“You’re too quiet”, “why don’t you speak more?” “you should be more outgoing”.
Hearing those kinds of comments and questions is enough to make you think there’s something wrong with you. It certainly felt that way for me.
When I was in college many years ago, I made friends with a select few women. I made conversation and had a laugh with them all the time and we got on really well. I was still on the quieter side but that didn’t seem to be a problem, or so I thought.
One day, while on our lunch break, I was, as usual, not talking as much as the women I now considered friends. One of them noticed how quiet I was, mentioned something about my being quiet and immediately added something else along the lines of, “I hate quiet people!”.
No, she didn’t say, I hate it when people are so quiet, she said it in a way that suggested she simply didn’t like them. She may not have meant it that way, who knows, but it certainly made my eyes widen from shock, my brow furrow in confusion and my head lower with sadness. I took it to heart.
“She doesn’t like me because I’m… quiet?” I glanced over, mouth firmly shut, as she carried on casually chatting away, oblivious to the shock I was in. In that moment, I couldn’t help but feel rejected. I thought she liked me exactly as I was but that no longer seemed to be the case.
My confidence knocked and my feelings of not being good enough heightened, I looked away, pretending not to be bothered. I can’t quite remember but I’m pretty sure I didn’t say anything else for the rest of lunch.
Fast forward many years and I still have a quiet and reserved side but it no longer bothers me. I used to want to stop being so quiet, believing the only way to be accepted and liked was to be super confident, get lots of attention and be the first to strike up conversations.
I used to believe being quiet was one of my biggest problems and that belief was the driving force behind many of my interactions, until I chose to be ok with who I am.
How I reached that place of acceptance took a while but that doesn’t mean I don’t have any off moments. The days when I forget that I’m good as I am are the days when I’m stuck in my head.
The voice I hear tells me how I’m nothing special. It tells me how having a quiet side means being overlooked for the rest of my life and because it’s in my head, I fall into the trap of believing it.
I tried a few tools and techniques in the past to help me feel better about myself: affirmations, visualising, emotional freedom technique, journalling, neuro-linguistic programming, positive thinking. I even used putting other people down as a go-to tool until I realised it was unfair and that it was more about myself than them.
Some of it helped, but what made the biggest difference for me was understanding myself. Understanding my need to dance, my need to follow my heart more and not passively drift along in a world where our dreams are mostly fantasies, not something you act on. A world where people want and wish more for themselves but ultimately, sit back and hope for the best.
Understanding that my fear of accumulating a ton of regret years down the line was a signal for me to not wait. To take steps now, no matter how small, to keep my truth at the forefront of my mind.
When I understood myself more, I was able to work with that knowledge to start moving my life in a direction that feels good to me. By doing that, it helped me to feel good about myself too.
I feel a sense of satisfaction and even feel proud of myself for being more true to who I am. While there are many areas that still need my attention, the fact is, I’m moving forward, even if it’s at a snail’s pace at times. I get to feel joy when I do more of the things that are in my heart.
This gives me less time to worry about being ‘too quiet’. I no longer see it as a hindrance. I’ve got more important things to think about now.
So to those of you who say you ‘hate’ quiet people, I dare you to take the time to really get to know one, if you haven’t already. It might take a bit longer than usual, but if you’re willing to be patient, you may find an incredible person hidden behind that quiet exterior.
To those of you who think we should be more talkative, maybe we don’t want to be. Maybe we want to be accepted exactly as we are. If someone wants to be more chatty, that’s OK, they can work on that, and if you can’t or refuse to accept this side of us, that’s OK too. So excuse me while I take your ‘should’ and ‘throw’ it away…quietly.
To those of you who think quiet people can’t possibly feel confident, we can, in who we are. Sure, we may not have as much confidence in other areas of our lives, but that can often be the case whether a person is quiet or not. When we have clarity in who we are and we’re moving our lives in a direction that works for us, we’re happy, we feel more confident and we don’t feel the need to advertise it.
We are who we are. We certainly want to be the best version of ourselves but ultimately, we don’t want to change who we are to make others happy.
So if you’re a shy person who thinks having a shy side is something to be ashamed of, it’s not true. If you think being quiet is bad, it’s not true and if you believe having a reserved side means there’s something wrong with you, it’s simply not true.
Just because some people make it seem that way through their comments, actions and judgements, it doesn’t mean we have to let their beliefs embed into and become a part of the thoughts we hold about ourselves.
It may be true that you find it difficult to make conversation, whether you try to start one up or not. It may be true that you get nervous in social settings at times. It may be true that you have difficulty holding eye contact.
But struggling with a challenging situation doesn’t have to equal a strange, weird or incompetent person. We’d feel a lot less bad about ourselves if we didn’t attach different levels of self-worth to difficult situations we encounter.
To feel at ease with who we are, it’s important to have an understanding of ourselves and accept where we are in life, even if we don’t see it as ideal right now. That way, we may find that any shyness, quietness or reservedness becomes much less of an issue and our attention can then turn to other important areas.
Important areas such as finding solutions that help us to keep moving forward and figuring out how to live our lives in a way that works for us.
We may still experience days where we become wrapped up in silly-awkward-nervous-me thinking but for the most part, acceptance of and knowing ourselves will give us the impetus we need to work through our struggles.