*NOTE: For more information on the reading and prompt that inspired this essay please click here.
Those who have grasped my inner essence are very aware of the fact that I am a self-proclaimed introvert. Although others have deemed me an “interesting” introvert (I’m still not fully aware of what that means), I am steadfastly aware of the fact that I cringe at the notion of sharing my thoughts, feelings, and worst of all my opinions. It makes me want to melt, to ooze with uneasiness at the prospect of standing in front of a room, or even sitting within a lecture hall and speaking out in front of other individuals. Some may call it petty, others may deem it stage fright, or an aversion to public speaking. I merely justify this fear by inciting my “introvertedness”, something I have embraced in the past. So when asked to stir up the uneasiness and dip my toes in the waters of discomfort, I figured that now is as good a time as any to challenge my introverted self to liberate the pent up voice I so often belittle.
I knew my best chance at success would be to set benchmarks, a stringent trajectory of goals to follow in order to commit myself to the daunting task of raising my hand and speaking out in class. Although for some this may seem like a trivial challenge, or not even a challenge at all, allowing the prospect of speaking during class to enter my mind was like opening the gates so the anxiety driven butterflies could set up shop. I kept repeating a mantra to myself; this was “all in the name of WSP”. That phrase I hoped was going to get me through.
And so, I developed a weekly goal for myself.
Week one would entail mental preparation. Much like the way athletes envision their ideal race or angelic pass, I was visualizing myself inching my hand into the air, and being called on, which hopefully would follow with an intellectually stimulating response from yours truly. This benchmark was easily attained as most class periods I find myself psyching myself up to get at bat, swinging and scoring as I repeat what I would say about ten times in my head had I actually been remotely daring enough to raise my hand.
Come week two it was time to actually swing, or rather to leap. And so I leapt. I encouraged myself to speak up in my discussion section at least once. I pretended that the methodological pounding of my heart was just the bodily manifestation of my adrenaline. And when I finished my remark, the endearing smile from my professor made the whole ordeal feel slightly less traumatic, just slightly though.
Week three would come to test the shaky confidence I had just manufactured. Not only would I speak up in discussion section, but I would share my thoughts two times in one fifty minute section. That’s one comment every 25 minutes, an unnerving statistic for someone like me. And again I surprised myself. I knew what I wanted to say and in an almost out of body experience (it may have actually been that dramatic) I delivered my notions with ease. My neighbor’s response took me by surprise, when he said my voice was not even shaky.
No sooner would my newly built self-assurance dissolve when I realized that Week four presented itself with the most formidable challenge thus far. This challenge would manifest itself as my inner gauntlet, a true test of nerves and my budding inner confidence. It was time for the major leagues. I provoked myself to speak up, not in section might I add, but in my 150 person lecture. And, boy was it challenging. I was lucky to have a close friend whose calming eyes and blissful smile kept me grounded. I could do this. It’s “all in the name of WSP”. After drinking my entire bottle of water and munching on an untold amount of carrots (I tend to be a nervous snacker) I knew it was time. Deep breath. And it was all over.
I, me, Ashton, the quiet listening introvert, just spoke in front of 150 people. Not only did I speak, but I shared something typically so guarded, something very personal to me, my vulnerable thoughts.
We often speak of empowerment, words as a form of inner liberation. I have relied on writing as a crutch for empowerment, knowing it was something I excelled at, was something comfortable for me, and something effective. Persistent bouts of self-reflection yield the innermost knowledge of one’s self. But knowing that I was better at listening to students, peers, and friends, rather than sharing my own personal inhibitions became too comfortable for me. I could no longer rely on this introverted justification. I find that I am most uncomfortable when I get too comfortable (hence the interesting introvert comment). In dedicating myself to discomfort, I freed my own speech, possibly the most genuine sense of self-empowerment I have cultivated. In the name of WSP, I created a self-proclamation to speak up and speak out.
Post Submitted by Ashton