Hi to whoever is reading this,
Growing up is tough. Chatting to new people is tough.
Mix the two and you’re left with a fiesta of teenage angst, fear, wavering confidence and constant doubts that neither you nor anyone else knows what they’re doing.
In other words – I’ve just finished Phase 1 of my NCS (National Citizen Service) program and here’s what I have to say about it…
Especially as a teenager, meeting new people your age can be really daunting. For me, it kicks up a tonne of confidence-crushing questions – a few frequently-appearing ‘favourites’ include;
What if my words aren’t smart enough?
What if I’m not pretty enough?
What if I’m plain, bland and boring, but people are too polite to tell me?
(and most importantly)
What have I got to offer, at the proverbial party, that anyone wants?
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve really enjoyed my first week of NCS – I’ve met some really lovely people and I’m definitely looking forward to getting to know everyone better over the next few phases – but it’s also taught me a lot about myself too and, as usual, the most important things were learned the hard way.
This last week, I finally understood the importance of spending a bit of time on my own, and how a lack of that really messes with my head. The intense nature of NCS Phase 1 (at a PGL-style adventure camp) kept us very busy and around each other all the time, which was definitely really good fun but also brought its own challenges. It gave me a unique opportunity to realise more about myself, most importantly that even though I’m quite an extroverted person; I need at least a little time to myself each day to sort through my thoughts and (in all honesty) keep myself sane.
I started to lose myself in both the literal and social mirror.
And that then allowed all the pesky doubts, self-esteem banishing riddles and anxieties to wheedle their way back in – becoming more of a constant, slightly sinister echo rather than the squishable whispers that I’m learning to reduce them into.
I felt more beast than beauty, and more moth than social-butterfly.
I felt like I didn’t even have a valid invite to the party, let alone something snazzy to bring.
However, I think even these more mentally difficult aspects of the experience have been really useful to me – the week was exactly what it promised to be; a personal challenge on many levels. It forced me to push the boundaries of my comfort zone (don’t even get me started on Jacob’s Ladder or the tunnels!) and learn how to support my mental health in order to feel comfortable in the new social environment. I know now how I’ll change my decision-making process in order to work-effectively and thrive, rather than burn-out by the end of the week.
I’ll continue to be brave, but will remember that being empathetic isn’t just about supporting other people – but also about learning to care for yourself; cause at the end of the day, your mind is the one thing that is there 24/7 throughout your life – and even though being yourself and trusting in that may be daunting,
Everyone will be honoured to have that – You, loud and proud as yourself – as it’s the best thing that you or anyone else could ever bring to any party.
(apart from a bag of lightly-salted tortilla chips from the Co-Op!)