It’s really no secret that I’m an introvert. I’ll tell anyone who asks, and I’ll tell them with pride. But I didn’t always feel that way. The stereotypes that go along with introversion are frustrating and belittling. And I’d like to make it my goal to make people think otherwise.
Over this past weekend, I had a woman come up to me out of nowhere and say, “you know what? You are the quietest person I’ve ever met.”
This definitely isn’t the first time someone has told me I’m quiet or asked me why I am so quiet. And based on my track record, it sure as hell won’t be the last. But throughout the many years of being probed about my “quietness”, I never understood why anyone cared. Why does it matter? Why do people feel the need to point it out or demand an explanation?
The short answer, and one I don’t necessarily want to run around telling nosy strangers who prod at my own personality, is that I tend to be a quieter person because of my ever-present social anxiety coupled with my general introversion. I talk to people I feel comfortable with, and prefer to speak when I have something of value to say. Growing up, I had a small group of solid people I could trust. When I was with my friends, we were loud, we made jokes, and to be honest I could actually be pretty obnoxious. But take me out of my comfort zone, and I wouldn’t breathe a word.
I don’t specifically remember the first time a person asked my why I was so quiet. At the time I probably considered it an annoying fluke. However, the question became recurrent and almost haunting. Since then, I’ve been asked by peers, teachers, coworkers and countless strangers.
Last weekend, when this particular woman told me I was “the quietest”, I had to come up with a response. A dilemma I’d found myself in countless times. Yet, no matter how many great replies I come up with after the fact, I am never prepared for someone to outright challenge who I am as a person out of nowhere (is anybody ever ready for that?).
At this point I had never me tor spoken to this woman, but knew her daughter. And while I wish I would have been more clever, I just acted confused, like no one had ever accused me of excessive silence before. I wanted to make her feel like she had been wrong about me, but in way she really wasn’t. I am quiet, sometimes.
I can be quiet. I can be loud. I can be funny. I can be bitchy. I can be kind. I can be sarcastic. I can be generous. I’m a human being, we can all be lots of different things. If I could tell all these people who were confused by my lack of noise one thing, it would be: please don’t reduce me or anyone else to being one thing. And you should never make someone feel bad for being different. Just because they’re not just like you, doesn’t mean their flawed.
I’ve grown a lot over the years. And while this question used to send me into an (internal) blind rage and tore at my young, fragile self-confidence, it doesn’t phase me so much anymore. Sure, I’m irritated by the ignorance that leads to asking a person why they are the way they are, but I don’t let it bother me in the same ways it used to. I’m more confident now, I’ve accepted who I am and I’ll crack jokes at my own awkward behavior. But I’m not done having a conversation about acceptance. I will fight for that, and spread the word the best I can.
The truth is, I have lot to say. That’s the whole reason I made a blog. And even though my anxiety may keep me from expressing those things out loud, it won’t stop me from pouring them all out on here. I have too much to say to say nothing at all.