Ever since I was little, I've always been the quiet one. I remember being at a wedding and a relative of mine, who was a few years older than me, asked me if I wanted to come and play with some other children. I politely declined and continued sitting with my parents, too scared to join in, afraid that I wouldn't fit in, that I wouldn't be cool enough, too shy, too quiet.
It seems that fear, that worry never really left and it stayed with me right through primary school, in to secondary school, and it's still with me now at the grand old age of 22.
I was in an art class once, I didn't take it for GCSE so I think I must have been in year 8. The teacher had asked us all to gather round one table so she could talk about our task. I wasn't lucky enough to bag a seat at the table, so I stood behind a few girls. The lesson was straight after lunch and it had been raining, I unfortunately looked like a drowned rat. Also, I hadn't quite discovered mascara or tweezers, whereas other girls in my year had, so although I thought I looked like any other normal teenage girl, the girls more 'advanced' than me probably thought I looked hideous. Another girl from across the table looked at me and tried to whisper to her mates who I was stood behind 'ha look at Eleanor's hair'. The other two girls turned round to look at me and quietly laughed.
That memory, and many others, has stayed with me and when I hear someone talking quietly, looking at me in a funny way, that's what I think of.
However, I don't want to think of it. I want to be able to walk in to a room and not give a toss about what anyone thinks of me, to shrug off any whisper, comment or look and say 'oh well, it's not the be-all and end-all'. I want to stand up to the girls that whisper behind people's backs and laugh at them for just being them.
When I left secondary school, my maths teacher wrote this in my leaving book:
Eleanor, you are a very talented young lady that needs to believe in herself!
Like the art class memory, this has also stuck with me and whenever someone tells me I should believe in myself, that I don't know how good I am, that I don't give myself enough credit, that I am confident, I know it's true because it's on paper. My teacher could have wrote it in every other student's leaving book or on their t-shirts in bright orange felt-tip and so what if he did? The most important thing is that I take note of it (I am actually considering ripping the page out but I really don't want to damage my book) and I act on it.
Here's to all the confident women (and men) in training, I'm on this journey with you and if you ever need an encouraging thought, feel free to come back to this post and soak up the wise words of my maths teacher.