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When I was younger, I thought my actions reflected the person that I was. I expressed myself without shyness. However, at some point that changed. While my mind was always filled with colorful ideas and thoughts, they'd turn pale every time I opened my mouth.
Whenever I was standing in front of a crowd trying to talk, my palms would sweat and my legs would shake, and I would be unable to convey my thoughts coherently. I had no idea why and had no way of understanding what was happening to me.
My ideas remained visible only to me, as I became more invisible to those around me.
Knowing my weakness in public speaking, I was too diffident to think that I would fit well in clubs that required presenting. As a result, I chose to be the person behind the scenes. I enjoyed designing costumes and setting up stages for our high school musical along with my peers.
I also expressed my feelings on canvases since it was so much easier to communicate what I had on my mind with the lift of a brush, instead of putting it into concrete words.
People around me defined me as "the quiet girl who is good at drawing stuff". I sometimes wanted to scream, "you're wrong! I'm more than that. I know who I am."
When I was watching the actors of our show perform, I felt proud of the preparatory work we had done, but I could not shake a deep feeling of loss and dissatisfaction.
For the very first time, I began to picture the person standing on the stage to be none other than myself, my true self. I wanted to be seen for who I felt I really was. From that moment on, I understood that I wanted to do better. I knew that I had to make a change.
When I was signing up for the 2019 Global Summer School this year, the first class I chose was "Public Speaking". It was with an ambiguous feeling of both confidence and nervousness that I clicked the "confirm" button and promised myself that I would try my best to finish this daunting task.
Soon after the class began, regrets started to set in. Watching my classmates fluently answering questions with no accent, I had to force myself to speak louder and better. I kept imagining myself in front of everyone a stuttering, incoherent mess.
Why did my confidence evaporate as soon as I had a shot to show everyone who I was? I remember wandering back and forth on the lane outside the school building before class, practicing the same five-minute speech repeatedly, wishing that the ground would swallow me up so that I would not have to do the speech.
Nevertheless, I gave my speech and it went well. In forcing myself to do it, I remembered that it was possible to feel calm in front of audiences. I made a lot of mistakes. I still had a Chinese accent when I spoke. My gestures might not have been natural enough. But it was·fine.
I realized afterward what I was really afraid of. I was afraid that I wasn't the person I always thought I was. And in truth, there wasn't a great performer hiding inside me. I'm just me. I'm a shy person, but I don't have to always be like that. I might be a good performer someday with work and dedication, and if I don't stop being the girl hiding behind the canvas, I'm never going to know for sure. Now I think I'm ready to find out not who I am, but whom I could become.
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