My best friend, who I’ve written about before, had her wedding this last weekend. It was a great honor to be included in the ceremony (I gave a speech at the beginning) and it was a beautiful experience. I haven’t been this happy in a long time, and I wasn’t even the one getting married! Why am I so happy? Well because attending that wedding taught me several important things about myself, both good and bad. The good things have made me realize just how much I miss being out among people, and the bad things have forced me to confront several personal issues and finally set some goals to overcome them. Issues like:

I’m an Emotional Eater

I'M SOOOOO HUNGGRRYYY!
I’M SOOOOO HUNGGRRYYY!

To be honest I’ve always known this, every time I have a bad day or a personal setback I resort to gobbling food in order to get past it. That’s why despite starting and restarting several diet attempts, I’ve remained at basically the  same weight I’ve always been. I’ve avoided dealing with this issue by telling myself that I only overeat when I’m feeling bad, and that when my life starts to turn around and I get out of the house, it won’t be an issue. Of course like I said earlier, I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time and you know what?

I’m still overeating! 

I’ve discovered that I don’t just overeat when I’m feeling bad but whenever I’m having any kind of emotional high or low. Right now I think I’m eating so much because I’m afraid that if I stop and think, I won’t be as happy anymore. That the high from the wedding will wear off. And it will, because everything is temporary, and life is filled with ups and downs like this. I need to learn to deal with those pesky ups and downs in a healthier way than eating everything I see in front of me.

So okay, this isn’t really a positive thing I learned, but it does force me to finally confront a personal flaw of mine that I really need to address.

It's either that or get used to be mistaken for a whale.
It’s either that or get used to being mistaken for a whale.

I’m Overly Critical (Of Myself)

So yes, I gave an opening speech at my friend’s wedding. I was really nervous about giving this speech because I wasn’t sure it was actually any good, and because I was giving the speech in front of at least 60+ people. Public speaking has never been what you might call my strong suit, and getting up in front of all those people was one of the toughest things I’ve had to do in a long time. I got up there…and I choked. Looking at all those eyes staring at me, all I could do was blather on about the Pastor’s speech (who had introduced me) and blabber about how my speech was never going to be as good. I was just buying time to try and gather my wits.

I stumbled the first couple of lines, I didn’t speak loud enough and I completely skipped two sentences of the speech because I lost my place. I was just about to go bolting out of the building right then and there, run for my life and never look back, but then I looked at my friend and her husband-to-be, and the Pastor (God bless him) looked me in the eye and said “You’re alright.” So I looked back down at my speech and I finished it. I got past it, but it was a disaster. I sat back down and applauded when the ceremony was done. Then when the bride and groom left to thank the other guests, I cradled my head in my hands and wished the floor would swallow me up. I was so embarrassed at having made such a fool of myself at my friend’s wedding. I hated myself. I was so stupid for thinking I had anything worthwhile to say.

SHUT UP AND SIT IN THE CORNER!
Oh God, I’ve become the Catalyst from ME3!

That’s when a woman seated in the row behind me tapped me on the shoulder and said “That was such a lovely speech you gave.” Okay, well she was probably just saying that out of pity since I was making a pretty pathetic display out of myself. Then as the guests began mingling and the buffet dinner was being served, a dozen people I’d never met all came over to me and began congratulating me, telling me what a great speech it was and how moving it was. Then the bridesmaids came over and began telling me that the speech made them cry. And that’s when I realized it: I’m way too hard on myself.

I’d made a few mistakes at the beginning of the speech so I’d completely condemned myself without even hearing what other people thought. What’s worse  is that I’d put so much of my own self-esteem on the line by giving that speech. Why did I have so much riding on that speech? Even if it had been the worst speech ever given, that’s no reason for me to drive myself into a depression. I need to put things in perspective, and I need to let myself celebrate my victories and not focus so much on my failures.

Because I nailed that speech. I nailed it to the wall.

And by giving that speech successfully I learned something very important:

Overcoming Fear has Great Rewards

I hate public speaking, I really do. There aren’t enough words in the English language to properly express just how much I loathe the idea of getting up in front of a crowd of people and talking, nor can I describe the fear that coils around my guts like an anaconda every time I do so. The only reason I agreed to do a speech was because my friend has done so much for me over the years that I really  wanted to be a part of her wedding, and since I couldn’t be a bridesmaid for obvious reasons nor did I know the groom well enough to be a groomsman, giving a wedding speech was my best shot. I wanted to give my friend something from the heart, and that speech was pulled straight out of the gooey depths of my heart

Don't worry, I wiped it off first.
Don’t worry, I wiped it off first.

Fear and me have always been good friends, by which I mean I listen to him all the time and avoid anything that could be potentially dangerous. I trust fear, he’s been good to me, but sometimes he just gets in the god damn way. For instance a few weeks ago I published this article about Rapture and Columbia’s philosophical and societal themes, and fear almost kept me from publishing it. I was afraid that it might be garbage, since I was writing about things far more complex than simple literary critiques, and that people would criticize me for it. I was afraid that maybe my entire readership was made up of Ayn Rand fans and that I’d suddenly lose my entire audience. It’s irrational fear like that that gets in the way. I ended up publishing it because I had nothing else to go with, and I got a ton of positive feedback about it (thanks everyone, by the way!)

By overcoming my fear I got to experience a lot of great feedback, reaffirmed my abilities as a write and even better, that speech gave me a great way to meet new people. Since everyone was asking about it anyway, I was able to use that to introduce myself around and get to know some really great people. Which brings me to my final discovery:

I like People (And They Like Me)

As I’ve written about before, my life as a writer is an isolated one. I don’t get out much and a big reason for that is that I’d kind of convinced myself that people didn’t really like me, I’m not sure when this happened to be honest. I was great with people back in high school, but I guess a few years of pure isolation made me rusty. Instead of confronting that isolation and practicing my social skills, I decided it was easier to just assume everyone didnt like me because that was the easier option.
Last week though, I finally read Dale Carnegie’s How To Make Friends and Influence People, which several commenters told me to read and you were all right: How To Make Friends and Influence People is possibly the greatest book ever written. More to the point though, it made me realize I ready do most of the stuff it suggests. I was just out of practice.

It taught me several great lessons, but the greater thing that book did for me was restore my self confidence. And when I began mingling with the wedding guests, I realized just how much I’d missed getting out in social situations. And I learned that people do in fact enjoy my company, I even got some people to laugh at my jokes.

So thank you my friend, for letting me be part of your wedding and helpinge rediscover the parts of myself I’d been missing for far too long.

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Written by John Stevenson

I'm a freelance writer based out of Seattle, Washington.

4 comments

  1. Bravo, sir. The latter part of this–and the fact that socializing is a skill–is something I’ve only recently come to fully grasp. While you can always pick it back up, like riding a bike, it’s not terribly surprising that the bike might be a bit rusty when you do so.

    Being overly self-critical is something a lot of writers and artists seem to have problems with. I think the better you get at something, the more you are able to see the flaws in your own work. It’s too easy to let a desire for perfection get you down then, when it’s really only facilitating further improvements. A keen eye allows you find and correct flaws on your own, and as well equips you to dissect outside criticism and find its merits. Just try your best, in the time that you have.

    And what of praise? Well…you have to accept that there will always be people better than you, people equally skilled, and people less skilled. Praise from above generally means you’re doing well, from your peers should just make you feel warm and fuzzy, and praise from below means you’ve become, eh, something of a role model. Of course, you can’t always tell which is which. The best thing is to gracefully accept all forms of praise, and be sure to pass it on in all directions, where you deem appropriate. This too is socializing, really.

    1. Thanks for the kind words, I really appreciate it when people write in. Your comments on praise was an excellent read, and its true there is always going to be someone better than you are. Your final thoughts on gracefully accepting and passing on praise really echoes the thoughts in How to Make Friends and Influence people.

      Thanks again!

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