Growing up, I was the “well actually” kid.
Anytime someone would say some kind of fact and if it wasn’t 100 percent accurate, well-actually Wesley would parachute in and correct, amend, clarify or whatever the statement called for. That evolved into being pretty candidly outspoken on just about everything.
At some point in the latter part of middle school, two things happened: I started occasionally being wrong and I became the know-it-all nobody likes amongst peers.
Oddly enough the part about being wrong part wasn’t what really shook my confidence–I didn’t like being disliked. Even when I was certain something was wrong or had something I thought was interesting to add to the conversation, I swallowed my tongue and sat quietly so I wouldn’t receive the eye roll, disgruntled gaze or the varying levels of dislike.
This trend continued for through high school, reaching its worst levels in high school after I moved to Kentucky and thought new people meant people would appreciate me knowing random facts or having a better understanding about a subject than most others. Wrong.
The treatment for being the know-it-all was even worse because I didn’t know anyone and my new peers weren’t accustomed to having someone swoop in to correct everything or inject my opinion.
I stopped talking and just let things slide, with the lone exception being the classroom where certain teachers would encourage me to speak up and speak out, no matter how right or wrong I was. Whatever their reasoning, to fill the void of an apathetic classroom or to challenge me to find my voice, it worked because I did both and am better for it.
Admittedly, I didn’t really become comfortable with being outspoken until college when people started to understand my quest for knowledge and ensuring the facts were straight. Google has also been key in regaining the confidence to speak up, but it also comes from being comfortable enough to reason, speak and communicate with my thoughts to others.
Yeah, I still avoid being outspoken on some topics (you’ll never catch me talking sports unless I’m sure that person understands nuance or I just feel like arguing), but I almost always speak up because I see the value in listening and being heard. I tend to be tone deaf when it comes to how my words sound to others, but I listen more so I can do a better job of explaining what I mean rather than what I sound like.
My outspoken nature has become my strongest asset in the profession I’m pursuing and as an involved citizen. The lesson I learned is something everyone can learn from in this standpoint, stick to your convictions.
Who knows what opportunities I missed or what situation I didn’t affect because I stood by and watched rather than speak up or help somebody out by giving them the right information?
I definitely don’t have the right answers for life, but I’ve tried to crack the code and it’s through evolving as a speaker and a listener.
Wesley Robinson is a journalism seniro. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.