I was timid as a child. I felt that everyone around me gave me their full, undivided attention. I did everything with a consciousness of being seen and judged by others. I spent all my early years crippled by fear. I was scared of making mistakes, of saying the wrong words. Fear held me hostage, and I ended up being a shaky, stupid version of myself. I was a walking manifestation of the word “clumsy.” With every mistake that I made, with everything that I wanted to do but never did out of fear, something inside me died.
Recently, I discovered a piece of paper that I wrote when I was nine. On that paper, I wrote that I wanted to be an actor. Back then, I saw myself as someone who had a potential for success. Yet there was this huge gap between the person I wanted to be and the person I was. How can I be successful if I cannot carry on a conversation with someone I don’t know without stuttering or blushing? Now, I no longer want to be an actress. What I do know is that even back then, when I was struggling with the stupid, shaky version of myself, I saw something in me that wanted to break out of the cage that I kept myself in.
When I was at school, one of my colleagues approached me to apologize for anything “bad” that she might have said about me behind my back. She was trying to become a better person, and somehow she wanted to express her regret for all the gossip. I forgave her on the spot. I was under the impression that she was apologizing to everyone. It turned out that she only approached me. That hurt. In spite of my fear, and my attempts to make no mistakes, I was still that awkward, clumsy person that people loved to joke about. It was then that it hit me that people talk anyway. What people think of me should not be an obstacle.
As I grew older, I realized what was wrong with me: I had no self-confidence at all. I always sought validation. I was always looking for advice. I always needed people to tell me which way to go, or if I was on the right track. I believed that if I followed my sense of direction, I would be lost because I didn’t know any better. My lack of confidence was reflected in my shaky words and clumsy actions. And the more clumsy actions I made, the more my confidence suffered. It was a vicious circle.
The world won’t treat you with kindness just because you need it. In most cases, you have to pick yourself up. Chances are, if you are weak, not confident, or clumsy, bullies are going to make fun of you. Life will not spare you its blows because you are not ready. You receive blows anyway. It was time for me to break out of that vicious circle.
At that time, I came across a quote that changed my life. I had lost interest in becoming an actor, and had developed an interest in becoming a writer. I am hard worker. I’ve always been one — I’ll give myself that. This has always been my strength.
So instead of just dreaming of becoming a writer, I did my homework, and searched for ideas on how to become a writer, how to be creative, etc. My search brought my attention to this powerful quote by Sylvia Plath in which she wrote that “the worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” The quote was such an eye-opener. I am not saying that it changed my life right away, but it made me see what I needed.
I started to add a little self-confidence to my life. Instead of the negative self-talk that I tortured myself with about how inadequate I was, I started to tell myself that I was not so bad. Instead of focusing on my failures, I started to focus on my little achievements. If I was such a failure, I wouldn’t have graduated, and I wouldn’t have earned my Master’s degree. I was accepted at a job interview. I also started to be kind to myself. What if I fail? So what? You fail and you move on. No one cares. The sun will shine in the morning and the earth will continue its rotation around the sun.
I realized I don’t need the entire world to believe in me. I knew I just had to believe in myself. When I did, miracles happened. I enjoyed my life more. I wasn’t as conscious as I used to be of what everyone might say. I made brave decisions without seeking validation, and I even embraced my failures. I gave a presentation without blushing because I knew that if others could do it, I could too. I didn’t stutter or stammer, just because I believed in me. It was powerful.
I still have my moments of self-doubt, but I try to banish these moments. I tell myself that my mistakes do not define me. I learn from them, and I move on. I am trying to wipe out the “incompetent” me. I know it is not an easy job, but I always remind myself that “the worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” And if I ever want to be a writer, I should silence the nagging voice in my head that tells me I can’t.
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