When I was younger I would often get comments about how quiet I was. Usually from well-meaning adults who thought they were doing me a favour by pointing it out to me. Perhaps they thought I’d have a light-bulb moment, and start discussing the merits of wearing a pink clip in my hair rather than a purple one for the next hour.
Their words would often be accompanied by a sideways tilt of the head where, if I closed my eyes, I could imagine the speech bubbles appearing from them. The ones that would be saying ‘Poor girl. Poor, poor, girl’. Perhaps they thought they could ‘fix’ me and I was dealing them a hard blow by not engaging with them. Other grown-ups would get a puzzled, somewhat confused look on their face which would often be accompanied by an onset of frown lines.
The children on the other hand wouldn’t be quite as tactful. Their actions often spoke louder than any words could as I realised kids didn’t always want to hang out with the quiet girl.
Over time I started to believe that being quiet wasn’t going to get me far. The reactions of others were making me feel there was something wrong with me. So as I got older I found myself trying harder – I decided I had to be more outgoing, more louder if I wanted to fit in.
This continued right through university and beyond, to when I started working. In my head I was equating being more outgoing to having friends.
But it soon became tiring being someone I wasn’t. It might have been getting me ‘friends’ but they weren’t the right ones. They weren’t friends with me, because I wasn’t showing them the real me. I was hiding that away. They were friends with the image I was projecting of myself.
I was spending a lot of time presenting a version of myself to the world that didn’t entirely reflect who I really was. At the same time I was hiding certain aspects of myself away. This was creating a barrier between myself and the outside world and ultimately leading to a disconnect.
So instead I set myself a challenge to tell others something about me (the real me) that they didn’t already know. It wasn’t always anything big, but something I felt comfortable sharing and which helped them understand more about me. It might be something about a hobby or a funny tale about my childhood.
Not only have I found this a really simple and authentic way for others to get to know me, but it has opened up conversations as others share more about themselves. I began to discover where we have things in common and this has led to some deep connections which I now value enormously.
I’m no longer afraid of showing my quiet side, because I know now there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s part of what makes me me and I can connect with others knowing they are genuine connections.