Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about Things I Want To Achieve in life, you know, the big stuff. What I want my profession to be in ten or fifteen years. Which things I want to conquer, and why. What I’m going to do to make a difference in the world. This was all brought about on Friday, when I took my biggest step yet in getting over my anxiety, something that’s socially crippled me for a larger chunk of my life than I’d like to admit.
I taught my very first class. And after a week leading up to it full of restless nights, I actually did it, and left the room slightly shaky – but entirely overwhelmed, with a sense of accomplishment I haven’t felt in a very long time. And I have to thank my newfound faith, and the prayers and encouragement of people close to me who’ve reminded me that I wasn’t put on this earth to be afraid and held back by fear, and if I wanted to make a different in people’s lives, however small, I was bloody well going to do it. So I did, and now I get to continue to push myself, continue to grow, and continue to get better at it, all the while hopefully passing on some kind of knowledge to those who may not have it, who may use something I said to feel like they can do something too. Which is pretty cool.
I also had a really cool lunch with one of my coworkers on Friday, where we sat cross-legged at little tables, eating sushi and debating the different thought processes people have. I did a brief stint studying psychology in university, and though I never finished, I never lost my fascination for everything encompassing it, and in the office we often talk about different personality types and how they relate to careers, hobbies, etc. I’ve taken the Myers-Brigg several times, always with the same result – an INFJ, making up a whopping 1% of the population. INFJ’s are known as “Protectors” or “Counsellors” with an emphasis on heightened emotional sensitivity, introversion, creativity and caring. Which is all very accurate. So then why, in my coworker’s words, “why do you want to prove you can be in the spotlight?” Why do I want to be able to be comfortable in front of people?
“Because I used to be”, I answered. Which wasn’t a lie; go back ten years and you’ll find a girl heavily invested in performing; a girl who went to stage school every week, put on talent shows, organised fundraisers and sang her heart out in shows and bands. Go back fifteen and you’ll find a child who was always first to volunteer to take the solo part of the chorus in school musicals, always the first to narrate when reading stories. My childhood formative years were full of extraversion, creativity and a love of the limelight. But fastforward to those “adult” formative years, between 18 and 23, and you see a different story. Those were the years my anxiety grew progressively worse, and I always looked back and blamed the series of dysfunctional, slightly abusive relationships I kept getting myself into. How could a girl ever believe in herself when everyone she ever loved treated her terribly? Looking back, all I can say is it was a huge learning experience, but it definitely left me feeling pretty rubbish about myself, and knocked my confidence completely.
So why DID I want to push myself out of my comfort zone so badly? When being in front of people made me feel physically sick, my head was full of fear and my body started shaking, why did I so badly want to push myself into this situation? I wish I knew my Intraversion/Extraversion scores numerically; maybe, as my coworker suggested, I was on the borderline. 51% Introvert, 49% Extrovert, though if you only came into my life in that period, you’d never know it. I asked myself why, if I was naturally an introvert, I felt so uncomfortable being alone – felt the need for company, to be out and about and doing things. But then if I was so close to being an extrovert, why being in the spotlight made me want to run for the hills. It’s a very interesting time in my life, and I don’t have the answers yet.
But I do know that I can do it. I can put myself out there and be absolutely fine in front of other people, because there’s evidence to show that I’ve done it before. Sure, I might be quiet by nature, and a pretty tough period in my life may have led me to believe I didn’t have anything worth giving to the outside world. But things have become clear to me, in the last year. I used to let the fear of other people’s judgment control my life. And it’s a REALLY tough thought pattern to let go of. But if I don’t, I’m never going to be all I can be. And whose opinion about me really matters? The people I love, and the people I’m putting myself out there for – people I want to help. I was lucky enough to get a pretty good education, and I’ve had opportunities in life that now allow me to be in a position to share some of that education with people who may never have had the chance. Seeing someone at 10:00 on Friday looking at me so lost, and then two hours later fully engaged and asking questions and looking a whole lot more confident left me feeling pretty good.
So I’m going to keep working at it. I may never be back dancing on stage, or fronting a rock band again. But I can keep pushing myself to be in front of people, with the goal of getting back to who I was meant to be, and hopefully helping other people out a little bit. As for performing in front of anybody again – well, isn’t that what cats are for?