*Gasp* "She can speak!"
"Wow, you can actually talk?"
"Do you ever say anything?"
These are all phrases I have heard throughout my life. And it all comes back to the one label that I have consistently had on me since I was a young child.
Ever since I was little, I was labeled the quiet one. Growing up, I did not speak a ton in school; I just sat and listened to the lessons. I was not usually close with the people in my grade, instead making most of my friends in different grades, as I just seemed to click with them more. Nothing wrong with the people in my grades, but they all seemed close to each other while I always felt left out. This made me go into my shell more since I always felt like the odd (wo)man out. I grew up through elementary and middle school known as the quiet, shy, and smart girl. I had close friends who knew I was not so quiet around them, but I did not often seem to stick out to the rest of the world.
As I got older, I made a larger group of friends. I was silly and comfortable around them, but because I had gotten so used to everyone calling me the quiet one, I felt stuck. If I spoke up and gave my input in a conversation, people would fake gasp and say things like, "Wow, she can actually speak!" Or when a teacher left the room, they would come back and joke that I was the one making all the noise, obviously knowing it definitely was not me. Now, I know these were mostly made in good fun, and I would always give out a little fake laugh like it didn't affect me. But deep down, it did. I felt like everyone would overreact if I spoke out, so I fell in line with the quiet label and let it control me, in a way. I often felt that pressure to be smart as well. When I got an answer wrong in class, my classmates would act shocked, as if I should know everything, and that pressure built on me to where I was so nervous about getting an answer wrong in class.
Throughout high school, I was brought out of my shell a bit. Still, it would hurt when someone in my high school didn't know who I was after months of being in school together when we went to a school with under 40 kids in the entire high school. Or when a kid from the same summer camp program I had gone to for four years had no idea who I was.
I know quiet is not an insult. For the most part, people would just mention it as a fact. Because it was true, I was usually quiet. But I suppose it hurt because it felt like everyone calling me quiet never actually took the time to talk to me. It felt like everyone thought I was just boring with no personality. They never took the time to have a conversation with me and realize that I had other personality traits.
And I am not saying I had a terrible childhood. I actually had a really great one and think God gave me so many blessings growing up. But taking a step back and looking back, I can definitely see a theme of feeling left out and isolated growing up due to this label I had weighing on me.
When I went to college, I told myself it would be different. I wouldn't let myself be known as the quiet one. No one knew me there, I could make a whole new identity for myself. Still be me, but actually speak my thoughts more and speak up in large group settings. Yup, that was my plan. It would be great. I could be free without feeling this label on me.
Throughout the first few months at college, I started making a big group of friends. We would hang out every day. I finally felt comfortable in a big group, like I could completely be myself without being judged for speaking out. It was so freeing.
And then, it came.
One evening, I was tired and already in a grumpy mood as everyone hung out in my dorm room, and I just kind of wanted to go to sleep. Everyone was hanging out and talking, and then somehow it came up in the conversation about how quiet I was. Jokes started being made about how if a robber came into my house, I would be so quiet and just let them take whatever they wanted without saying a word. Of course, they didn't mean these jokes maliciously. Everyone was having a great time and just picking on me as friends do. And as I always do, I fake laughed along with them. But they had no idea the past struggles I've had with that one label.
That was it. That was my breaking point.
Once the attention was off me, I quietly excused myself from the room with tears in my eyes. I literally walked outside of my dorm room door and just laid face down on the hallway carpet. I was so done, so frustrated. I thought I had escaped that label. I thought I was finally not known as the quiet girl. I was actually comfortable with these people, and I was still labeled the quiet one.
My two friends came out and comforted me. It helped some for sure, but this issue was so deep in me that encouraging words could only do so much. I knew that they weren't trying to hurt me. I knew they loved me. I knew all that. I got myself together and walked back into the room. I don't even think anyone noticed I had left. That night, I just cried out to God. Why do people keep labeling me as quiet? And in the stillness after my cries, God gave me a revelation that I wish I had gotten years earlier.
It doesn't matter what labels others put on you. It matters what labels God puts on me. And that's it. Nothing else matters.
God says I am kind. I am compassionate. I am gentle. I am joyful. I am wise. I am hard-working. I am creative. I am loved. I am patient. I am His child. I am chosen.
And yeah, I am quiet. But that's not a bad thing in the slightest.
1 Peter 3:4 says, "You should clothe yourself instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God" (NLT). And throughout Proverbs, we learn about how wise it is to often be quiet. To use our wisdom and hold our tongue.
God showed me so much that night. I had been so focused all my life on the bad associations with quiet that I failed to acknowledge all the good. I should have been focused on what God's labels are, rather than others' labels are on me. And throughout my life, I had received so many labels of being kind and compassionate, but I always seemed to let the quiet one control me.
After that night, my whole perspective had changed. When anyone calls me quiet now, I genuinely take it as a big compliment. Not only has my association with the word quiet changed, but all lables. I let the label of being quiet control my life so much, while now, I let God's labels control how I live my life. I focus on the compassion and wisdom He has given me. The patience. The joy. The freedom.
Maybe you've had the quiet label put on you. Or perhaps you've had the opposite, maybe everyone associates you with only being loud. Whatever labels the world has placed on you, I encourage you to not focus on those labels. Instead, remember who God says you are. I can promise you His labels are not only better-sounding than the world's, but they are your true labels. So now, I can genuinely say,
"I'm quiet and I'm proud."
P.S. This song by Lauren Daigle is a really good song that goes with this post. I highly suggest listening to it if you haven't already!