Marsha Pinto, a recent graduate and speech therapist in the San Francisco Bay area, has written articles for publications including the Huffington Post, has been interviewed by a producer from The Ellen DeGeneres Show and is the founder of her own online awareness campaign, Softest Voices. All of these have centered around the topic of introversion.
Pinto has written about introversion throughout high school and college, and she faced her own challenges as a quieter person.
“As a young child I always had that goal of, ‘Oh I need to speak up about this issue, but I don’t know how,’” she said.
This sentiment followed her into her education. Pinto felt that she was sometimes treated unfairly as a quiet student.
“My participation grade was always impacted, and teachers were saying things like, ‘Oh maybe she doesn’t know what she’s doing because she’s not raising her hand’. And then my grades were impacted because of that,” she said.
And it wasn’t always just about school work or participation, either.
“A lot of my teachers weren’t encouraging,” Pinto said. “They used to tell me you can’t really be successful with your personality. They would discourage me from certain jobs.”
Pinto didn’t let her introversion or such discouragement get in her way, deciding to speak about it at a local speech competition and share her experiences in her senior year of high school.
“I really loved public speaking … I would enter these public speaking competitions every year at my school,” Pinto said. “So that year in particular, I had the idea [to] make this into a speech and talk about my experiences.”
The speech was a success. Pinto got first place and went onto the regional competition. The enthusiasm and agreement that her speech elicited were an added bonus.
“Even the judges … related to it,” Pinto said. “I began to realize I’m not the only person who’s experienced this injustice of being quiet in the classroom. And that perked my inspiration to make this a bigger thing that could reach more people.”
In the summer between high school and college, she got an opportunity from the Huffington Post to do just that.
“There was an editor there who reached out and asked me if I’d like to write for them,” she said.
Pinto’s first article was an adaptation of the speech she had written.
That article did very well and she continued to write for the Huffington Post.
“I used that platform to expand my thoughts and reach a broader audience,” Pinto said.
From there, Pinto continued to broaden her audience. She got a call from a producer at The Ellen DeGeneres Show, who interviewed her. She has also been quoted in a Washington Post article. Since then, she has been quoted in and written articles for various platforms.
Pinto asked herself: “Why stop there?”
“I decided why not make this into a campaign, so I started my own website,” Pinto said. “I would have little online campaigns where people would share their stories no matter how old they are.”
And thus Softest Voices was born.
Full of inspirational quotes and dedicated to empowering introverts, Softest Voices is geared toward younger people.
“[It is for] anyone from kindergarten to right up to college age who [feels] like they’re not being graded the right way because they’re not participating, or they’re having trouble having a social life and thought of as weird for just being different,” Pinto said.
The website is for more than just introverts, though.
“[It’s also about] bringing awareness to not only educators, but also parents and other people involved,” Pinto said. “Just bringing acceptance. It’s okay, these people don’t need help or anything. It’s not a mental issue, it’s just a different personality type.”
While at school, Pinto traveled to and spoke at various campuses. She also wrote pieces for platforms like the Today Show. Although she isn’t able to travel that way anymore, she has brought all of this with her into her work as a speech therapist and continues to write for magazines about children’s language and speech development.
Pinto said she has gained greater insight and a different perspective as a speech therapist.
“I have learned more about seeing parents and what their concerns are,” she said. “A lot of times parents will come and they get these recommendations from a teacher or a psychologist, ‘Oh, your child has this problem because they’re not speaking.’ And they get super worried thinking it’s a disorder or medical problem. Lot’s of times it’s not that, it’s just a different personality type.”
Pinto said her work helps her be an advocate in a different way.
“[I am] able to tell parents that I was sort of like that when I was younger and it’s not a big problem and people can still be successful,” she said. “You just have to find different ways. As a speech therapist I’ve … [been] able to advocate for that population.”
Being a quiet person in a loud place — whether it be a school or the world as a whole — can lead one to feel out of place and isolated, according to Pinto. But, for all the introverts out there who share this sentiment, the answers don’t lie in that too-loud environment, but within oneself.
“What I found useful was to just find things that I liked,” Pinto said, referring to her love of public speaking and acting. “That’s what I encourage all of the introverts and those who are socially anxious to do, to find those strengths and then capitalize on that and prove to everyone who said ‘you can’t do this’ that ‘hey, I can be successful.’ I think a lot of famous people who are introverts do exactly that.”