In a group of strangers, it will take just minutes (or even seconds) for the most out-going personalities to make themselves known. If, by chance, it’s a quiet group, I’m in my element. I can put forth my ideas and opinions easily and even enjoy asserting myself. When there are two or three people vying for the limelight however, I could fight for my space, but then the doubts creep in...
Is it worth it? What if I just say something stupid and embarrass myself? Everyone else seems to be better at this than me anyway, so there’s no point contributing.
The rational part of my brain is telling me that this is all wrong, that I’m there for a reason, everyone else is probably blagging it a bit anyway, and of course my opinions are just as valid as theirs. And yet I keep quiet and wait a turn that might never come.
This doesn’t just happen at work though; I do it in casual conversations too. An idea pops into my head, and there’s a convenient pause in the conversation for me to say something. I almost do, but then... I don’t. The thought process that controls this is so subconscious and so fast that I don’t even know why I chose not to speak. By that point it’s too late, and anyway it doesn’t matter, it was probably superfluous or mundane. Or, more tediously, maybe it was a question that I suddenly feel unsure about asking and hold back. Whatever it is, it’s easier to choose silence. Sometimes the conversation carries on in my head, my mind babbles away to itself and then I realise I’ve been quiet for far too long. My friend says she can tell when this is happening, my face must give me away!
Without sounding like a complete nutcase, I’m writing this blog entry to muse on WHY. Is it a lack of confidence? Plain old (PhD-induced) world-weariness? Does it stem from being an only child and happy in my own company? Ultimately (combined with a natural aptitude for quiet) I think the problem comes from experiential learning. When you get something right, you need to repeat it to make it stick. Get shot down once, and it will stay with you for far longer.
What I need is someone to bring that confidence out, to reward the tentative steps towards getting my thoughts heard. But I’m not a little girl in a classroom any more. The unfortunate reality is this: if I don’t push myself, no one else will.