Quiet and proud – making peace with selective mutism

Quiet and Proud - Making peace with SeFor a long time I felt like the word ‘quiet’ haunted me. Everywhere I went – no matter who I met, or how far I ran – the adjective would be there, waiting for me. I never knew when it might pounce … sometimes I would think I had escaped, but ultimately it would find a way in. Just as I thought I’d left my ‘quiet’ nature behind and become the confident, self-assured, friendly, bubbly girl of my dreams someone would lazily remark,

“It’s always the quiet ones!” and smirk in my direction.

Ugh! how I hated that. It took less than one second – the simple utterance of one little word – to reduce my self-esteem levels from hero to zero. Nobody knew how long I had worked on building myself up; on re-inventing myself; crafting my personality into something that I believed would be more socially acceptable and less open to judgment.

In moments like these (and there have been many) I felt like the rug had been pulled from under my feet – and somehow the floor that laid beneath the rug had disappeared too. I would feel myself falling – and as I tumbled down, my sense of self would shrink with it. The world seemed so big and far away, and in those moments I felt as though I was a tiny little version of myself running around inside of my large and disconnected body, desperately trying to be heard.

Sometimes I realised that I couldn’t even hear myself. The words that I wanted to say – my words – felt small and meaningless. I was living in a World where I felt like I should be shouting and showing off, but I felt like I had no place within it. In new situations, I would watch other people, desperate to learn as quickly as possible who I was expected to be, and how I was supposed to behave. I had very little sense of individuality – I simply wanted to fit. I wanted to be accepted.

My words crept into the shadows.

Other people’s words filled my throat, and I enjoyed the sense of belonging that I felt as I talked with other people. For a long time this joy at being just like others lit me up so much that I didn’t notice the small person inside of me, patiently waiting to be remembered.

Talking and belonging feels good – but it cannot fill the ache in your Heart that belongs to the real person that you are. It cannot replace the fulfilment that speaking words fuelled by passion and purpose can create.

When you speak only to feel that sense of belonging and normality that you once longed for, a deep emptiness begins to form inside of you. You realise that you have been motivated by a need to prove your worth in a world that seems t0 undervalue your quiet sensitivity. You realise that you have cast your most endearing qualities aside in your struggle to gain acceptance, and to escape judgment. No matter how far you go, you realise that you can never have all that you want without embracing the fullness of who you are.

Beautiful. Sensitive. Empathic. Creative. Playful. Passionate.

Quiet.

When I was growing up I heard this word mentioned with too many negative associations, and with too much questioning. I didn’t like it. I was young and impressionable. I thought there was something wrong with being quiet, and so I set off on a mission to change my inherent nature.

Like an oak tree who longs to produce apples, my quest was fruitless. I was fighting against myself for so many years, desperately longing to prove my worth and to become a fun and crazy extroverted version of myself. Many of my words were not my own – spoken only in my mission to prove that I had value just like everyone else. The ability to speak became my currency, and I associated my worth with my contribution to a conversation.

Thing is, as I look back today I long to return to the little girl who I once was. I long to tell her how worthy and wonderful she is – and I wish I could let her know that all these questions and judgments really don’t matter.

I wish I could share with her the amazing qualities I can recognise now, and to tell her to stay true to herself – and her words – and to let them emerge naturally, and when they are ready. I long to connect with all that she was, before she started layering herself with behaviours, words and thoughts that weren’t really hers – before she became an adult who had no idea where to begin.

Today I understand and appreciate my value – whether words are available to me or not. I am able to speak in almost all situations, and most of the time my words are my own. I speak from a place deep inside of myself, and I’m learning the difference between speaking because I want to, and speaking because I think that I should.

I am deeply grateful for the years I spent hiding, because it feels so great to reclaim my place in this world with this perspective. I realise that it is never too late to become the person I never thought I could truly be, and each day the little person I once kept inside is growing a little larger and a little fuller. Today I like myself, and I like where I’m headed. Being quiet is okay – because this is who I feel like I was born to be.

6 thoughts on “Quiet and proud – making peace with selective mutism

  1. I’m reading the book Quiet–The Power of Introverts in a World that Cannot Stop Talking by Susan Cain. If you haven’t read it, please do….what a wonderful book! It will validate everything you’ve said about being quiet!! We all have to start recognizing that being called “quiet” shouldn’t been an insult…as I have felt it was when many people have called me that!!! I am working on replying with “thank you!” Best to you!

    1. Absolutely Lisa!! Thanks for your comment – it’s amazing how many of us take ‘quiet’ to be insulting, and I wonder how many people actually intend it that way? I always felt that other people had no idea of the pain they were inflicting on me when they called me quiet, they were simply saying what they saw. I love your idea of replying with “Thank you!” x

  2. Very beautifully written. This reinstates my belief in respecting this aspect of a loved ones nature. Thank you

    1. Thank you Nisha – and you are welcome! The more we all respect each other and our inherent natures, the more we all get to enjoy being who we are! Thank you xx

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