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By Holly Jackson


“Why Are You So Quiet?”

Walking hand-in-hand, a proud little girl and her apprehensive parents entered the school gates. As they wandered through her classroom, the little girl was full of excitement, pointing out her innocent drawings on the wall, and her coat hook with her name displayed. This room was where she spent 6 hours a day, five days a week: reading, writing, learning and growing. Whilst her teacher showered her with academic praise, the little girl gleamed with pride. Her parents learnt of her mature nature, as she excelled in her studies compared to her peers. As the meeting draws to a close, the dreaded phrase echoes through the room, and through the little girl’s head.

“She is very quiet though”.

You would think that this attribute would be ideal for a teacher who holds a classroom full of small children. Instead, this feels to the little girl like a sharp jab at her apparent lack of confidence and therefore lack of any real value in her class.

For the rest of her eighteen years of education, she would hear these same words from teachers. Each time they became harder to hear.

The little girl told herself that she would grow out of being shy and quiet. Every time an adult reinforced this message, she reminded herself that one day, she would prove to everyone that she is capable of contributing. But as the years went on, she got closer to being held accountable to her own words. The constant dread as she got older, knowing that sooner or later, she would have to snap out of it and transform into her most confident self.

That little girl was me. It is me. It will always be me.

The point of realisation hit me like a tonne of bricks. But the bricks didn’t hurt me. They healed me. I wasn’t going to snap out of it. Do you know why? Because I am shy girl. I am a shy woman. That is who I am. I am also an anxious woman and have dealt with anxiety for all these years. I didn’t receive any support for this, not from those who were supposed to support me, or more importantly from myself. I repressed my feelings and ultimately repressed my true self. I did this so that I could fit the mould that society made for people to progress in life.

Why can’t we just be quiet? Observant? Good listeners? That little girl would have benefitted a whole lot more from these descriptions, encouraging her to be herself, not creating even more anxiety as she tried to navigate through these unfair expectations.

If you resonate with this story, you are not alone. Being introverted, or as they like to call us, “shy”, is not and never will be a bad thing. We are polite, thoughtful, intelligent, curious and observant. I like to remind myself that those with the quietest voices have the loudest minds.

The views expressed by the contributor are not necessarily those of Anxiety UK, nor can we guarantee the accuracy of the information provided. If you would like to write a blog for AUK please email [email protected] for more information.

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