Notes #1

Express Yourself

Notes on shyness, perfectionism and how to (try to) overcome them.

Express Yourself: Shyness, perfectionism and overcoming them - thought piece

One of the biggest challenges for me as long as I can remember was finding myself in a situation
where I would unavoidably be noticed. I’d say that I even went as far as to avoid any situations that had the potential of placing me even for a few moments under the spotlight. That meant that throughout school, for example, I would try my best to avoid participating in class- despite how beneficiary that would be for me and my grades. I’d also wear the blandest (for me) clothes, or at least the most basic ones that would guarantee not to attract any eyes in my direction. In short, I would go to great lengths, making sure the camouflage I had placed over myself, always stayed in place.

Now, one of the main reasons I was behaving like this was the fact that I was extremely shy; not introverted, but shy. Sure, I might have always preferred being prepared before having to speak. My face would turn tomato-red if they asked me a question out of the blue. I’d probably mumble some sort of answer, but I doubt it was ever the one I had intended it to be. Even if I were prepared, though, I’d still hold myself back and never, ever raise that hand, even if I was 100% sure what I’d say would be the correct answer. And trust me, I would internally beat myself for it afterwards. It made me feel disappointed with myself. For me, it meant that I was a coward that would never be able to express my talents or even succeed in anything at all since the only person who knew about my accomplishments was myself.

As I grew older, I realised that my shyness was not something genetic. I was extremely afraid of being wrong, especially in front of other people. I preferred erasing myself than expressing an honest opinion with all the "wrongness" it could contain. I was a perfectionist, but I hadn't not the kind of perfectionism that pushes you and motivates you but of the kind that hinders your every move. I never wanted to have my mistakes witnessed or recorded in the hard memory of others. I gave too much weight to others' opinions of me or what was my projection of their opinions. Perhaps I was seeing in their eyes what I was expecting to. Because even though, I always knew my shyness stemmed from being too self-conscious and too much into my own head, I only recently came to the understanding of just how much our self-confidence is mirrored back at us into the others' eyes. If I though people had a low opinion of me, it was partly because I was expecting them too; and coming full circle they would, in turn, treat me as someone with no confidence because that was what I've been projecting.

From the day, I went to uni, 5 and a half years ago now, I've been steadily trying to overcome my fear of letting other people notice me. Now, I'm wearing whatever I like (on most occasions), but the process has been long and hard. I didn't wake up one day feeling extra confident. On the other hand, it was much easier that I thought. It was a habit  and it had to be built slowly. I was never the one to take a sudden big plunge into the icy and unknown waters. No, once I realised that no real danger (as in jumping into actual unknown and cold waters and maybe having to face sharks!) lurked into expressing myself, the fear subsidised to a great extent. The outer transformation was the easy part for me. Feeling comfortable with sharing my views and thoughts is still quite frightening but being more self-confident and secure in myself has certainly helped. If you believe in your ideas (at least most times; no one is that assured), then you start taking back some of the value you had burdened every other person with but yourself. It was not their responsibility to pity me, but my responsibility to admit that I was wrong and would be wrong many times in the future.

So, I guess the point I'm trying to make here - if that is, you're still reading, in which case you deserve a medal! - is that we need to trust ourselves more, and try to be kinder and more generous to ourselves.  We won't always be right, but if we're fine with this knowledge, then the others' will be too, or if they're not, well, then at least we won't care as much anymore.

"Be yourself' might just be the most overused advice in the history of English writing, so much that I just bet Shakespeare had his hand in its creation one way or another. (I'm only partly joking.) Whoever first came up with it, I still hate it and its cheesiness. For me, it's too vague and it has caused me more stress than I had to begin with. Who is that elusive "myself" and is it worth being it? Does it entail the constant changes or phases I'm going through? The only way I can see myself supporting this laconic advice is if I take it to mean that you should be  a caring, kind person to yourself and others, just, continually evolving, and having your own thoughts, opinions and complexities as long as they don't cause any harm. One of my pet peeves is people using the excuse of "I was just being myself" to reason their behaving like pricks.

To conclude, I think we should validate ourselves and our rights in having opinions and making mistakes. Let's take care of ourselves because it's true what they say: no one will, if you don't (okay, maybe your mother...). But everything's about balance. We are social beings after all and we can never brush off others' opinions of us. I might be confident with myself and my ideas, but I still care what the other person's opinion of me or any other matter, is. Just let us not be consumed by fear every time we feel like we're being judged, consequently turning into some sort of frightened ostriches.

I don't know about you, but I'm going to try to go out and have fun with being myself, wearing those chunky boots, no matter what my mum says about them being unflattering. I'll still be respectful, however, of my cousin's wishes who would rather I wouldn't turn up at her wedding dressed like I was attending a rock concert instead. Let's not let shyness turn into rudeness. Both entail a lot of self-involvement but I'm sure that I can manage to find my voice without stifling others'. 

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