I used to be a walking apology. I would apologise for people walking into me, around me, or for things other people did to other passers by. I used to walk in a room and pray that I slipped in unnoticed, indistinguishable and anonymous. I could never explain it. I just knew in my brain, I was a 5 year old aching to hide behind someone’s giant leg so I could just peer and people watch with no consequence.
I saw something recently that made me realise what it was. It was a very deep fear of having to win them all over. I didn’t see a sea of strangers all happily amassed for a common cause. I didn’t see a crowd in which may lurk a potential new friend. I saw an interview panel, a room stuffed full of people about to review my worthiness in life and dexterity in life skills. I saw everyone with free rein to cast aspersions or assumptions in my direction, with no power to control what stuck. Every social occasion was time in the dock, the verdict being passed on how well I was growing up.
Locked in defence mode, little did I know I barred myself in in a bid to create my own security. I walled up and holed up as much as I could. And in doing so, I probably attracted more negativity for each brick I set between myself and the other. I ducked out of conversation and dived out of groups. I lurked and skulked and was generally a horrible guest. (And yet, ironically, when I did talk to someone, it was never as bad as I expected…
It’s weird that when we sit at one end of the spectrum, we only see the polar opposite. Somehow our gaze skips past the middle ground to the unattainable antithesis, the option that contradicts who we are to the core. I thought then, sitting at one end of the see-saw, that the only other option was to want to walk in the room and pro actively will or court acknowledgement. I thought that the alternative was to walk in assuming adoration from and immediate assimilation into the throng on any given day. I associated it with words like ‘schmooze’ and ‘superficial’ and therefore I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. I didn’t want either option. Thankfully I saw the middle ground.
The other option is to walk in the room without needing external validation. You might want it, but you don’t need it. The other option is to be comfortable in yourself, to the extent that no one can reveal you as otherwise. It means shining your light and embracing your shadow. It’s about understanding that unique balance of virtue and beauty that you, and only you, bring to the world. And it means being mindful of what you find challenging In yourself so you manage it with awareness. It also slides into you remembering that everyone else also has their checks and balances, stories and scars to mediate in that space too.
A couple of days ago, I thought that that that was called confident. But now I think it’s called authentic. Being real. Being true and aiming to be the brightest you can be. And I am happier for seeing the middle ground.