I was talking with a very close friend recently and mentioned I didn’t see much of her in a convention we held recently. Her response was, “I grew up being on my own, alone in my room maybe that’s why I fizzle out in crowds”. She went further to say that as a little girl, she cried a lot so she was always left alone so that she doesn’t start crying. I concurred with her that our experiences especially during our formative years form most of our adult behaviours. However, we can choose a different path, attitude or character. It’s very convenient to hide under the umbrella of “it’s my background” but you can choose to live otherwise.
As a kid, I was highly if not extremely introverted. In school, my school mates easily found things to make fun of about me so I will naturally withdraw from other kids. During breaks in nursery school, I used to play on my own. This same me by Junior Secondary two was a class prefect, later became time keeper and finished as Senior Prefect. Somehow, along the line with the things I learnt and the sound teachings I received, I started believing there was more about me. In fact, while I enjoy listening a lot, I’ve also learnt to speak up when necessary. As a matter of fact, I hate it with passion when people keep mute unnecessarily; when people have questions in their hearts and refuse to ask.
I happen to be an admin in an all-guys WhatsApp group comprising of people of different ages and from different walks of life. Sometimes, I chat up some guys privately and they say they don’t talk because it’s mostly senior guys talking. I shake my head in pity for them. Even though I empathize with their situation especially being a very shy person myself when I was younger, I also feel sorry for them because they lack the courage and the sense to ask meaningful questions. As a teenager, despite being introverted, I had questions in my heart and all I needed was to find someone or people willing to address them. So when I see young people in their 20s shying away from meaningful discussions, I wonder if all is well.
Forgive me for using myself as an example, it’s the closest I could find. The truth is that I wasn’t born this way, at some point I had to make the necessary adjustments. Today, I enjoy giving presentations and I excel in them but it’s something I grew into. The first time I had the opportunity to give a talk in a large group, the idea alone was daunting, I dreaded it but I couldn’t turn it down and I also didn’t want to embarrass myself. So I told myself the only option was to prepare for it. I prepared for it, kept it simple and like I learnt in one book I read years ago, I stood up, spoke up and shut up. Of course, I didn’t utilize the entire time allotted. I remember asking myself, what will I be saying for 45 minutes? Something said to me, “Who says you must speak the whole time? If you are done in 30, leave the stage”. That was very liberating for me. Today, I work hard to keep to time but it didn’t start like that.
So what’s the point I’m trying to make? Your background notwithstanding, get out there and do that thing you want or have to do but have been dreading. Give that speech; Start that business; Write that book; Ask that girl out; Go pitch that business idea to someone; Make that application; Go on that trip; Make that call; You’ve got to get up, step up and live life. As someone once said, “Don’t be afraid to do something just because you’re scared of what people are going to say about you. People will judge you no matter what”. Mark Twain even said it better, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do”.