photo: Adria Valdes Greenhauff, Vivala
Being Latina comes with its fare share of assumptions, even today. "You must have a huge family," "You must be super confident," people often say. When someone finds out you’re a Latina from Miami, it’s like they’re expecting some version of Sofía Vergara that’s ready to dance, sing or tell a hilarious joke at the drop of a hat. Each time you can’t deliver, it feels like you’ve mildly disappointed everyone.

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Even among fellow Latinas, it sometimes feels like there’s this unwritten standard of energy and sass one must adhere to in order to avoid family and friends asking, “¿Pero que te pasa?” “¿Por qué estás tan callada?” It’s exhausting, especially at large family gatherings where each person seems to be purposely talking louder — and with more fervor — than the next person.

Ever since I was a kid, I was quiet — not depressed or antisocial, just quieter than your average Cuban kid from Miami. I loved reading, listening to music with my headphones on, and preferred solo writing assignments to group projects.

Throughout college, despite being highly involved in campus life, I preferred small dinners among close friends to enormous parties where you could potentially run into anyone you’ve ever known. Sure, I had a ton of friends and navigated a packed social calendar with what seemed like the greatest of ease. Still, I was internally exhausted and secretly wondered why being social sometimes felt like more of a task than something fun.

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These days my social life has settled down a bit (and I’m totally feeling it by the way), but I still struggled with the need to be social, outspoken, and spontaneous enough. Then a few months ago I saw a Ted Talk that literally changed everything.

Susan Cain, lecturer and author of the book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, is on a mission to change how the world works with and responds to introverts. During the talk, Cain shared her own struggles of growing up introverted, recalling a time when she went to summer camp and a fellow camper disapprovingly called her “mellow” when she saw Cain reading. I felt instantly connected to her. Hooray, I wasn’t totally weird!

As Cain explains in her talk, being introverted isn’t a sign of social anxiety or any other psychological condition. In fact, recent research has shown that introverted brains are already overstimulated. They also have naturally higher heart rates and EGG rates that indicate excitement. This is why outside stimulation can sometimes feel like “too much” for an introvert. "Introverts seem to be born with a level of arousal that is higher than average," Bernardo J. Carducci, director of the Shyness Research Institute, Indiana University Southeast, said in an interview with Today. "This is why they prefer not to be around loud noises and big parties."

Extroverts, on the other hand, don’t have these high levels of internal energy, which is why they are driven toward outside stimulation like loud parties and large group outings.

Learning more about introversion has helped me feel more confident in my own skin, especially when I’m in a situation where I’m surrounded by boisterous and outspoken people. There’s nothing “wrong” with being an introvert — or an extrovert, for that matter. What’s important is learning to be true to yourself, and if that means enjoying a bit of alone time every once in a while, then do your thing.