If you’d told me 5 years ago that one day I’d be a confident person, I’d have doubted you and laughed at you as you walked away, wondering why you were predicting the future for my personality! Actually I wouldn’t have laughed - being both self-conscious and scared to offend you – but I'd still have doubted you.
That reaction is surprisingly similar to the reactions of people from the last few months who I’ve told of my past introversion; most people think that I am joking when I tell them that I used to be very shy and quiet. No-one believes that I used to be so shy that I'd watch the other kids play during break-time at school, instead of joining in.
Even as late as 2003, I was quite unlikely to initiate conversation with unfamiliar people, was quiet and reserved in class and was awkward outside of my small friendship circles who I spent most of my time with.
As an ex-psychology student, I enjoy psycho-analysing people. In developmental psychology, the main debate regarding personality is "Nature vs. Nurture" (or genetics vs. upbringing). Theories are tested on twins and adoption studies but conclude that both are important. My lack of confidence, however, would have been more from my childhood than from my parents’ genes.
I was well brought up but can see why, with a single mother and three younger siblings, I became quite withdrawn. Being the eldest I would have been left to my own devices more and always told that I “should have known better” if we (as a group) got into trouble. This probably conditioned me away from groups, for at least the next 5 years!
My reclusion, coupled with not knowing anyone in school (having only recently moved from Canada), made starting primary school tough. This was because I had missed out on playschool, through which most of my classmates had known each other for years (Severn Beach being small enough for that to be the case). My main memories of school, though vague, include watching other kids play, reading a lot and the horrible gypsy bully who "freed" my pet ladybird from the house that I made it!
In terms of relationships, I am unsurprisingly inexperienced! As well as the shyness, which in itself would have put me off girls until I was maybe 12 or 13, I had to contend with a promise that I made myself during/after my parents’ divorce, never to break a girl’s heart. At the time it seemed perfectly logical to avoid relationships for the rest of my life as a sacrifice to evade heartbreak!
Additionally, I wasn’t even very interested in relationships until I was about 17, and even then was far too shy (and worried that I’d waited too long) to do anything constructive like ask a girl out! Fortunately, I discovered that abstinence was not the only way to avoid heartbreak and have since settled on finding love as a more proactive approach to divorce-evasion. This, however, comes with certain risks and flaws, as pointed out by every critic of my relationship-outlook, so I am still taking my time.
Confidence also falters me in terms of vertigo – an apparently unbeatable “survival” instinct. I overcame (the last conquerable fragment of) my vertigo last summer, working at camp. Since I was to be spending 2 months on high elements, helping kids beat their own vertigo, I decided to beat my own. By August, I could zipline upside-down-no-handed, climb with no safety gear and would be the first to volunteer to rescue a tangled camper or piece of climbing equipment; once even whilst surrounded by hornets, as I removed an element from their nest’s proximity.
Since coming to Canada, I overcame (the last conquerable fragment of) my social-ineptitude by meeting new people, joining clubs and going on trips. Having England, Canada, family and travel in my conversational arsenal has helped me “out of my cage” no end. The Whistler trip, with the youth group, was my first experience of “instant celebrity” and I received attention constantly. Breaking out of your shell is much easier if people are subconsciously helping you!
In the second week of March, I dressed up as Winnie the Pooh and ran around a mall for youth club. A lot of youth said “I can’t believe you’d do that” and “I could never do that”!
Was I embarrassed? Ok, yes a little but mainly I took it in my stride and had fun.
Coming out of my shell - into a Pooh suit!
Social settings and solo-travelling, over time, have helped me with my diffidence and I have made great progress, becoming more outgoing. If I lose friends from this blog post, or am ridiculed (fears that would’ve stopped me posting this 5 years ago) then I’ll take it in my stride and find better friends. It is better to be yourself and find the friends that like you like that anyway!