*NOTE: For more information on the reading and prompt that inspired this essay please click here.
This is what I would always find myself going through whenever I talked to someone who I viewed as superior. I spent my adolescent life waiting for the day I would finally turn 21, so that I would no longer be plagued with my problem of talking with adults. I thought that since I was legally an adult myself, I would be able to view myself on equal footing with everyone, and be able to comfortably and confidently communicate with other adults. However, as you probably have already predicted, just because society had deemed me mature enough to buy alcohol doesn’t mean that I had changed magically overnight as a person. I continued to be unable to fully feel comfortable within my own skin whenever speaking to an adult.
My challenge stems from the fact that when growing up, anyone older than me automatically demanded respect. I grew up with the idea that being younger meant that I could never challenge the ideas or acts of those older than me. To my surprise, after I entered college, I was encouraged to openly critique and push the ideas of those around me, regardless of age. This was a foreign concept to me, and I always shied away from these types of discussions because I was afraid to confidently stand behind my own ideas in front of those who I thought were much wiser and knowledgeable than me. As I became more involved on campus, I found myself needing to interact with those older than me in order to execute my job and responsibilities. In these instances, I would attempt to be as efficient and polite as possible, with no room for any conversation that did not pertain to business. Thus, I took upon the challenge to not just speak to those older than me, but also to let my personality show rather than holding back and presentingmyself as that polite yet forgettable student. I did this by letting down my barriers and showing the bubbly and confident person I felt that I’ve become to be.
The first step was for me to change my perspective of adults. Just because someone was older than me in age, doesn’t automatically mean that they didn’t have anything left to learn from me. I tried to start small and begin viewing the adults I come to interact with as if they were only a few years older in order to make me feel less stiff around them. I couldn’t see them as peers, but viewing those older than me as mentors rather than authoritative leaders with absolute control allowed me to begin opening up my shell. I was able to smile openly and create small talk when before it was a struggle to even break out of my stiff demeanor. Before I knew it, I was able to laugh and even banter lightly with the adults I saw on a regular basis. My efforts to change struck me when I was having a staff dinner with the director of the department in which I work for. I have never spoken to him beyond superficial small talk about the crazy weather and work but during that dinner, I learned more about him (and I’m sure him about me) than I had throughout the two years I’ve known him. What struck me was the fact that with my initial shift in perspective brought about a smooth transition to finally being able to show my personality in front of adults. I am proud of the person I’ve become, and I finally realized that I wanted to depict my true self to all those I come to contact with.
The results of my self challenge went beyond what I anticipated. I had originally used this challenge as a means to generally become more comfortable with those around me. What I experienced instead was an increase in confidence and appreciation for the person I have become. By this point in my life, I knew what my strengths and skills are, but I had never depicted my personality to those outside of my circle of friends. I strayed away from showing the person I was underneath the professional exterior in fear that the others will see me as irritating or unprofessional. Through this challenge, I found that I could be validated for the work I did and the positive influence I had on others
Post submitted by Lauren