These are the messages quiet children hear. I received them everywhere, from teachers, friends, parents of friends, acquaintances.
The emotionally hungry, eager to understand what could make someone’s voice so internal. Eager to devour those differences and make those perceived as vulnerable operate on their terms. Terms they understand, terms they’ve deemed the norm, the ideal.
Each time I heard these messages, I resented them. I didn’t want to talk. Being asked to felt like an invasion. An invasion of my space, of my internal dialogue. A dialogue I wanted to share even less when talking was being demanded of me.
I often sat and watched while outgoing children got praised and adored for their fiery attention grabbing personalities. Personalities I envied but knew I could never possess, as my cells, at the time, rejected the mere thought of it.
One of my earliest memories as a child was of my kindergarten teacher yelling at me for not responding to her questions and then making me sit in the corner. I remember staring at her and taking her in as she looked down at me with frustration. And I remember feeling like words were not an option.
I wasn’t being defiant. I wasn’t trying to cause trouble. I was simply living my truth.
My truth at the time was internal. And it was sensitive. And intimidated. And shy. Quiet.
I carried this truth into adulthood. I changed a lot, found my voice in many ways, but the quiet side of me remained, even throughout college and law school. To all but those who knew me well.
I sat in the back. I kept my hand down. I wrote things down. And I listened.
And I learned how to hear the things that words don’t say.
The whispers spoken with our eyes or the delicate movements of fingers and corners of lips. The loudness of animated looks and exaggerated gestures. The sereneness of the humble confidence. The posturing of overcompensation. The tensions of attraction. The subtleties of suppressed annoyance. The animation of pure joy. The uneasy air of the unsettled. The truth and generosity of the truly present.
Looking back on my quiet past, my only regret is the shame I inflicted upon myself for feeling like I was too quiet. For feeling like that was a flaw.
Because it is in our quietness that we can find our deepest truths.
It’s quietness that sharpened my emotional intelligence. That deepened my ability to empathize on deep cellular levels. That taught me to create safe spaces for myself and others.
And it’s from that quietness that I now challenge myself to think on a higher level, above my circumstances and insecurities, to find the real truth in any situation, to uncover life’s emotional mysteries.
And as I grew out of my shyness, through deep rooted self-love and appreciation realignments, it is my quietness that I look back on and thank for making me who I am.
Have you ever been accused of being too quiet?