You couldn’t tell by looking at me but there was a time I took myself too seriously.
When I was younger, I loved dancing (a bit rusty now but i still love dancing) unfortunately for me, I couldn’t dance. I looked weird, like there was something wrong with my neck. I would twist my neck over my shoulder, stick my tongue out, jerking from side to side and apparently it annoyed people to watch me dance. I was in boarding house then, my mates and sometimes my seniors would snap at me. “Stop it! Just stop dancing! You look ridiculous.” It really stung; here was something I loved doing, and I wasn’t even allowed to do it.
Then one day, I was sitting in class minding my own business (yeah right, I was probably doing backflips on the desks), when this girl started naming people’s heads after fruits, when she got to me, she stared for a few seconds, and then with her finger pointed at me, she called out, “Banana-head!” The class burst out laughing.
I can still picture her now. Her name is Bashira, she was this tiny girl, very dark in complexion. My first reaction was anger, like ‘how dare she?’ my face grew hot with rage, my palm itched, her face was my target. But as the rest of the class continued laughing, embarrassment replaced anger. Where she had named other people’s heads and moved on, with me it was like she’d struck gold and was going to use up every speck. I got up from my chair and was storming out when she started chanting, “Banana-head!” the rest of the class followed suit and someone started drumming on one of the rusted iron desks. I looked around the classroom, everyone was looking at me, watching my reaction. I had all this attention focused on me; it didn’t happen often, I had two choices, I could storm out and risk being teased for a long time, or I could own it and stop taking myself so seriously. I walked to the front of the class with a grin on my face and started dancing (I use the term dancing loosely; I was more like a jerking doll, hahaha). The class broke out in applause and the singing died down. I’m glad I did it as that incident opened the door to letting me escape a prison of letting other people define me. I still care what people think, a lot. And it still hurts.
After that incident, when any of my classmates called me ‘banana-head’. I would smile and respond ‘Hello, Pineapple-head’ (or any other fruit-head). The smile would vanish off their faces and they would turn away quickly. Before long, I stopped hearing banana-head.
It’s difficult to be a good writer when you’re constantly thinking of people’s perception of you when they read what you’ve written. I’m unable to write under those circumstances, that’d be writing from the wrong angle. It’s best to write like I’m telling myself a story, as a matter of fact, that’s why I started writing. It wasn’t from a desire to be rich and famous (although I wouldn’t be upset if that happens), it was to entertain myself.
After almost 6 years, the main thing pushing me is the fact that I know the book is finished; I just can’t quite seem to let it go. Now, I’m coming to realize that it’s not the book I need to let go off; it’s me. I look at the book and I’m back to my 10 year old self. I can hear taunts of “Bolaji, you can’t dance, go and sit down.” Or
“You’re terrible at singing; you should just shut up and never sing again.”
“You can’t do this, why try….why bother.”
“You’re just not good enough”
“You look terrible in a bikini, yuk, never ever wear a bikini, in fact, never wear a swimming costume or go swimming where people can see you.” (I just had to throw that in there).
Do you find yourself holding back from doing or achieving something because of negative feedback or reactions? I would like to know how you were able to overcome such situations.
Author’s comment: It’s interesting that I drafted this article over a month ago before I read this interesting article last week. It’s nice to know that other writers have similar issues (misery loves company;-).
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