You all know how this feels, you rock up to the local ‘basket weaving’ workshop and they start by inflicting this evil little ritual on you. The introducing yourselves to the group bit. The sadists….
I would have rather stapled a ‘post it’ to my forehead than announce my name and pertinent details to the rest of the group. I have previously managed to introduce myself as the person next to me; I have literally copied word for word what they have said, including their name, as my brain has had a strop and panicked.
As the grotesque speech of hell moved towards me I become acutely aware of my breathing, I appeared to have sucked a sponge into each lung and they were starting to fill up. When there was only one more person to go before me, my jaw locked into a bizarre grimace, my eyes were wild, looking for an escape route, hoping beyond hope that the lady the other side of me would jump in and introduce herself, absolving me of existence for just a few seconds..
It gets to my turn. ’Hi, I’m er’…. my voice sounds like a witch licking a chalkboard. Little lights were going off in my peripheral vision. The group were all looking at me, they were wondering how long it’s been since I dyed my hair, where I got this stupid top, how old my shoes were. They were judging me by my ridiculous accent, that sounds far too southern to be this far north of Watford. ‘Who do you think you are, trying to fit in with us?’ This is exactly what they were all thinking. I’m sure of it.
I mumble something about sponges and then wait for the dreaded red flush. The wave of introduction passes now but I have no idea what anyone else has said as my face filled with blood. My cheeks were so hot they were having a mirage effect before my eyes and I could not hear a thing, thanks to the blood beating itself against my eardrums like a frantic Britpop tambourine. I’m not even sure how I coped with the rest of the session after this horrific beginning, why did everyone else look so calm? why am I the only one that got myself into this kind of state? It’s the worst situation ever!
This is what I endured every time I had to go through the ‘introduction debacle’. I felt like I needed to apologise for my own existence when faced with complete strangers. It was like I wasn’t really allowed to be there, I just got there by accident. I was only allowed to exist because no one had figured out that I was a fraudulent human being yet. What an absolute load of rubbish.
I remember the day I decided that I didn’t have to worry about any of this anymore; it took me a while to get there. I came across a quote from a young actress, Gabourey Sidibe. ‘One day I decided I was beautiful, and so I carried out my life as if I was a beautiful girl. I’d wear colours that I really like, I’d wear makeup that makes me feel pretty, and it really helps. It doesn’t have anything to do with how the world perceives you. What matters is what you see.’
Now, as inspirational as this was, it was not the fact that I needed to be a beautiful girl to feel confident. It was the idea that I got to decide what I was, it was my choice to be confident. I didn’t realise that I had had a choice all this time. I didn’t realise that a confident person was just someone that decided to act in a confident manner; they are in effect faking it as much as the rest of us and they were not getting found out either. None of us were getting found out. We were all choosing our various ways of interacting with the world and none of us were getting dobbed in. There was nothing to find out. No mystery, no magic formula, no secret mantra. It really was that easy, really.
When I chose to set up on my own as VA, I worried so much about what people would think of me doing this than actually how I was going to do it. I thought I had to grow a pair and suck it up. In fact, I just had to decide to be confident. It was that simple. Whenever I felt a bit unsure I would ask myself, what would a confident person do in this situation? and I did it. I smiled a lot, but I didn’t unpack my trumpet and blow it all the time, I just quietly and carefully stopped apologising for being there. I reckon that is something we can all do.