If you had asked me to define my personality ten years ago, I would’ve told you that I was someone who was wild, loud, loved to have fun, and always open for new experiences. However, when I would say that, there was always a wave of doubt that I was lying to myself and to the person asking. Inside my head, I could be the most cynical, pessimistic, and negative person. From years of experience, I learned how to put on a good face. Adults always loved me as a teenager because I learned how to respond and how to act to their liking. I always nailed interviews because I knew what employers were looking for and I put on a face that was everything they wanted. Teachers loved me because I complied with their rules and I was a great student. I even knew how to be a perfect child to my parents because with two older siblings, I made sure to avoid the things that got them in trouble, and to do the things that got them praise. The people I didn’t know how to “charm” were people my age. I had to work hard to be myself and to make friends. This was a challenge and as a result, any friends I made, I made sure to hang on to tightly.
I have always lived a life of pleasing other people, something I’ve become a bit of an expert at. Then came time to go through a big life change. It was time to move 700 km away from everything and everyone I knew to go to university in Quebec. I was never one who handled change very well and leaving home to go to school so far away, in a province that speaks a different language, was one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever had to go through. Not only was I in a new atmosphere with no old friends and no comfort to lean on, but suddenly my habit of pleasing others didn’t work anymore. Professors couldn’t be bothered to care about my charming work ethic and personality, my parents lived 700 km away, and I suddenly had nobody to please.
Finding friends that I could truly count on was difficult. Within 6 months of starting university, I had lost my high school best friend and I had lost a friendship that I had developed so quickly over the course of two months. I didn’t leave my dorm room very often and I didn’t join any clubs. I had made friends with the people on my floor and I spent the majority of my first year with these people. They were nice, but I couldn’t be my full self with them. I relied on them for comfort and stability which was all I craved at the time. The time that I wasn’t in class or with my floor mates, I was wallowing in my room. I suffered through some minor depression and I was a generally isolated person. Following first year, the majority of my friends at school were people I just happened to see on a regular basis. They were either my roommates, or people I had the same classes with. I didn’t put much effort into going outside of my comfort zone. Don’t get me wrong, I made some amazing friends who I’m still in touch with, but overall, I had a poor university experience.
A couple years ago, one of the friends I did meet at university, Michelle, was taking part of a leadership conference. She was spreading the word around and I decided that it would be cool to go with her to this conference and I wanted to support her on this journey. One of the main motivators to do this conference was that I thought the leadership conference would look good on my resume for teaching. I went into it for reasons of pleasing other people.
I came out of the conference with an entirely new outlook on life. Throughout my university years, due to my isolation and laziness to meet people outside of my comfort zone, I had become a very negative and pessimistic person, or so I thought. One of the biggest comments I received at the conference was that I was an incredibly positive person who was always seen with a smile. This shocked me because who I thought I was inside my head was different from how I was being perceived. This is where I truly learned and understood the difference between introverts and extroverts. I thought that an extrovert was a person who was energetic and fun, whereas “introvert” defined people who were quieter and kept to themselves. I had always defined myself as an extrovert because that’s who I wanted to be. I wanted to be the “wild, loud, loved to have fun, and always open for new experiences” person that I defined myself as. I learned from this experience, that being wild and loud, was not the same as being an extrovert. This conference helped me realize that I shouldn’t always try to please everyone else, and I should live life for myself. I did not try to please anyone else at this conference and for the first time, I came off as what I wanted to be known for. I learned that the definitions of introvert/extrovert are based on how a person recharges, not based on their personality.
I stepped outside of my comfort zone to go to this conference. What had destroyed my confidence and outlook on myself in four years of university had suddenly dissipated in a weekend. Ever since then, I have been working on my inner demons. I have been working on the cynicism and the pessimism that pops up every so often. I have learned that pleasing others doesn’t please me, and I have been happier than ever. While this sometimes may mark me as an “outcast”, I have identified who I am and I do not let the judgment of others bring me down. That being said, it is still a work in progress.
I am personally someone who doesn’t believe in regrets, so while I don’t regret my university years, I do wish I had done things differently. I know this may feel like a cliché, but I can’t stress enough how important it is to step outside your comfort zone. It opens the doors to so many more experiences.
Your biggest demon will likely be yourself. Learning to love yourself and to be yourself doesn’t happen in a day, a week, a month, or even a year. It takes continuous effort and attention. I am still continuously working on my own demons, but I have come a long way and I am proud of what I have accomplished
If you ask me today to define my personality, I would tell you that I am someone who is wild, loud, loves to have fun, and always open for new experiences. And when I say that, I would know that I am telling the truth even if my definition of my personality differs from what someone else would say.
by Angela Slessor