Tag: confidence

Life of an Introvert…ed Extrovert?

The name of my blog defines me as an introvert and for a long time, essentially since I learnt what the word meant, I have aligned myself with that word and all that comes with it. But yesterday, as I longed for friends and people to socialise with, felt lonely in my own company, I started to wonder if I could truthfully call myself an introvert.

I guess it depends on how you define an introvert. To me, an introvert is someone who is shy – tick – and quiet – tick – with only a few friends – tick – and is happy with their own company – erm…

The fact is, contrary to what I used to think, I like being with people. When I’m alone, when no one texts me, when I begin to wonder if anyone actually cares about me, I feel lonely. I am no longer happy with my own company. I can’t just settle down with a book and read for hours on end without the need to check my phone in the hope that someone needs something from me (the only reason that some people text me). I need people. I want more than I realised to be the kind of person who doesn’t have a problem with talking to more than two people at a time, and I know that that person is inside me, clawing to get out. Once, I got so passionate in my A Level English class that I essentially shouted at the teacher in front of the whole class about how Heathcliff is so terrible and that it’s not fair to blame Macbeth for Duncan’s murder. That person didn’t care that there were 15 pairs of eyes and ears all focused on me, and someone who didn’t know me might take that moment and even call me an extrovert.

And so, I guess, maybe calling myself an introvert isn’t entirely accurate. There are certainly extroverted parts of me, parts of me that crave attention and want to be let loose. But the deathly shy side of me, who is deeply embarrassed by any attention and will replay moments that aren’t even that embarrassing over and over in my head until it drives me even further into my shell, is in control.

So I guess I’m an introverted extrovert: I want to socialise, but I just can’t.

The Story of How I Became Shy

The Story of How I Became Shy

In primary school, I had this friend. I’ll call her Heather.

I never had any doubt that Heather and I were best friends. We met in pre-school, and became friends quickly and stayed that way throughout primary school; I don’t even remember not being best friends. As far as I can remember, she was just always there. It’s as if she always was.

I had other friends, of course, but there was never any challenge to her. We were so similar; weird in the same way, quiet in the same way, but also loud in the same way. I couldn’t imagine life without her. We were also close with another girl who we met later, Myrtle. She was my second best friend, if you like. Between them, I had all the friendship I needed. I didn’t really pay that much attention to other people because I didn’t need them. I had Heather and Myrtle.

When we moved up to secondary school, we stayed close, particularly Heather and I. It was the same as primary school; I made other friends, I talked to other people in class, but she was by far my closest friend, followed again by Myrtle. Almost 2,000 people in the school, but I needed no one else. We were best friends forever.

And then, suddenly, I didn’t have her.

I remember when I was told. It was April in Year 7, I was having a bath, my mum knocked on the bathroom door and came in. She told me that Heather’s family had managed to sell their house. I’d known that they were trying, but with the housing market as bad as it was I’d just never really believed that they would actually manage it.

And so… she moved away. 400 miles away, to Scotland.

It would have crushed me to lose her at school. But at least I had Myrtle, right? … until she also moved away, to Greece. A month after Heather left.

And then I was alone.

Thus, I started Year 8 with no real friends, no one I felt close to, or comfortable with. I’d given my heart entirely to my closest friends, because I had only needed them. And in their wake they left nothing.

Everyone else had spent Year 7 forming extensive, close and seemingly exclusive friendship groups, and after a year of barely talking to them I didn’t feel welcome. So, for the first year or so, I largely spent my break and lunch alone, trying to avoid older students who might try to make fun of me for being a loner. When I saw people I knew, I wanted so badly to join them, eat with them, laugh with them… but they all knew each other and I didn’t really know them. I didn’t know what they liked, or what made them laugh, or what to say at all… what could I offer them? I felt that if I joined them, I would be an outsider, a nuisance. They were happy without me, I thought, I didn’t have anything to offer them. They didn’t want me. I would just be annoying to them.

It took me a long time to become fully incorporated in a new group of friends. But even so, that feeling never went away. No matter who it was, I always felt that whenever I opened my mouth, they would think I was annoying, an irritation, someone they wished wasn’t there. It began to extend not just to friends, but to teachers, shop assistants, family members. Everyone.

And so I learned to not speak at all. Pretend like I didn’t exist, because I thought that that’s what other people wanted. Any personality I had had with Heather and Myrtle was buried deep beneath an exterior of shyness so that I would not be noticed. And so, I became shy.

After a few years, my shy exterior eventually began to crack. I became loud, argumentative (in a good way) in English classes. I debated with my new best friend in such a loud voice that it’s hard to believe that no one noticed. I had extensive conversations with my history teachers, giving them intellectual thought beyond school work that I knew they could appreciate.

Slowly, slowly, I came back out of my shell. But those insecurities still crippled me, forbade me from making many friends when I came to university. They kept me lonely, dependent on just a few people who I trusted. They kept me weak.

But no more.

Trust Me, You Are Amazing

Trust Me, You Are Amazing

I am more confident than I ever was. Admittedly, it would still be a stretch to say that I love myself – I still have a long way to come – but I no longer see myself as an irritation to others. I don’t worry that people find me annoying, that people don’t want me. Because I’ve realised two key things.

1. I am amazing and unique

Yes, I’m aware of how arrogant (and cliché) that sounds, but realistically, when it comes to self-love or even self-acceptance, a bit of arrogance is okay for everyone. And it’s not just me; everyone is amazing in their own way. Everyone has those things which make them sparkle, and their character shine through no matter how tough their outer shells are.

For a long time, I compared myself to other people. I looked around me and saw other people, with dozens of friends, interesting hobbies, gossip to share, knowledge of politics and the world to discuss. And then I looked at myself. I had few friends, few hobbies, and very little interest in detailed discussion of current affairs. So… what did I have to show for my worth? I didn’t have what other people had, so I assumed I had nothing… that I was nothing.

But recent events mean that I can now see that that’s not true, and these things make me someone who I should be proud of:

  • I love with all my heart. I would never abandon any of my friends if they needed me, no matter what. If you open your heart to me, I will feel your pain like my own and drop what I’m doing to hug you and cry with you if you want me to.
  • I would do anything I can to help you and make you happy. If you have a slight problem, I would do anything I could to fix it or scour the entire internet to find a solution, whether you ask me to or not. All I want is for my friends to be happy.
  • I forgive. I don’t hold grudges; anger doesn’t come naturally to me. If you did something bad to me, if you wanted me to forgive you, I would. I’m not petty. Why make us both unhappy? I just want us to be friends.
  • I don’t forget those I love. If I loved you once, I will love you forever. Even if we fall out of touch, if after years you come back to me and you need me, I would be there for you as though we’d talked every day, because I still love you. I don’t forget.
  • I’m a poet. Yeah, my poetry might not be all that great, but not many people have the courage to express their darkest secrets in verse and share it with the world.
  • I can get passionate about anything. A character in a book, a moment in history, a particular figure, if you wanted a debate I would debate with you about anything and get very passionate about it. (Oh, and I’d win, of course.)
  • I trust. If you prove to me that you’re worth it, I would let you in entirely. I would tell you everything, so that you could know me completely. I wouldn’t hide anything from you or lie to you, because you are important to me and I value you. Don’t misuse my trust.
  • I would never let you down. Enough said.

This may not seem like much to you, but for the past year I looked inside myself and found nothing. I found nothing about myself that was worth sharing, nothing that made me worthy of having friends, of having people who cared about me. But the last few weeks, I have been finding myself again, and this is what I have found. I know that there’s a lot more to find, though, and as cliché as it may sound I’m looking forward to future challenges which reveal to me and to the world who I really am.

2. If anyone treats me less than I deserve, they don’t deserve me

I hope that you’ve come to see now that the thing that I am most proud of when I look inside myself is my kind heart. I am not horrible. I’m not perfect, no, but no one is. Occasionally I get overwhelmed and I might say something I don’t mean. I will apologise profusely, do anything I can to make it right, and hope that you will forgive me. But if you can’t forgive me for an accident, you clearly don’t value me the way that I value you. If one moment of recklessness outweighs everything you liked about me, I clearly didn’t mean enough to you.

If you don’t value me, then you deserve my unreserved love.

As much as I want to, I can’t give my love out for free, because I will only get pain in return.

 

So, when you look inside yourself, what do you see that you love the most?

My Periods Are No Secret; Quit Cramping My Style

Periods seem to be regarded as such a dirty thing. Everyone knows they happen, around half the people in the world have experienced them… yet no one talks about them. Menstruation is the worst-kept secret about women ever. But it doesn’t need to be a secret at all.

I still remember getting my first period. I was 11, in art class at school and I began to notice something… different… down there. I didn’t think much of it at the time. The thought that I might be bleeding from my vagina didn’t even occur to me, although of course I knew what periods were. I guess I just didn’t feel old enough, I assumed I’d have a few more years before I began to grow up. So when I next went to the toilet I got a bit of a nasty surprise.

How could I tell my mum? That’s what I was thinking the whole way home. What should I say? Now, I know that I should have just been outright and said, ‘Mum, I’ve started my periods.’ There’s nothing wrong with saying that. But I couldn’t say the words. I was so embarrassed, so ashamed. Ashamed? Of growing up, of something I have no control over, of something which is actually a gift meaning that I can have children in the future. Ashamed of being a woman. Yes, I was ashamed. And scared.

Young girls are taught about periods in a way which instills in them a sense of that natural cycle – menstruation – being something unclean, and secretive.  We were taken away one day from our classroom and our teacher, taken into a different room in the school, away from everyone else, like what we would be told was gravely serious and unmentionable in the classroom. We were told about periods, about what we should expect, how they worked, and then we were sent back to class with the boys and it was never mentioned again in school.

None of my friends at school ever told each other when they started their periods. The only way I could tell was the sound of a pad being ripped open from the next cubicle. But even then, no one ever told each other. No one complained about cramps or tiredness or ever gave any indication about their struggles during that week. Any joke about periods in response to someone being in a particularly bad mood was met with a sassy look if they weren’t on their period, or breaking eye contact and a slight blush if they were.

But why?

Periods aren’t dirty. Yeah, admittedly, they may be a bit gross sometimes, but as a topic they aren’t dirty. They’re not immoral, they’re not defiling, they’re not uncivilised. They’re part of life. So why are we not allowed to talk about them? Having to be silent to fit in with society not only generally silences women for no reason, but means that women with menstrual abnormalities often suffer unnecessarily because they don’t know what is normal.

Recently, I’ve been so much more open about my menstrual cycle. My best friend and I complain to each other about cramps and everything else that comes with being a woman, just as we would complain about things if we felt ill for any other reason, and it’s so liberating not having to suffer in silence any more. When I’m older and (hopefully) have a daughter of my own, I’ll do my best to teach her to be open about her periods so she won’t have to feel the embarrassment that I felt for a long time, and I hope that the future brings a time where women don’t feel the need to hide something which is completely natural and should actually bring us together.

I Don’t Care What You Say; I Am Beautiful

I’ve never thought of myself as beautiful. Ever.

Of course my mum tells me I am, and occasionally some other family members, but they don’t count – everyone’s mum thinks they’re beautiful. No one else had ever told me I was remotely good looking; not my friends, not any boys, no one. When I looked in the mirror I saw the same face I saw every day, the same one I’d seen my whole life, and it looked plain, boring. Too round, too chubby. The eyes too small, too deep-set, too close together. Ginger hair. Everyone seemed to find gingers unattractive.

Every time my mum told me I was beautiful, the words were empty, almost insulting, a lie she didn’t know she was telling. I thought that hers was the only voice I’d ever hear those words in.

But then I did start to hear it in another voice. Even when my foundation had rubbed off, revealing blotchy and spotty skin and the shadows under my eyes, with my hair a mess, I still heard those words. I never believed them. If they were true, why had nobody else told me? I was always worried that one day he would finally see me for how I was and suddenly realise that he’d made a mistake.

And then one day, my fears came true. He didn’t want me after all. I had thought that when that day happened, I would go back to how I was before. Unwanted. Undesirable.

But I didn’t.

Society might tell me that I’m not beautiful. My hair might not be perfect; my eyes might seem small and hidden without makeup. My skin might not be flawless; my eyebrows might not be shaped perfectly; my waist might not glide inwards in perfect curves. But I am beautiful. In my own way. Everyone is.

There are so, so many things about myself that I don’t like, and whenever I used to look in the mirror I used to just see all those things I hated and I felt terrible. But now…

I like my smile. Sometimes it looks awful, goofy; way too big for my face and showing way too much of my teeth. But I also know that when I smile genuinely it lights up my face and reveals pure happiness; I know because I can feel it. It might not look it, but my smile feels beautiful. It makes me happy when I’m happy.

My hair’s not ginger, that colour that everyone seems to dislike. It’s golden. It sparkles in the sun, and changes colour in different lights. It makes me different. Unique.

I’m not vain, or obnoxious. I might sound it to people who don’t know me, but I promise I’m not. I’m not trying to say that I’m the most beautiful person in the world, because I’m not. No one is; that person doesn’t exist. You can’t compare beauty; you can’t compare something which is entirely constructed and has no fixed rules, since for every rule of beauty, there are a million exceptions. Billions.

And so after nineteen years, I’ve finally realised within myself that true beauty doesn’t really exist except as something to strive for but never really reach. That is, unless you embrace who you are, and who you will always be. Beauty is a way of thinking, not a state of being.

Everyone can be beautiful if you can just trust, just know that you are, because you are. Trust me. Even if the people around you don’t say it, that doesn’t mean that they don’t think it, and, even if they don’t think it it doesn’t mean that you aren’t. One day someone will see you for what you are and you’ll see that if your beauty is true for even that one person, then it is true regardless of other people think. But until that other person, or people, comes along, you can be that person. See yourself for what you are.

So go, be beautiful ❤