I looked down at my nondescript black shoes, biting my lip. That one simple question – one which used to fill me with unimaginable dread – was wrapping itself around my brain, making it hard to think: “What would you like to do?” My eyes glued to the blurry outlines of my feet, I sighed. “I don’t mind. What would you like to do?”
For years, that was my mantra. I didn’t want to make waves. I wanted to be loved – universally and without question. Many people live their entire lives with a similar outlook, swallowing their opinions and giving voice to those of others instead. This is especially true of us, women, who are praised for things like niceness, politeness and friendliness. “I don’t mind. What would you like to do?” Has there ever been a better motto for women worldwide?
Well, actually, there has. This is the 21st century. We are no longer the fair sex – we are now the equal sex, the we-demand-fair-treatment sex! As such, it’s surprising how many girls and women around the globe still feel the need and the pressure to be purely ornamental.
For a long time, my insecurity allowed me to keep up this diffidence. Don’t let me fool you into thinking I was a sane teenager – deep inside, I have always been as crazy as you know me to be. I was just too afraid of being judged. I never felt like I was entitled to assertively express my views or, heaven forbid, defending them in front of larger groups of people. When confronted, I was all flight and no fight.
It was not until I entered university that I slowly began embracing my right to be unabashedly me. I was seventeen, newly single and I was in London – the greatest city in the world if you are looking to stir up a little controversy. In other words, nothing was stopping me from making a huge ass of myself and so, little by little, I slowly blossomed into the full-blown moron I am today. I say blossomed, some might say devolved – either way, I have finally reached the stage where I no longer let other people make decisions on my behalf. I know what I want and I work hard to get just that.
Even after transitioning from a troubled teen into a confident young adult, it took me a long time to realise something had been amiss all those years. It finally clicked when I was curled up underneath a towering pile of blankets, rewatching “The Holiday” for the umpteenth time. Not normally one for cheesy rom-coms, I have come to love this film because it often accompanies those much treasured – and increasingly rare – moments when my mother and I both find the time to sit down and do nothing. Hot cocoa in one hand and the remote in the other, I jumped up when an old screenwriter turned to one of the main protagonists and said:
“Iris, in the movies we have leading ladies and we have the best friend. You, I can tell, are a leading lady, but for some reason you are behaving like the best friend.”The Holiday
That was it! All those years I was pretending to be the sidekick when, by default, I was the leading lady. Today, I am going to share five useful tips to help you figure out how to be the main character of your life. Are you ready to step into the limelight and shine? Now is your chance!
I used to precede most my sentences with three magical words – “excuse me, but…”. I know I am definitely not the only one, because I hear those words far more often than I’d like. The sad truth is that this lack of confidence makes you seem less important in the eyes of others… and you deserve so much better than that! Next time you have something to say, stand with your back straight and tell everyone what’s on your mind!
This is not to say that you should never apologise – conceding when you are wrong and owning up to your actions shows great strength of character. But unless you have actually messed up, the word “sorry” should be erased from your vocabulary.
As the protagonist in the story of your life, you do not need permission to speak – you are the reason everyone showed up the watch the film! All you have to do is decide whether you would rather be a forgettable character in a mundane straight-to-DVD series or the leading star of a Hollywood blockbuster. The bad news – as well as the good – is that to be the latter, all you have to do is be thoroughly and unapologetically you.
This is bad because few things are scarier than putting yourself out there in all your eccentric glory and allowing others to see who you truly are. But once you gather the confidence to let your personality shine through everything you do, the bad news suddenly becomes amazing – living your life the way you want and stealing the spotlight with your uniqueness is the most valuable thing you can give yourself.
Get what you want
The next time you want to fade into the background and let somebody else give you stage directions, take a deep breath and remember that you have the final say in how your story will play out. It can be nice to let others decide every now and then, but never be afraid to put your foot down when it comes to major life-altering decisions.
If you want to travel the world but your job does not give you enough flexibility, do the unthinkable and wave it goodbye. Not ready to settle down and start a family despite everyone’s insistence that you should? Listen to your heart and forge your own path! And, for the love of all that is good, do not apologise for doing so.
Do realise that we are all in this together though and, just as you are the main star on your stage, everyone you meet has the prerogative to fight for their dreams. Never compromise your integrity, but try to accommodate other people’s wishes if they don’t hinder you from achieving your own. Joy is contagious and doing good is addictive in the best way possible!
Saying no to people is difficult, because many of us fear appearing impolite or selfish. That is why we often agree to do favours for others, even when our excitement for the task in question is below freezing point. “Would I like to drive across town after work to cuddle your Siamese cat with separation anxiety while you go on a date with my ex? Like, duh – that’s what friends are for?” Yeah, right.
Being upfront is difficult at first and saying no can make you feel like a bad person. Which sounds better though – pretending to be a token “nice guy/girl” or being an actual human being with wants and needs? You might lose a few frenemies, but you will sure as hell gain the certainty that all those who remain by your side are there because they like you for you, not for what you do. But…
…it’s not so simple. You cannot say “no” to everything, otherwise all you’d be left with would be some dirty pyjamas and your head buried underneath a fluffy pillow. And, as appealing as that sounds to me right now, that is no way to live. To enjoy your life to the fullest, you should jump at any opportunity that presents itself and makes your heartbeat quicken. As long as it is legal and reasonably safe, that is – I’m not here to corrupt the youth, I promise!
Based on Danny Wallace’s novel by the same name, the movie “Yes Man” has a simple premise – what if you said “yes” to every opportunity that came your way? In short, you would probably go crazy. But what if you picked one activity a week – an activity which excites and scares you in equal measure – and went for it? Facing your fears head-on puts you in the driver’s seat and allows you to feel like you’re fully in control of your life. After all, as scary as that may seem, you are the main character of your life and it is completely up to you which way you steer it.
Do you feel like you are playing the lead in the story of your life? Are you still figuring out how to get the starring role? As always, I love hearing your opinions!