The world isn’t really built around the introverts.
We are quiet; we are shy. We think deeply but our thoughts rarely make their way unscathed, to our mouths. By the time it is our turn to speak, we have broken out into a cold sweat and everything we intended to say has come stuttering and stumbling from a tongue that has suddenly grown two sizes and is impossible not to trip over.
They don’t call it ‘tongue-tied’ for nothing.
I remember my early years, working in the field of adult education with a group of wonderful people who had decades more experience than I did. We came from all over the province and we didn’t see one another often. When we did meet, there was always a great deal to discuss and to decide. One of their favourite ways to end a two-day brainstorming session was to do a final round-table where everyone was invited to wrap up their thoughts about the meeting before we all went back to our own towns and cities.
I used to dread those round tables with every single fibre of my being.
For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why everyone else seemed to enjoy it so much. As they got started (and I always seemed to be the one who ended up going last), I would go very still and my heart would start pounding so hard I was convinced everyone in the room could hear it. After I had attended a few of those meetings, I learned to prepare a bit: jotting down little bits of what I hoped were intelligent sound bites throughout the two-day meeting in preparation for ‘my turn to speak’. But sometimes, the chairperson would surprise us with a round-table question that seemed to have nothing to do with the topic we had been discussing.
They don’t call it ‘fight, flight or freeze’ for nothing, either.
In my early twenties, I devised a strategy: I had learned to swim late (in my teens) and despite all odds, I became pretty good at it. I decided to visualise every challenge I would come up against as a dive into the deep end of the pool. In all the pools I ever dove into, never; not once, did I drown. And I told myself, no matter how anxious I was going to feel, the outcome had to be better than anything I was imagining.
The trick, I determined, was to visualise every experience that caused me anxiety with the same positive outcome: no matter how awful it felt, I was not going to die. For many years thereafter, before being called upon to speak publicly, I would feel the heavy knot of fear in my chest; I would start to sweat; I would feel my tongue start to knot up.
And then I would close my eyes and just…dive.
I don’t recall when I stopped needing to do that. I have no idea when my heart stopped pounding; when the words I needed were just…there. At some point, with no real fanfare, it must have just happened. When I look back over the last decades, there are so many things I have been able to do; so many things my twenty-year-old self could not have dreamed of doing. Because every time you close your eyes and dive into the deep end, it really does get a little bit easier the next time.
To those of you just learning to dive, please know this: I see you. I remember that feeling. I know how hard it is. Don’t give up. And please be good to yourself: you should be awfully proud of how far you have come. You are going to be just fine.
And one day, perhaps you’ll be giving someone else the same message I have just given to you… xoxo
Thanks so much to Don’t mind me, I’m justanervousgirl/ Too Much at Once? for the inspiration…
Patti Moore Wilson/© wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com