Have you ever been in a situation where you’re thinking, “Okay, but that’s not quite right-” or, “Oh, I was looking at it in a different way,” but those words never actually leave your mouth? Or perhaps, you might be one of those people who process ideas differently, and only when you’re about to sleep does your mind give you the ultimate reply to a question three days ago.

As an introvert with some social tendencies, I enjoy a good time of catching up with friends once in a while; but, there are times when I would somehow inadvertently keep my thoughts to myself, no matter how much I’d like to contribute to the ongoing conversation around me. At the same time, the very same thoughts haunt me at random moments and I internally kick myself in the shin because now I’m left to entertain imaginary discussions my mind comes up with, instead of actually learning something new from someone else.

And it’s a struggle, no matter how many times we may have poured out our hearts in regretful rants to those who know how we’re like; with too many opinions and too much hesitation to let them slip past our lips. This could have come about from a childhood trauma, or one too many slip ups that had caused a relationship to deteriorate due to careless words, but they all lead to one conclusion: silence where there shouldn’t be any.

I was once like that; perhaps still a little bit like that, but less so in the recent years. And I’ve attributed that change to a number of reasons.

1. Age

Age has a way of sneaking up on you. I still remember getting lost in the park when I was five, like it was yesterday. And yet, I can’t quite recollect what I’ve achieved this past week in terms of my own personal goals, but that’s probably more due to habitual forgetfulness than anything else. In any case, the person that I was at sixteen could never have dreamed of the person I am right now at twenty-four; only by growing older could I have learned to allow myself the freedom to make mistakes as I share my own opinions, and learn from others more knowledgeable than I am along the way.

2. Experience

Experience naturally goes hand in hand with age. The older you grow, the more you become exposed to new situations and experiences. Things like getting your first part time gig, leaving home for college, and that big interview for your very first grown up job; these are things that will have shaped your own thinking and influenced your perspective on certain issues. And it’s only with experience that you become more confident in the way you assert your own ideas to everyone else.

3. Healthy relationships

Surrounding yourself with people who support you and aren’t afraid to set you straight is key to building that confidence. However, a healthy relationship doesn’t consist of a puppet that nods to everything you say. Rather, it’s a two-way street of communication where you have a space to share your own opinions, controversial as they may be, and be safe in the knowledge that there is no judgement for them, merely a foundation for a fruitful conversation with each other.

With all of this said, this isn’t to say that there’s anything wrong with being quiet and opinionated; on the contrary, it’s precisely because of that that your voice matters. The world thrives on a chaotic mesh of ideas that come together because of the different ways we think and act out on those thoughts, and it would be a crying shame to deprive someone of something that could benefit them in any way. So the next time you feel like you might have something meaningful to say but might be too afraid of the consequences, clear your throat, and test out the waters by sharing that thought in a calm but self-assured manner. At least this way you won’t be kept up at night by scenarios that didn’t actually happen.