Written By: Aishah Mahmud
I like to talk a lot.
I can talk your ear off about my day, my opinions, my questions, anything and everything. I can talk for days – provided you’re a good listener and I’m comfortable with you.
However, that’s not always been seen as such a great thing.
During one of these long conversations, I was telling my sister exactly what I thought of the person who parked their car in the red zone and forced my bus driver to stop in the middle of her turn because she refused to be responsible for damaging some, and I quote, “incredibly expensive” car. In the middle of my rant, my sister interrupted me to say, “You know, you talk a lot.”
To which I responded by promptly shutting up.
There is little else in this world as discouraging and disheartening than being told by a loved one that you talk too much.
This wasn’t the first time I’d heard such a comment. I’m often reminded that I am “highly opinionated,” that I become increasingly louder the more excited I get, that I’m a great storyteller - all different ways of pointing out I like to talk. But, like many others, I take criticism personally, and the implication here was that I talk too much.
And so, I quickly ended the conversation, sprinted through goodbyes and stewed over the following questions:
Do I talk too much?
Does everyone else think I talk too much?
Should I stop talking?
My immediate reaction upon coming back to my room was that I should ask my best friend what she thought. But despite my confidence in our relationship, I hesitated before texting her. I was scared that in the process of asking, I’d ramble through an explanation, and even more so, that she would say yes.
Talking to others is my method of processing my emotions, of maintaining my long-distance relationships, of keeping myself happy and sane. But in the span of a few seconds, because of a six-word statement, suddenly I couldn’t talk.
When I did muster up the courage to reach out, my friend replied with a strong no and advised me to ignore criticism unless it was constructive.
Of course, I knew my sister had no intention of silencing me. She didn’t mean to send me spiraling into a state of insecurity and confusion. But unintentionally, she pushed me to realize why it is important for me to talk.
As a woman of color, I spend a great deal of my life feeling the pressure of silence.
I am reminded time and time again that it’s “unbecoming” to be so passionate, to draw so much attention to myself. I've been silenced by people who think they hold more power and more control over my stories, my thoughts, my emotions – despite the fact that none of these belong to anyone but myself.
Speaking is healthy. By talking, whether it’s a little, just enough, or too much, I learn how to take control of my thoughts and communicate my story and feelings to other people. But, as someone who has had my story told over and over again without my permission – by mainstream media, Donald Trump, and Islamophobes for example – it’s about time I learn to take pride in talking, whether it’s on a small scale with people I love, or to a much greater audience.