Have you ever heard the story of the Fuck-Off Fairy? No? You should read it. It’s a wonderful tale.
‘The Fuck-Off Fairy is a special kind of fairy. She shows up on the night of your 30th birthday, while you are sleeping, and waves a magic wand over you. She comes to release you from the expectations that you should always be nice and polite and say yes to what other people want from you. She helps you see your authentic self, and how beautiful and fabulous that self is, and how the world will not end if you are true to you, rather than to others’ expectations of you.’
I never thought I’d get a visit from this particular fairy. Ten years ago, I was unbelievably awkward, shy and uncomfortable in my own skin. I was nice, polite, and said yes to people, because, as I noted in an earlier blog, I was desperate to be liked. Part of this involved turning everything inwards. I was convinced that I was such a terrible, useless excuse for a person that if anyone actually got to know me, they’d run screaming.
I got better. Even now, I don’t know exactly how. Every so often, I made a Big Official Decision to change things, do more, become more outgoing. (This usually involved sitting at home making lots of lists. It’s possible that my approach was slightly flawed).
This never worked. But somehow, gradually, I got more confident. It was a slow change, one that crept in unnoticed. The fairy didn’t visit one night and change everything with a wave of her wand. She hovered over me, day by day, dropping tiny grains of pixie dust (or maybe pushy dust. Because, you know, being assertive sometimes involves being pushy? Yeah, okay, that one didn’t really work).
I realised I didn’t care so much about what people thought of me. I was more comfortable with confrontation, happier to disagree with people. Rather than focusing inwards, I pushed everything outwards – and I do mean everything. I’ve got into the habit of oversharing on pretty much every facet of my life.
It took me a while to realise that this isn’t the fairy’s endgame, just another flick of the wand. In a weird way, the oversharing isn’t the recovery from the turning inwards, it’s just the same thing turned outwards. Instead of hiding the worst bits of myself so people don’t leave, I put them all out there, so the ones who can’t deal with it will never come close in the first place. It’s a little better than before, though – closer to the real me, a larger than life caricature rather than a wall of mirrors.
It used to take a lot of courage to put anything out there. Strangely, it now takes more courage to hold some things back. Sometimes, not sharing is really difficult – because at least if I share, I’ll know how people will react, instead of having to guess. Am I hiding my ‘authentic self’? Or am I just recognising that it’s really not necessary to tweet about my latest smear test? (That’s a rhetorical question. Nothing will stop me tweeting about my smear tests).
But I’m getting there. And I think that’s the point of this (rambly, non-cohesive, could-do-better) blog. I never thought I’d be remotely comfortable in my own skin. I never thought I’d learn the trick. But there is no trick. Over time, you grow into yourself. It’s a wonderful feeling, like realising you’re finally warm after a long, chilly day.
So I guess, for all the shy, awkward kids out there, who think they’re never going to be anything but mortified about themselves – just wait. Your fairy’s on her way.