Up until the other side of the age of 13, I couldn’t even tell the lady at the register at McDonald’s that I wanted a six piece nugget meal when my family and I went out for our usual Friday night family date. My mother would tell her what she wanted, what she wanted for my younger sister and then give my order to her.
I was the definition of shy.
Until you got to know me. All of my friends got to see the loud side of me. During those earlier years, they didn’t really get to see the full me, but they saw more than what strangers saw.
Somewhere on the larger side of 13, my world started changing. Sure my face would get a little red when I would speak in front of the class, talk to someone I had just met, etc. But, I still did it. I put myself out there. By the time I was 17, no one would have ever believed I was once a shy kid.
I had no problems talking with people I had never seen before in my life, speaking in front of groups was a breeze and my outgoing personality didn’t stop branching off there. I started acting more like myself.
But I was myself within the realm of your average teenager. I never felt comfortable letting my “full self” out of the bag. That didn’t come until the age of 24. Sometime happened the day I turned 24 and I call it the day my “I Don’t Care” button was switched on. Suddenly, what everyone thought about me was moot. All that mattered was this: When I go to bed at night, can I say that I stayed true to myself that day? Was I happy about how the day went?
Those first few months were rough because no, I was not happy with myself. I was still, after six years, wading through the college world, amassing small degrees here and there, working full time and living a pretty unhappy personal life at the time.
I used the gym as a crutch to help me build my confidence in being me, and I will say one thing: It proved helpful in more ways than one.
Armed with determination, I became the me I was always meant to be, and I own it in a very, very big way.
I’m smart. I’m quick. I love deeply and openly. I believe strongly in compassion, yet I’m no longer that girl that will still clutch on to you after you have betrayed me. I’m opinionated. I’m strong. I have a thirst for knowledge and long ago I stopped hiding in the library stacks, I’ve let my nerd flag fly high. I have no shame in what I watch, what I read, what I listen to and any interest I may have other than those. I’m loud, and have zero shame about that too. I wear makeup sometimes. I rock bright red, shiny heels. I have a pair of turquoise skinny jeans that I’ve been known to wear frequently. I’m that rough and tumble, my body is a temp-look out for that rock! girl who isn’t afraid to get sweaty or dirty. I can do “man things”. I will stand in the mirror at the gym and profess loudly my undying love for my quads (or whichever body part that it is that looks amazing that day). I’m animated when I talk, even more so when it’s something that I’m really in to. The list goes on…
Because I’ve become so open about who I really am, people from my past have said that I have changed. Few who could see underneath the rubble what gem really lay deep inside, stuck by me. I didn’t change, I just finally took advantage of a little photosynthesis and blossomed.
A benefit to those who didn’t want to see me for the amazing person that I really am is that it made room for a whole lot of really amazing people. In a little more than a half-decade, I have watched my social circle change drastically. I call this the “school dilemma”. Growing up, unless you travel outside of your school’s district, it’s harder to make friends from “away”. You’re friend pool is limited, and where you gravitate to is decided based on an extremely small list of similarities, which when you look deeper, can’t really classify as similarities at all. Then you get your license, get a job in this town, work with kids from this school, meet these people from over there. Next thing you know, you’re pool has opened. It’s not quite the equivalent of the ocean, but you’re getting there. You start hanging out with people that really have a few of the same interests at heart, and it only grows from there (adulthood and meeting people is the ocean of the “friend pool”).
I took advantage of that ocean friend pool in a big way and because of it, at the age of 30 when most people are sitting in the corner of their bedrooms, hugging a box of tears because they’re “So old!” now at the age of 30, I’m standing on the end of the dock, naked, ready to go skinny dipping.
Confidence is a really great thing. But you have to really own it to fully have it.