”
Over time, these questions grew into declarative statements like, “she is a quiet person”, “she is shy”, “she doesn’t prefer to speak much” and “she is very reserved”.
This was the point when I completely shut down. Unknowingly, I put myself in a box where I limited myself to behaving like the labels that people had assigned to me. Every trait or characteristic that people used to describe me fit into the category of being an “introvert”.
So I decided, that was what would define me.
From then on, every time I was asked to describe myself, being an introvert was the first thing to come out of my mouth. I conditioned myself to become an introvert. Readings books extensively, staying indoors, talking less, being reserved, not going to parties, spending alone time – this was all that people saw me do and this was all that I restricted myself to be.
However, at that time, it did not seem like a restriction to me. In my mind, it was just who I was; who I was meant to be. I was okay with being an “introvert”.
I was 18 when I attended my first college fest. On the first day of the fest, there was a DJ and I could see my friends gesturing, indicating I should join them. Every bone in my body was trying its best to pull me to the dance floor. However, the shyness in me took over. It denied my body, which was so eager to join my friends, from dancing.
Later, that night, I introspected that moment. Why would someone, who used to love dancing so much, shy away from the same? How did someone who used to be so rowdy, now be so afraid to voice her thoughts?
Understanding how drastically I has allowed myself to be conditioned by how others viewed me, I realised how much I had been missing out on.
That very night, I decided that I did not want to live in the same old box. In fact, I did not want to restrict myself in any box or label. I was determined to explore my true self.
There was a DJ night on the third day of the fest. This time, I went to the dance floor and let loose. My friends were shocked to see me dance so freely and wildly.
It came as a surprise to me as well. I did not know I had a wild being inside of me, waiting to be unleashed.
Santhoshi Bhadri is a second year psychology student at Amity University, Mumbai.