I don’t talk a lot. In the past people have described me as quiet, shy, introverted – stupid even.
If you’re not familiar with the educational system in Germany, there is a thing called “oral grades”, which are in essence grades formed on the basis of how much you participate in class, how often you answer questions, how much you raise your hand. As you can probably imagine I didn’t necessarily participate much in class. As a teenager I put that down to just shyness, as an adult I know now that that was my Social Anxiety slowly making its way into my life. So me not talking and not participating as much in class as my fellow classmates led to a whole year long spiral of teachers either forcing me to participate or trying to give me unsolicited advice on how to do so.
None of them ever bothered asking why I didn’t talk much. And there were many reasons as to why I was silent. The first one being that I was absolutely terrified of messing up, of saying the wrong thing, of mispronouncing a word, of possibly voicing a different opinion. I was fixated on what people thought of me, I was afraid of being laughed at or ridiculed. So in my mind, it was best not to give them any more reason to do so than they already had. Asking for help or assistance or even for someone to do me a small favour was another thing that I did not do, and still struggle with today. For me, asking for help always made me feel extremely low, like I was nothing but a burden. I simply didn’t want people to be tasked with the extra pressure of helping me as well. I now realise that asking for help is absolutely fine, and that most people are glad to help you in fact. However, at times I still try to do a lot of things on my own, that I know I can’t manage by myself. There is a lot of stigma and guilt attached to asking for help or guidance in today’s society. Everyone wants be strong, manage on their own – asking for help is seen as a weakness. A mindset that I had ingrained in my head for so long that it literally silenced me.
Another reason is that I simply don’t enjoy talking which has a lot to do with my ears being hypersensitive to certain sounds but also, I really don’t enjoy small talk or anything like that. I don’t know where to begin, what to talk about and if I do I immediately start to over analyze every sentence that leaves my mouth. Talking, for me, is a very tedious task and most of the time I’m extremely uncomfortable when I have to talk to other people.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy having a conversation or discussion, but most of the time I simply prefer to be left alone with my thoughts. It’s a lot less stressful. Conversations always have an element of surprise to it, since you never really know what the other person is going to say. And that alone scares the living hell out of me. I like things to be planned, down to every single detail, and the second something slightly unexpected happens, it will stress me out more than I can say.
Probably the biggest reason why I don’t talk a lot is a whole array of bad experiences. People love to tell me that I “need to open up more” or that I should talk about my feelings more and the like. Yet, so so many times when I did just that I was either invalidated, laughed at or whatever I said was then blatantly used against me. Regardless of whether that was by friends, family or strangers, it’s experiences like this that make you shut down. You sit and wonder “Why did I even bother?” – I closed off every single part of myself that could possibly make me vulnerable to another person’s judgement. Now, I realise that this kind of coping mechanism is probably far from ideal, yet it takes years to unlearn things that have brought you comfort in one way or another. Even talking to people online, on a big platform or in private messages sometimes still feels overwhelming. It’s in one way easier to open up about certain things, since I do know that there are people out there who are genuinely interested in what I have to say and who care, but at the same time you are making yourself all the more vulnerable to people who are out to hurt you.
Not to forget that there are some situations that simply do require some talking. I hate them. They’re uncomfortable, they’re scary – yet they are necessary. I often find myself imitating another person’s way of talking, their accent, their slang words, their sentence structure. It’s one of those things that I do that help me feel somewhat more comfortable in talking to people.
Personally I think that I have made a lot of progress in getting to talk to people more. It’s hard and to be very honest, I would prefer silence over some senseless chatter any day. However I know that talking itself isn’t such a bad thing at all. After all, it is a vehicle for me to get my message out there.
I know my silence is comfort, it is a way to protect myself, something I have internalised for so many years that I now find it extremely hard to do what’s most uncomfortable for me – to speak, to open up. But I guess that’s what growth is all about, challenging what’s uncomfortable, learning from it, changing, reflecting. I’m working every day on finding ways to challenge what feels most uncomfortable for me, simply because I realise that it is necessary in order for me to progress on whatever path I am on right now.
How do you feel about talking? Do you enjoy small talk? Or are you happy just being silent with your own thoughts? Drop me a comment below, I really appreciate it!