All my life I've been hearing those three words, or words to that effect. From nursery, to university, right through to my working life, I've been labelled as 'the quiet one'.
As a child I suppose I was always shy, maybe not as loud and as confident as the other kids, but I always tried my best to be a little louder and get more involved. Which is why it was then even harder to hear those words, especially as being a larger character didn't come naturally, and I was consciously trying which rapidly became exhausting.
More recently, introversion and characteristics of introverts have been highlighted, particularly by social media, as a characteristic of a particular personality. That is exactly what it is, it is part of my personality, part of who I am. I no longer think of it as a 'bad' thing, how I have always felt it has been implied, I've learned to embrace it.
I can't help thinking that this quality is something that made me more vulnerable in my past abusive relationship. Abuse can happen to anyone at any time, so this is not to say introverts are more likely to be 'targeted', however I feel in my situation he definitely used this to his advantage. He used this particular aspect of my personality to bully me, knowing full well that it would hurt, it was a weak spot. Given any opportunity he would tell me how 'quiet I am', that I need more confidence, and use it as a point of ridicule when he could see that I was uncomfortable.
For a while before I acknowledged the abuse I took this to heart, full force. On top of all the times it was said to me whilst growing up, this hit me harder, I began to think there really was a problem with me. In the past these comments had hurt, from teachers, fellow students, employers, but usually I could shrug that off because they didn't really know me. However now I was with someone that I felt knew me, loved me and cared for me, so why was this being used as ammunition against me? For him, my introverted side was a weak spot, easy prey. For me it was a part of me that I'd not yet learned to embrace, that I still considered a weakness. One event where this was evident was at a wedding of one of his family members, I knew a few members of his close family and that was all, and as we didn't live close I didn't really know them all that well. To be honest it was an odd event, so most people would have felt uncomfortable, he sensed my unease and called me out in front of his family a couple of times. Then later, after we'd finished the meal and the music started, he left and started talking to a guy on another table. I got a drink, spoke to a couple of his family members for a little while, then returned to the table. He was sat on the next table staring at me, he started calling my name, loud enough so others could hear, and told me not to 'sit there on my own and go talk to people', which is exactly what I'd just been doing. He said it so scathingly I could tell others felt awkward. I ignored his comment, and after a few minutes I took myself outside for a break from the situation. Normally, wouldn't your boyfriend stick with you, introduce you to others, involve you in conversation? Normally yes, unfortunately he was far from what is considered to be normal.
I was outside getting some fresh air for around 20 minutes, sat with my drink in the sunshine. He eventually came looking for me, claiming I'd ran away and no one knew where I was, proclaiming that I was 'an embarrassment' for doing so. I said I just went for some fresh air and was only gone for a few minutes, he followed me into the ladies toilets and continued to belittle me in front of his sister and another member of his family.
At this point of the relationship I had already become wise to what kind of person he was, and I remember periods of intense anger this day. Anger at how he could treat me like that, and especially in front of others. At this time I also believe he had started seeing the other woman, so his behaviour started to fall in line with what was happening in his life, he'd started to slip up and lose control.
That was probably the last time I saw his family, and after that event I was glad. The following morning I started to question my 'quietness' and my confidence. It wasn't until months, maybe years later that I realised my battered confidence was because of him, it was absolutely not my fault.
If you have read any of my previous blogs you will know it's been a long road to rebuilding my confidence. I would say that right now, yes it could still be improved, but I'm happy with where I'm at. I've regained what I lost, I have control, and I understand my emotions. Most importantly I know that being 'quiet' is who I am, and I love it. I don't like pointless conversations to fill the silence, I don't like talking about my holidays with a hairdresser, I like meaningful conversations, or those conversations with close friends where you can chat about anything and everything for hours. So if you think I'm quiet, maybe you're just not talking about anything too engaging.
I like my own company, I like the occasional silence, I like privacy, I like the few special and truly priceless friends that I have. Introversion is nothing to be afraid of, embrace it and enjoy everything that comes with it.