Growing up my biggest role model was a talker. She could talk and talk and talk about anything and everything. She had a ton of friends and people were constantly telling me how sweet she was and how much they loved her. As time went by I equated the two: talking = being loved. I figured the only way to be popular and have lots of friends who thought you were awesome was to talk a lot. This was all good and fine except for one thing…I was and am a quiet person.
It plagued me as a teenager. When I was in a large group, I’d freeze up. You wouldn’t hear a peep out of me. In small groups with close friends, I could talk a lot, but with new people it was hard. With boys, it was even harder. I used to end up getting crushes on every guy I could actually talk to because that was a rare find. I put a lot of pressure on myself to make conversation which only made things worse. The more I tried, the harder it was. I’d say and do silly things just to break up the silence. I was terrified of silence. In high school a group of guys we hung out with called me “Poonch” because in one of those quiet moments I playfully punched the guy I was hanging out with and said that. Argh, to this day it embarrasses me and makes my tummy do flips thinking about it. They would all shout that whenever I walked into the room. It was awful and of course made my quiet complex even worse.
When I got to college I just started drinking in social situations. When I was drinking, I talked and people thought I was funny and fun (at least that was my interpretation of it). The problem was when I’d meet party friends while sober, there was nothing to talk about and the magic was gone. I started and ended a few “friendships” that way. In my desire to be talkative, I have often gotten caught up in gossiping and complaining…because hey, it’s something to talk about. I never really thought about the negativity involved in either of those acts because at least I wasn’t being quiet.
Over the past year I have reconnected with old friends and a few people have said one thing about me. “You were always a good listener.” Most of the time (unless I am really distracted) I AM a good listener. I have always looked people in the eyes when they talk and almost always remember what they tell me. In college I actually trained myself to stop remembering people’s names (I know, crazy) because I felt stupid for ALWAYS knowing the names of people I met at parties when they did not know mine. It happened so often that I just said “fuck it” (Of course as an adult I’ve had to retrain myself to catch names).
I have finally begun to stop judging myself for being a quiet person. I talk to people I connect with and I talk about things that are important to me. I don’t try to force myself anymore. I try very hard not to gossip, although I do still catch myself from time to time. My greatest desire is to be a good listener and a trustworthy friend. Those are the attributes that will bring loving relationships into my life. And I know for certain it is quality not quantity that counts!