I spent a number of years being cripplingly shy. I think this is disappointing for others to not be able to develop a rapport with you deeper than surface level and it made me feel awkward and embarrassed.
I used to get on and do extracurricular clubs but I always felt disconnected from the other children on a social level. Being told to sit at the kids’ table at family social events was my worst nightmare (my preferred scenario to be a bystander to the adult conversations and shadow my parents the whole evening).
School was always different. It was something I did five days a week and I felt more comfortable to just relax and not censor anything I said or did. I have bagged myself a couple of friends for life thanks to school but, I’m certain more importantly, thanks to me being my authentic self. I used to be very grateful for the “good luck” I had in finding ‘my people’. Now, I am grateful that they were near me in proximity, but I strongly believe that the biggest reason for my friendships beginning and continuing so positively is because we are ourselves, through and through. That’s not down to luck – that’s a choice that we make.
People who accept you for who you are at your core are out there. It’s just that, to find them, you have to show yourself to the world. I recognise that emanating our true personalities can be a privilege and it is not always safe for people to do so but, to those of you who are purely struggling with internal conflict, I can vouch that it’s worth ignoring your inhibitions or fears in order to be yourself. It will, at the very least, omit a personality crisis and, at most, bring your soul mates to you and a deep feeling of acceptance and gratitude into your heart.
I have also experienced being on the other side of the relationship and seeing the negative effects of inauthenticity.
I was friends with someone who began censoring herself to be the person, she assumed, I would prefer. She became, very much, her inauthentic self. Over the course of a few years, I watched her go from showing her unique, bright and all-round lovely personality to becoming someone who tried to reflect everything I felt and thought back at me. This was quite a sad process to witness and I hope that one day she finds herself again and is proud to be who she is deep down. By turning away from who she really was, she became bland. All this did was push us apart rather than make me like her more. It also emphasised to me the importance of always staying true to myself so that I never lose sight of who I am on the inside.
No one should part with their individuality and become that of another.William Ellery Channing
All I can recommend to anyone is that, with every opportunity you get with strangers, you practise speaking off the cuff and get accustomed to the idea that you can’t rehearse everything you say. I’m sure that others don’t want you to either! The way of connecting with people you genuinely get on with is to chat about what your interests are, from conventional to quirky. The way to work out if the person you’re talking to shares your sense of humour is to test out a couple of jokey comments on them and see their reaction. The way to connect with the person who you would trust with your life is to share your vulnerabilities and delve below the surface with them. Find the confidence inside you and be your authentic self!
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