I’ve been called a lot of things over the years: quiet, shy, reserved, socially awkward, rude, a bitch, weird, anxious, anti-social. I’ve heard the cliche, “It’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for!” so many times that I may actually punch the next person who says it to me right in the face. I get “You’re so quiet!” and “Why don’t you talk?” so much that it shouldn’t even bother me anymore. But it does.
I’ve been The Quiet Girl pretty much my entire life. I remember it really starting around age 7, which is when my family moved to the US from Canada. I don’t know if that’s what sparked my extreme self-consciousness, or if I was just destined to be this way, but that is the only event I can pinpoint that may have had something to do with it.
I’ve always preferred reading and being by myself to being around a lot of people. People make me anxious. I can handle one-on-one situations pretty well, but as soon as there are more people added to the mix I clam up and want to melt through the floor to escape. This poses a huge problem for me at work since I’m sometimes singled out in meetings. I react exactly the same way I have all my life: I turn beet red, I start to shake, my eye twitches, and I forget how to put sentences together. Sometimes I’ll even have a full-fledged panic attack, complete with pounding heart, ringing in my ears, and nervous sweat. I’m just the picture of professionalism.
One of my biggest fears in terms of social situations is speaking on the phone in front of other people. Even at home, I prefer to talk on the phone in private instead of in front of my husband, and I love and trust him. Talking on the phone at work is a HUGE source of anxiety for me. Every time the phone rings I say a quiet prayer begging God that the call is not for me. It’s one thing to just have to have a normal conversation, but Heaven forbid it be an angry client who is demanding answers or solutions to a problem. I hate to admit this, but there have been numerous times I’ve just NOT SAID ANYTHING in response to a client’s question hoping that they will get frustrated with me and hang up. And when I have to call people in other countries who don’t speak English as a first language? I will sometimes pretend that no one answered the phone or that they hung up on me, just so that I can send an email instead. I often “forget” to call people back, or I wait until everyone else is at lunch so I can make the call in semi-privacy. Today I had to call some clients and apologize for a mistake with their hotel. I purposely waited until a time that I thought they would be out to dinner just so that I could say I “tried” to reach them but couldn’t. Life would be so much easier if everyone would just communicate in writing instead of speaking.
People often misconstrue my quietness for rudeness. In reality, I just don’t want to make a fool out of myself so I keep my thoughts and opinions to myself. It also takes me time to process social situations, so I often won’t have an answer or an opinion until much later, after I’ve had time to think about the conversation. People have told me I’m stuck up or conceited, which couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m not talking to you, not because I think I’m better than you, but because I sometimes think YOU’RE better than ME.
Honestly, I just find it exhausting having to be around people. It takes so much energy to socialize and try to appear somewhat normal. Small talk is excruciating for me.
I’m clearly in the wrong profession because I am definitely not a people person. However, finding a job that requires very little interaction with others and pays a decent amount of money is surprisingly hard to come by. I’ve begun submitting my résumé for more computer-focused positions and I’m thinking about taking an online writing class. I can’t think of a better situation than to be able to stay home and write all day AND get paid for it. The only thing better would be to read all day and get paid to write about books. How do I make this happen?