Don’t be afraid. That’s my mantra. Don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid. Then: everything is okay, everything is okay, everything is okay.
This prompt really hit close to home because when I was younger, I was so afraid to speak out. Afraid to share my thoughts. Scared of judgement. Especially in front of large crowds or groups of people.
I dreaded when the teacher called on me. I dreaded when I had to make a presentation, even if it was a small one. I never raised my hand. The only times I actually did was when I knew I had no chance of getting the answer wrong.
I always feared that if I said something wrong, people would judge me or laugh at me. So, I never said anything. That didn’t mean I didn’t have opinions and ideas. I had lots of them. I just never shared them.
I realize now that I missed out on so much. I missed so many opportunities, so many chances to prove myself.
I remember so clearly the moments where I could have spoken out and proven myself. There were so many times where I had the correct answer in my head, yet when I told myself to raise my hand and say it, I just couldn’t. Then, the teacher would give the answer and I would find out I was right, ending up feeling immense regret and disappointment.
After that one year where I missed so many opportunities to show the teacher I had my own opinions and ideas, I promised myself I would try harder. I promised myself I wouldn’t be so afraid anymore. I got better. Of course, I didn’t just suddenly start voicing my opinions and raising my hand all the time. But, I did try to contribute to open discussions and found that everyone listened. Most of the time, what I said was valued. And that felt good.
I even managed to join a club where I would go to younger students’ classes and teach them. It was extremely nerve-racking at first because I worried I wouldn’t be listened to or would teach them something wrong, but though the first time didn’t go as smoothly as I wanted, I found that it was actually completely fine. In fact, it was fun. Exhilarating. I loved it.
I am telling you my story because I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I did. Don’t skip out on opportunities because of fear. Maybe you’ll shake with nerves or maybe you’ll want to collapse from the anxiety, but do it.
I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s not. Not at all. I am still struggling with speaking out. I still have moments where I’m so nervous or anxious that I don’t know what to do. Sometimes I’m so tempted to back out of something that I almost do it, but hold myself back at the last minute.
I was once even offered to present alone, in front of only the teacher. I was so relieved, I wanted to accept the offer, but I promised myself I wouldn’t. I would make it through myself. I wouldn’t take the easy way out.
There are times when I make it through my fear and manage to present or speak out in front of a large group of people and do really well. There are also times when I can’t get a grip on my nerves and things don’t go as planned. But, even when that happens, I find that things aren’t so bad. Perhaps I was terrified in the moment and maybe a few people judged me, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get past what happened. That doesn’t mean I can’t get past what happened.
Also, when I actually manage to speak out, it feels amazing. Incredible. I feel so accomplished. I feel ecstatic. It turns out, when I actually get what I want to say out, it’s fun. I now understand why so many people loved raising their hands in class so much.
But, I promise, when you actually do something, it’s not so bad. You may not believe me, but this is coming from personal experience. When it’s over, it’s over.
So, and I can’t repeat myself enough: Don’t be afraid.
Maybe you’re not afraid of speaking out. Maybe you’re struggling with something else. The same goes for that.
It’s hard. But not impossible. Not if you try hard enough.
Fear is just a reason to try harder.