I couldn’t speak in front of an audience, no matter how prepared I was.
I still remember being a scared 10-year-old girl in front of an audience. I was told to perform a small poem for annual day, and I was petrified. I had practised the whole week for the performance and was well-prepared. But when the time came, I looked at everyone around me, and simply froze. I could not utter a single word, and everyone stood there looking at me, in confusion. My chest felt like it was about to explode and my hands were sweaty. I tried to look up again thinking I might eventually remember something but as soon as I saw everyone’s eyes laid on me, I forgot why I was there. I, then, ran out of the stage and cried in my mom’s arms. I was so disappointed with myself and I felt as though my life was over with all the embarrassment.
When I turned 12, I experienced a similar episode. I was supposed to give an introduction in the class assembly, and I blanked out just when I was given the spot. I could literally feel my heart thumping, and the anxiety made me feel numb. I was so well-prepared that I hadn’t thought I would fail. I just could not figure out the reason behind it. I felt ashamed of myself, and kept thinking “what would people think of me”.
My parents and I thought it was just a temporary thing and that I would grow out of it. But it did not stop there. Instead, it started happening more frequently, and each episode became more intense. I never understood why it kept happening with me, and not anyone else. I doubted myself and my abilities every time this happened. My parents were extremely worried, and thought it would be best if I saw a counsellor.
Growing up, I always thought that there was something wrong with children who went to counsellors. The simple thought of meeting a counsellor would make me feel embarrassed. I had this notion that she would make me relive memories I didn’t want to think about, of all the times I had blanked out or ran out of speeches. But my parents still insisted on going for therapy, and so I did. Honestly, it was nothing like I had imagined. The counsellor was such a good human. She didn’t judge me for my past behaviours.
Initially, the thought of ‘what people would think about me’ always pulled me down. Every time someone would look at me in the eye, I would usually look away because of the fear of judgment. I was never a straight-A student, and watching my confident friends perform so well made me feel inferior. Wanting to be at par with them pressurised me, and eventually, I would end up having a break down because of my inability to deal with that burden.
With counselling, I learned a lot about myself. I was made to realize that I was unique, and I didn’t have to meet anybody’s standards, and keep up to anyone’s expectations. I just had to do my best and let the rest follow. As the sessions went by, I wanted to start over, I wanted to try doing better. I learnt to stop letting the judgment of others affect me.
Counselling helped me deal with all of my insecurities, and be more confident about myself. If I had stuck to that negative ideation I had in my mind, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I broke my barriers and I’ve grown to be someone I’m proud of. I can speak in front of 100 people without hesitation and without feeling what I felt earlier. More importantly, the girl that was scared of being judged was not there anymore, and she became the girl who she strived to be.