The power of ‘No’ and ‘Yes’ (as a shy person).

News and Discussion, Off The Cuff September 11, 2014

(photo source)

These past few years, I have gotten far, far better at communicating my wants. This may seem trivial to a lot of you, as I am sure there are many out there who have never quite experienced problems in discerning what they really desire and go for everything gung-ho.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I am afraid to report that until incredibly recently, I was most definitely the opposite, especially when it came to making up my mind. As a youngster, through my childhood and teens, I was ridiculously introverted. I was that kid whose mother would throw them outside to play with other children and would get bored within an hour and come home to draw. I was that kid that was so incredibly shy, said parent had to make the first introductions with other children so any possibility of playing tag could occur (the shame)!

As I moved through primary school and up through high school, any confidence that I had ever relished in being one of the smartest children in the class (I can’t deny that I was) diminished. Being popular was no longer collactive with achieving good grades, but with who was the funniest, who was the cheekiest, the sportiest, the prettiest. As a shy, bare faced and bushy haired girl who, at the time, weighed the same in stones as her age meant that my societal stock with other teens gradually diminished. Sadly, this led me to turn down many an opportunity that I should have grabbed firmly with both hands or, even worse, make a half-hearted contribution.

Early in Year 7 (aged 12 and a first year in high school), some of my Design work got passed onto the Head of Art (a petrifying harpy of a woman with a penchant for clashing every colour and pattern imaginable) enrolled me on a GNVQ Art course. This meant working with a class full of Sixth Formers, and as a girl five years their junior, I recall feeling terribly inadequate and unable to attempt to socialise. After two weeks, I dropped out.

Another example; in Year 9 (3rd year) our year group partook in an exchange trip with some students from Hungary. We visited their country, visited their schools, ate and laughed with them (I even took a detour to a hospital after slicing my foot open, lucky me). I say we, but I truly mean my peers, as I couldn’t muster the courage to chat with the funny, cultured, interesting effortlessly and good looking foreigners that surrounded me.

In hindsight, its sad. Do I regret it? Of course! There are many, many more examples I could pluck from my memory – turning down ‘waxing parties’ with the girls (that happened), cinema dates (as a third or occasionally fifth wheel) or more embarrassing teenage instances of finding someone attractive and not having the balls to do anything about it – but those are better not expanded on. At least in this piece anyway…

My final and biggest ‘no’ to date was turning down a university place at Nottingham Trent to read English at Birmingham City University. Whilst the latter required higher entry grades, after all of my previous preaching to any who would listen that this would be the best opportunity we would ever have to abandon our hometown and gain a sense of freedom became doused in irony. I chickened out and chose to live at home whilst commuting to my classes. Every part of it petrified me; this was my first real venture alone. I didn’t have a friend to introduce me to other people, or ride the bus and train with everyday, someone to eat with or do group work with. What if I couldn’t keep up with classes? What if everyone was so much smarter than me? What if people didn’t like me?

What I found was not exactly what I expected. My university experience was not like high school. There was plenty a dork around, people that liked good books and crappy books and weird books. Others liked poetry (not my bag) or were of different ages, countries, religions or had different life experiences. Teachers loved music, wrote films and were passionate feminists. Whilst it wasn’t what I had expected of university, going it alone forced me to have confidence, to air an opinion, to question what I’m told, and most importantly – to approach people.

I said yes to meeting up with a stranger who was on the same course who I had originally met via Facebook (now we’re homedawgs). I said yes to hanging out outside of class. University aside, I found the confidence to learn bass and join a band (still needs to work, guys), and I can officially say I performed on the same stage as Muse, albeit, in their very early dive days. I had bad jobs and worse jobs and finally found nice jobs. I felt comfortable with my co-workers and left situations I didn’t want to be in. I grabbed opportunities that so happened to cross my path, got my writing published online (and slowly, in print), worked with PRs and interviewed musicians. Oh, and I also got myself a lovely, funny and talented boyfriend – don’t know how that one happened.

The main purpose behind this ramble is something that I only recently began to realise. That in overthinking, we waste too much time thinking ‘what if’ instead of ‘let’s do’, and by the time we do decide to go for it, quite often, the opportunity has already gone and passed.

So if you like the look of something, think it would be fun (within reason!) or would benefit your life, have the courage to say ‘yes’, and if you really, really don’t, be sure to say ‘no’. Don’t be scared to try something new, but be aware of when something stops benefitting you.

Sometimes, you gotta learn to trust your gut.

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