I have always decided not to try something just in case I found out, without a shadow of a doubt, that I am bad at it.
I could swim quite well, and enjoyed it so long as I was better than a few other people in the pool. But the day I found out that in a swimming competition I could come close to last, I stopped swimming altogether to avoid ever having to be last. I know I should have tried harder, practiced more, worked at it but that’s the benefit of hindsight. At the time – the tender age of 9 – it made sense to focus on what I was good at rather than actually try any harder and no one told me different.
Another thing that added to my conviction about this flawed way of thinking was when I was 11 and wrote poems for the end of year concert. I wanted to perform them as I had done other notable authors poems at the Eisteddfod my whole primary life. But once I had auditioned and gotten through, and we had moved onto practicing on the stage, the concert director decided it would be better for my poems to be printed in the programme instead of me performing them. Quite a blow to my little ego, which communicated a very clear message – public speaking is not for you!
I love to write and have loved it from a young age, that’s the one thing that I kept getting right. Until the time I came 15th in the Top 15 of the National English Olympiad in South Africa. The Top 15 were whisked off to Grahamstown for the National Arts Festival and we were a happy little bunch of potentially brilliant young writers. We were all equal until we weren’t. They announced 3rd, 2nd and 1st place on the final day of our trip, at a prize giving ceremony which our families were invited to attend. I waited on that stage with the others who had become my fast friends. My wait was not very long because my failure was announced first – I was number 15 of 15, I was last. My father hugged me like I was a champion but in my heart I knew I failed. My husband always tells me that it was a great achievement because I came 15th in the whole country in 2005, but for me it was a damning blow to my confidence. Another reason why I shouldn’t try anything just in case I fail and publicly like this time.
That’s why even though I have always been told I have a nice voice it took me forever to sing in public. Even after I did I still don’t think I am good enough. Maybe it’s because there an expectation of excellence in my family or maybe its just me putting myself under unreasonable pressure.
Whatever it is I think I am done with it now. I am done being afraid to start and afraid to fail. The worst thing that could happen is that I learn something and become a better version of myself.