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Personal growth

I’ve never been a particularly confident person. I’ve never been the one to command a room when I walk into it, or take charge of group discussions. It’s just not in my nature. Growing up, I was ridiculously shy. I would avoid speaking to people I didn’t really know out of fear of blushing; when I blush, I blush hard. The kind of blushing that people would laugh at, and point out just to be nasty. I stayed in my own little shell for the majority of high school, and it wasn’t until I left in 2014 that I really started to grow as a person and finally get some of that confidence that everyone else seemed to have already.

I can still remember the twinge of fear I would get when a teacher said we had to do presentations in front of the class, or “no hands please“. I would always end up staying off on days of presentations because I felt sick – I didn’t realise until after leaving school that this was anxiety. I genuinely thought I was ill, I wasn’t trying to skive or get a day off. I struggled most with presentations in French; I wasn’t even good at speaking in English, how am I supposed to do in a language that was so difficult to speak?

Thing is, I actually loved French. Reading and writing it. I didn’t have the confidence to attempt to do the accent properly, so it always sounded stupid. I remember asking my French teacher if I could please come in to her at break and do my presentation, because I was struggling at the thought of doing it in front of the class. Of course, anxiety is never taken seriously in education, so she got really pissed at me and said no. I’m still holding a grudge over that.

I also struggled massively in high school with being alone. I couldn’t go to lunch by myself, couldn’t get off the bus myself, couldn’t even walk to the bin by myself. I don’t really know why. Fear of embarrassment maybe? Not that there’s anything particularly embarrassing about walking to a bin to put litter in it. I couldn’t get on the bus by myself, I would walk to another bus stop to get a bus with my friends.

Leaving school allowed me to grow into the person I am now. I’m still shy – you never really grow out of that – but I’m also a lot more confident. I’ve been able to do presentations, one of which got me a place at Edinburgh University and others which got me my qualification in Digital Marketing. I get the train by myself to work, I can go to lunch by myself without freaking out (too much) and I even got on a plane myself, which is something that scares the shit out of me but I did it! And I’m gonna do it again in about a week, which I’m trying not to think about. The bin issue ain’t even an issue anymore. I’ve done a lot of interviews and, not to toot my own horn, I was successful at a large percentage of them. I enjoy talking about myself and what I can do, what my skills are and who I am as a person. Cos I’d like to think I know that now.

I think I’m really sure of myself now. Ironic, because that sentence is full of so many unsure words. I know what my values are and what my work is worth, and I have the confidence to stand up for myself if anyone tries to take the piss. Having already experienced this, I’ve now learned that I need to have confidence in myself and what I believe I’m worth. In this situation, I did have support from everyone around me who told me I was in the right, which I knew, but because I’m only 20, I felt like that meant I knew nothing. This person is so much older than me, so much more experienced than me, so they know what they’re talking about right? Wrong. Do not trust someone who says a social media professional quoted them under £7 an hour. Blatantly obviously taking the piss and a week later, I’m still laughing at the audacity to offer me that number.

Taking a step back again and talking about how I’ve grown in other ways, ie the general quality of my life. From the ages of 17 to 19, I was a really miserable person. I just didn’t enjoy my life, hated whenever Max did anything not with me (which I’m aware sounds awful but please wait for the explanation) and just didn’t see the point in thinking about my future when I was just going to be stuck in the same shit place forever. I think that’s how depression starts. And I blame it on 2 things – my job and the contraceptive pill. I started the pill at 17. Coincidence? Probably not. My job started to get shit when I turned 17, and everyone else went off to uni or started making big career moves. And there I was, still in retail.

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I didn’t realise how miserable my job made me until I finally left it, and my whole life changed. I can’t go back into where I worked without feeling anger towards everyone in there, even the people I don’t know. That place made me hate my whole life, and thinking about how miserable I was in there still makes me want to cry. I left that place when I was 19 and entered into a career that I love and can grow within. I’m learning new skills all the time, no longer have to work [many] evenings or weekends, and people aren’t rude as shit to me. If you feel how I felt, and you’re still in a job that genuinely makes you feel hopeless about your life, I promise it changes. It doesn’t stay like that, so don’t give up the job hunt and don’t give up hope either.

Now, the contraceptive pill. Where do I even start? I started taking it when I was 17, partly to help with my acne and also because, y’know, I have a boyfriend. After a few months, I started to change, so gradually that I didn’t even notice. I started getting a lot more irritable, a lot angrier and a lot less tolerant of normal things that happen in life aka my boyfriend having friends (I mean, most of them ended up doing drugs though, so was I really wrong???). I changed to another pill, which turned me into such a bitch that my mum had to pull me aside and ask me if I was okay and what was going on. I think I was nearly turning 19 by this stage, and I changed to the injection. It took months for my hormones and my mood swings to calm down again. I think it’s only in the past few months that I’ve realised how normal I feel now. I am back on the pill again, the injection didn’t work out, but this one seems a lot better and doesn’t affect my mood swings even nearly as much as in the past. I hadn’t realised how bad I was.

I think I’ve peaked in terms of who I am as a person – I generally feel happy and content with my life and my relationships, which is something I don’t think I’ve ever felt before. I have normal moods, normal hormones and although I still get anxious about a lot of things, I’ve overcome a large chunk of them that I struggled with as a young teen. I’m proud of myself for how far I’ve come and who I am now.

How have you grown as a person?

Photos by Claire White
View Comments (3)
  • I can relate to this post so much! I used to be seriously shy, can still be, and not be able to do simple things – like you – by myself. But through college and uni these last 3 years I can definitely see myself getting better. Definitely when I look back at the 10 minutes presentation that I did by myself last month, even if I was shaking like a leaf ^^

    Sophie |

  • This is so relatable, I was nodding along throughout the entire post. Especially the pill! I tried two different types and both of them made me feel so miserable so I came off them. But they did wonders for my skin so I’m debating trying another type or not… as antibiotics don’t seem to be doing much.

  • This is such a wonderful post Lauren! I resonated really hard with it, as I very similar to you in school, shy, anxious and worried about being alone. In later life I also had a job I hated that seriously affected my mental health and made me suicidal. I love how you emphasised that you shouldn’t give up – things change and life moves on. I couldn’t agree more! Thank you so much for writing this!

    Rachel ||

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