As a child, I struggled with a certain lack of confidence and the ability to speak up and out. I wanted to please my parents, grandparents and school teachers but had to do so in relative silence. I was always nervous as a child. I asked questions rarely and when I did, they were something along the lines of “Is this okay?”, “Did I do this right?” or “Are you happy with that?”. I’m not sure why I felt the need to please others so much, maybe I thought I was a bit different, heading towards being an outsider and needed approval. Maybe it was a way of getting love and feeling loved. My mother assured me I never really needed to seek her approval with anything as she was always watching over me a warm smile or a stern “Here, let me help you” glare. It was different with my father, who shied away from showing any kind of emotional connection with me.
School teachers year after year would write the same words in my report “Lauren is a very quiet shy student who performs exceptionally well in her studies. Confidence, however, is something she lacks and should work on”. Once I became a secondary school student, I really had subconsciously set myself at a distance from others, in terms of my sense of humor and what type of things I found funny, my heightened sense of anxiety and worry about everything and anything. I took things quite personally from a very young age. I was easily offended, yet never really let the perpetrator know that I was hurt. I let myself feel different because I had different interests to most teenagers, I spent most of my time in the company of adults and I really preferred it that way. I preferred adult conversation and I was able to be heard when I needed to speak. I felt I wasn’t being judged on some strange level.
I enrolled in my first university degree and soon realized that I really was just another number in the world, a quirky kind of number and a female in a predominantly male environment, but just another number all the same. I began to confuse feeling different from people my age with feeling misunderstood. I tried for a few months to fit in with certain groups but realized that our interests were just too polar opposite and I had nothing in common with the majority. I became content with spending my time alone: on the train, studying, free periods, weekends and week nights.
It wasn’t until I commenced in my second degree (and the degree which I should have started straight from school) that something clicked. I’m not sure what happened. I suddenly spoke up in class. I argued my point in a concise, simple manner. I made other students laugh. I started looking at myself differently and I think those around me noticed. This small stream of confidence in myself and in my strengths started bubbling away. I felt more at ease with public speaking engagements and was taking less to heart. I could stand in front of a group of people and discuss my favourite issues, contemporary issues that were at the forefront of everyone’s minds. The difference being I was suddenly not looked upon as different or quirky. People noticed my new found spirit. People were listening to me. They didn’t have to agree, they just listened. I was enjoying what I was learning and it was all “clicking” without me having to ask too many questions, having to study too much or ending up leaving class more puzzled than when I entered.
In my first few casual employment situations that I was in whilst I studied, I was known as a push over. I’d agree to things because I didn’t like to say no. I still have that problem, but as an adult and more so as a mother, I’m slowly learning the benefit that word can bring when used appropriately. When I entered the workforce in my chosen field, I realized that again, I was just another number but this time I had more influence on the lives of other people without the judgement I felt in my early years. I came to the conclusion that I really did critique myself quite harshly and didn’t allow myself to be who I was, entirely out of the fear of being cross examined.
When I look back on my life up until this point, the only time I have felt untouched, pure and myself has been when I’ve been writing. Blogs, stories, journals, speeches, reports, social media updates, letters, proposals. Writing gives me a voice I could never project without letting go of a few insecurities and flaws I’ve gathered along the way to becoming the person I am right now. I feel confident because I’ve learnt to let go of whatever little things were holding me back- my fear of judgement, my fear of being wrong, my fear of losing the approval of people I love and associate with. I feel happy when my words are read and when my words are heard. But I feel happiest just knowing my words are free from me and out there. Whether people that hear or read them agree with the content, context or meanings behind the carefully constructed sentences and highly sensitive and emotional undertones, or not, my words are out there in the atmosphere. To me, that is a very satisfying feeling and makes me, in all my quirkiness, feel powerful. Despite my shyness and introverted nature, I’ve become content with who I’ve morphed into over the years and it’s writing with belief in myself that has got me here.