I’ve said this before – it was when a teacher mentioned that he had been born middle-aged that I realised that it’s not necessarily possible to feel comfortable at the age you are, you may just not have reached your natural age yet, and this was quite reassuring. Maybe this feeling that I was older than my years, in combination with the sudden death of my father when I was 16, prompted my early marriage at the age of 19. I did feel, when my father died, that I suddenly grew up and wasn’t carefree any more.
Then, once I had a child to look after, I had to push myself to do things that I’d previously been too shy to do, contact people rather than wait for them and so on. I was still uncertain though, if the Sage and I wanted to invite people round for a meal I made him telephone them. I was sure they’d not want to come to see me, or that I’d be interrupting something with a call. I did have a mild phone phobia for a long time, actually, that took ages to get over.
It wasn’t until I reached the age of 30 that I finally felt that I was comfortable in my skin. I remember feeling that I’d grown up. Not long after that, we moved to this house. Ro was just 2 years old then. I had to make a new circle of friends, and I was determined to do so. I was lucky in fact, the mother and toddler group was just relaunching itself and I quickly met someone who was holding a coffee morning for mums to meet each other and to raise some money for craft equipment and so on, and she asked me along. “Next Tuesday,” she said. This was a Sunday.
Afterwards, I wondered which Tuesday she had meant. Two days later or a week and two days. I was very anxious about turning up at all, but I was determined to be brave and went along to her house on the first Tuesday. And no one was there. So it was the next week. I felt even more nervous that time, but it all went fine of course, and Ro and I joined the group and I quickly made friends with several people about my age and with similar interests – I was lucky indeed.
What stopped me being shy was the realisation that I wasn’t lacking a sense of self-worth but actually had too much of it. I convinced myself that I was proud, arrogant and that was the trouble, that I was afraid of making a mistake or not doing something well enough and that made me not try it at all. And it was a sudden joy to realise that I didn’t matter at all, most people don’t judge you, many of them are shy too.
So, I do have a fair bit of self-confidence, but actually it’s self-acceptance. It’s not that I think I do things particularly well, though I do sometimes, but I’ll generally have a go and not be afraid to fail or make a fool of myself. And if I do, just get over it. The other thing was that I realised that feeling too awkward to engage with people just made me look as though I wasn’t interested in them rather than believing, as I did, that they would not be interested in me.
I can see myself in the young Z and she in me, but there are so many differences that sometimes it’s hard to believe we’re the same person.