Being myself is a constant work in progress. My family would attest to the fact that I was born a feisty kid – even when my mom was pregnant with me I wouldn’t give her peace. I had to be induced because I was causing her so much discomfort. Sorry mom.
It was clear in my childhood I had a mind of my own and a curiousity that wouldn’t stop. In primary school (junior school for my american readers) I would be that kid pesky who would constantly raise my hand up and ask questions. I was loud and I had a voice. I always had stage fright though. I wasn’t afraid to form friendships with teachers by engaging them in conversations outside of classroom work.
Somewhen in secondary school (high school), things drastically changed. I retreated into myself because I was increasingly aware that sometimes having a loud voice can hurt. My grades slipped too as I grew disenchanted with ‘education’ and that undermined my self-worth so I felt like I was no longer worthy of a voice.
Then there were the difficult teenage years followed by the perceived misery of adulthood. If school was bad for me, working in mainstream society was worse. The older I got, the more empathetic I became – which is kind of weird since most people go inverse instead – and that made me even more reluctant to have a voice for myself, because I was severely uncomfortable making other people feel uncomfortable. What a paradox. It is hard to believe, but I would rather be at a disadvantage rather than to make someone feel discomfort.
I became that introvert who doesn’t go out. For going out makes me feel very uncomfortable. I look at the sadness in people’s eyes and I cringe. When people try to talk to me I wince. I would rather be surrounded by four walls than to go out and be exposed to people’s discomfort.
I think people who have known me all their lives, my parents and those who have known me as a kid, must be wondering what happened to me. The boisterous, over-confident kid that turned into this painful, introverted adult.
I am wondering the same myself.
I guess the more I experienced the power struggle between human beings, the more I refuse to engage in that game. And in return I lose my personal power. Additionally I had my own emotional issues to deal with, so having a low sense of self-worth didn’t help either.
It took me half a decade to recondition myself into believing I could start having a voice again. Till today, I still struggle with it a lot.
I still hate making people feel uncomfortable.
And people get really uncomfortable when I try to be honest.
I am comforted that there is a growing group of people who are on a similar tangent and wavelength on being authentic. To me being authentic is like what they say about willpower. It is a muscle that has to be practiced. The more you wear these pair of shoes, the more you grow into it, the more the shoes will organically fit your feet.
And learning is not really like a progress meter that only goes forward. Many times we go a little forward only to stumble 3 steps backwards. The crux lies within how we are actually patient with ourselves enough to be at peace and persist, even when we stumble.
These days there is a growing number of people writing to me for my “advice”, I tell them that I am not in a position to dish out advice, but I can be honest about how I feel about their questions. I am extremely passionate when it comes to the values and ideas I believe in, once in a while someone totally unexpected comes up to me and tells me they have made a change in their lives because of something I’ve told them a long while ago.
Moments like these, it makes me feel like even though I feel like all these words I say and write are echoes of silence towards nowhere, somehow they do take a life of their own and bounce back at the most unexpected time from the most unexpected sources.
I am much happier today because I strive to be as authentic as possible. I try to embrace my weirdness even though I am still conscious of how people may take my insanity. I have a thousand moments of doubt everyday but I exercise my ‘authentic muscle’. It is a constant stream of choices. Do I want to be myself or do I want to please people and end up losing a part of me?
Each time I make a choice to be who I am not in order to make life a little easier for myself, because it is really so much easier blend into surroundings instead of making a huge splash that may end up with people getting very upset with their wet faces – a little part of me dies inside and I find it doubly hard to revive it again.
I silently and secretly, well, not so secret anymore, believe that I am at my best if I dare to be me. The world doesn’t need another person who does the same thing everyone else is doing. I would like to remember the child I was, the one who was not afraid of her opinion, but I would like to grow into a person who is not afraid to defend her ideas, but is equally open to conceding if I am proven to be less right. “Less right” because I don’t believe in an absolute right or wrong anymore.
I hope I can find a balance between having excess empathy for the people around me, but somehow channel that empathy into framing my delivery right in order to have a voice that can very well disagree, but not inflict pain on others in that process.
Further reading – Havard Business Review: Never Lie About Who You Really Are