For a long time I was shy. Yes, I know, that is shocking to many of you. But it is true.
I functioned, and I think I hid my anxiety pretty well, but I felt I was wearing a mask of self confidence every day. I experienced the normal insecurities of high school, but it didn’t end there.
Go to a party? Make small talk to strangers? Ha! No way!
Martial arts changed me. I developed confidence as I learned to overcome challenges. I started to walk with a certain kind of confidence. It’s a good thing no one every challenged me because I sure didn’t have the skills to back up my swagger.
Owning a surety bond agency forced me to talk and interact with a wide variety of people; contractors, insurance agents, SBA and surety underwriters. I was on the board of a surety organization, traveled around the country by myself meeting agents and contractors, had offices in several states. And I always had on the mask of self assurance.
Then I bought Little Rock Taekwondo. Teaching classes, a lobby full of parents, speaking in front of hundreds of people at our Christmas party. Tournaments and camps where I was the low rank, and a woman. Self defense classes with all eyes focused on me. Radio and tv interviews.
The move to Colorado. I didn’t know a soul. And after living in Little Rock all my life I had never practiced how to insert myself into a new community.
So my life was pretty quiet for a while. And that was ok.
Somewhere I lost my shyness. Somewhere I changed from dreading new situations and agonizing over how I looked and what to say to looking forward to the opportunity to make friends.
We had dinner last night with new friends. I enjoyed getting to know Helene and Sherman and hope there will be many more dinners, lots of horseback rides with Helene, maybe some plane flights with both of them.
I went to a girls only retirement party last week and the only person there that I had met more than once (if at all) was Tina. And I went. And I enjoyed the heck out of it.
The old Michelle would have backed out of those invitations. The old Michelle would have happily read a book rather than attend a gathering with people I didn’t know.
I can’t really put my finger on when I changed.
But here is what is different about me.
I know my truth. I know who I am, good and bad. I make mistakes, I learn from them and I move on. I laugh at some of the stupid stuff I have done rather than being embarrassed. With those mistakes I’ve learned to be strong, and I’ve learned that stuff is not important. People and love are important.
I’ve learned. Which means I’ve changed. Because I don’t think you can gather wisdom on this life journey without profound change.
I hope people will like me, I hope people will accept me. But if they don’t? I don’t care. It’s not that I’m so egotistical to think that everyone should like me. It’s that I have enough sense of self worth to feel that I am good enough the way I am. I don’t have to try to be a gumby and bend to others expectations.
During the burgers and beer retirement party, I was telling a story about being told that a person didn’t like me. Jokingly I said. “She doesn’t like me? How could she not like me?”
I can laugh about it now. A few years ago I would have been agonizing over it and trying to find the secret to making her like me.
There are people that don’t like me. I can understand. They don’t really know me, and have only seen part of who I am, and will be closed to the better side of me forever. There is absolutely nothing I can do about that. I’m not going to agonize over it. I’m not going to make them into bad people, because the truth is NO ONE is all bad. Or all good.
There are people that I have met that I will never feel close to. It’s not that I dislike them, it’s just that our personalities don’t click.
Then there are the people that I instantly feel at home with. Those people I want in my life, and I’m willing to invest the time and effort to help the relationship grow.
So I realize that much of my shyness was tied to my feeling that I needed others to like me. That the acceptance of others created my value.
I’m really glad I got over that.