I've been taking a summer class the past three weeks. It's a small class but there isn't much discussion involved. But I was shocked when on the second day of class while we were having a break to get water, etc., I had this odd interaction with two of the other girls:
I was sitting in my seat, hunched over because of the stupid air conditioning making everything so cold. I guess I must have been spaced out, staring into the distance because one girl who was standing in front of my desk out of nowhere exclaimed, "Oh my gosh! Are you okay? You look so worried."
I immediately snapped back to life and replied that I was totally fine. The girl's friend, who is quite cheerful and talkative, then commented, "Oh, it's okay. She's just quiet. Doesn't talk much but gets all her work done."
I was completely floored, even a little baffled by this comment. I had never met this girl before. We had maybe exchanged a couple of words if even that. We had only been in class one and a half sessions. How did she know I was quiet?? The incident brought to mind another similar occurrence from a couple years earlier. I had been taking an exercise class for maybe two months by this middle-aged lady. One class she was trying to figure out if she had put on the right song to dance to and she looked over and saw me nodding and said, "Oh, this must be the right one. Even the shy one is moving to it!"
Again, I was a bit baffled at how she knew I was shy when there were other girls in the class and none of us really talked or had much interaction with her beyond following directions. After both incidents I felt a bit self-conscious; is it that obvious that I am a shy person? Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Has it costed my getting jobs? The chance to date guys? Do people just write me off? Well, I know that people do oftentimes just write me off. People never guess that I have a zaniness, a creativity, and a sense of humor behind the wide-eyed, closed-mouth facade (actually I have trouble closing my mouth because I'm a mouth breather, but you get the point...) I've had people tell me countless times, "I had no clue you were so funny!" or "Wow! I didn't know you could sing!" or "You seem to comfortable speaking in front of big groups...I'm shocked!" Blah blah blah. It's been quite frustrating to be typed as someone with no personality and no opinions just because I don't voice them.
The truth is, I have struggled with a crippling condition called social anxiety disorder since I was young. Oftentimes, I want to speak, to be myself, to share, to make friends, but I am held back by my brain's programming to second (third, fourth, and fifth) guess anything I say. My quiet voice and body's tendency to pump loads of anxiety chemicals into my bloodstream whenever I'm in social situations doesn't help either. Things have gotten a lot better for me in the last few months as therapy and medical supplements have helped me bring my anxiety and depression issues into balance and as I've gotten more practice being out and about in the world, but apparently I am still "the quiet one". And I still have trouble making friends, much less meeting a guy, which is a distant impossibility. Ha.
I guess that's another reason why I decided to consign myself to a life of singleness, as I talked about in my last post; I've gotten so upset at myself over the years for not talking to guys or taking more risks to try and find someone that it seemed like a relief to just cut that concern out of my life. No more beating myself up for not talking to that cute guy at the event. No more stressing over how I needed to put myself out there and talk to my crush or else nothing would happen between us. Ironically, when I started pushing myself to talk to the guys I liked more, I think it almost did me a disservice; I probably would have been a bit more attractive if I had played harder to get. But I hate the idea of playing games in romance, so I'd rather just be myself. But people would get on my case about not talking to men, so I felt pressure to do so. But I'm sure you don't care.
I think it's sad that we write quiet people off as people who have nothing to say. I do it too. But I've gotten to know a lot of quiet people over the years, and while sometimes we might not have anything to say, most of the time we have quite good points or jokes to make but don't have the opportunity because someone else is always talking.
Read more posts about social anxiety.
Read my article about social anxiety on The Mighty.