When I was 17, I was extremely shy.
In fact, I was so shy that I did not raise my hand to answer a question in a class even if I knew the answer.
Not just that, I was also full of insecurities.
What if people laugh when I speak?
What if my answer is wrong and the teacher makes fun of me?
What if I blabber something and become a joke?
It came in different forms, but the root cause was the same — What if I am not good enough?
This shyness combined with low self-esteem took a HUGE toll on my social life.
- I had very few friends.
- I never took part in debates, extempore speeches, or poetry recitations.
- I couldn’t speak to a stranger.
- I felt extremely self-conscious while talking to shopkeepers and waited for everyone else to leave before I told them what I wanted.
- Speaking in front of a large group of people was out of the question.
Fast forward to 13 March 2020
I gave a talk in front of a room full of budding engineers at the Indian Institute of Information Technology Guwahati (IIITG) — one of the premier engineering institutes of India.
The Reading Club held a belated celebration of International Women’s Day and invited me over for a talk on “Women in Literature”. I spoke for about 45 minutes, followed by a Q&A round where all the students took part enthusiastically.
And guess what?
I wasn’t nervous. I wasn’t shy. Here, have a look at the pictures-
Do you know what changed since my teenage years?
I realized that the ONLY thing that can stop you from achieving your dreams is the voice inside your head that keeps saying you are not good enough.
Over the years, whenever that voice starts making itself heard, I have learned to ask it to SHUT UP.
It wasn’t easy. It didn’t happen overnight.
I took small steps each day. Whenever the voice told me I would fail, I made a conscious effort to go ahead with whatever I was attempting.
No, I did not succeed each time. But then again, where is the fun in life if you never taste failure?
I also realized that life is too short to let a voice inside your head hold you back.
If you have ever felt the same way as I used to, do you know what is the best part?
The voice telling you that you CANNOT is your own. So, the voice telling you that you CAN is also going to be your own.
Here are a few small steps you can try practicing each day-
- Next time you feel you aren’t good enough, ask yourself this — “What if I am good enough?”
- Next time you hear a voice inside your head saying “What if I fail?”, shut it up and ask yourself this — “What if I pass?”
- Next time you feel that everyone else is better than you, remind yourself that everyone has their own struggles and no one has faced the exact same challenges that you have. This makes you special. This makes you unique. This means you have a story that needs to be heard.
- Next time you feel like giving up, keep pushing for one more step, one more hurdle, one more milestone.
The change is not going to happen overnight. But it IS going to happen.
And the only person who can bring about that change is YOU.
I have done the same.
I know. :)