By Iranola Ojuolape
In my earlier years, ranging between elementary and middle school, I was extremely shy. Actually, shy is an understatement. I was a self-effacing, modest child who had trouble holding the slightest amount of conversation with any of my peers.
Why? Honestly, at the time, I had no idea why I was this way – I believed that it was just my nature. But reflecting, I realize that my encounters with others resulted in me becoming a closed-off person. My ability to shun out the world was one that worried my parents, siblings, and myself.
Saying I was bullied would definitely be considered a stretch in this situation, but I received just the right amount of teasing from my peers to form an unbreakable shell that eventually resulted in me becoming more reserved and reticent.
I was a young, Naija girl before it was considered trendy or cool (but we’ll save that topic for another day☺). Therefore, my classmates thought that embarrassing me by exaggerating the difficulty of my name or because of the attire I occasionally wore to school was a source of entertainment.
In addition to this, it is safe to say that my appearance was, um… a little different. I was extremely tall, scrawny, and my eyes were practically bulging out of my face. Of course, I still contain some of these physical qualities, but puberty played a huge role in solidifying my overall look.
But at the time, these physical characteristics gave my peers a field day. The jokes were repetitive, yet, never-ending.
Initially, it was hard to see the brighter side of things when people were constantly reminding me that I was unlike them – in whatever way they felt necessary. Due to this, I kept to myself and I limited myself to one friend per school year. But soon, I realized that there was more to me than what others thought.
Most would think that being teased and being shy is a gateway for diffidence and insecurity, but for me, it eventually resulted in self-discovery. I became a person that had to learn to love herself.
I quickly began to understand that no one can fill an internal void. It was up to me to make myself happy.
Fortunately, the experiences I encountered were not permanently scarring, rather they helped me grow as a person and gain a new sense of identity and confidence. Thankfully, I was able to take the teasing I received and transform it into inner strength, instead of allowing it to make me incapable of flourishing.
Now that I am a college student at a large university, I have witnessed how easy it is to get lost in the mix of things, or even within oneself. Never at any point in my life have I felt more confident and ambitious than now, and my past played a huge part in my growth.
Every day I am learning that the world is a large, intimidating place that I am more than capable of conquering. There is inspiration everywhere, and it is made available for people like me to take advantage of. At this point in my life, I have decided to be happy with myself and accept the fact that I am love who I am.
Inner confidence is honestly the best feeling I have ever withheld. The journey to obtaining this gift was a long one that consumed a large chunk of my life, but I am thankful for every experience that contributed in me becoming who I am.
Of course, I still have insecurities and weaknesses like everyone else, but now I do not allow it to diminish who I am or affect how I interact with others.
With the new attitude and care-free demeanor that I now uphold, I believe that I am ready to move forward and face all obstacles ahead of me without the approval or consent of others.