AS WE grow up, we all come into our own and change is inevitable. With me, it was no different.

Growing up as an only child came with its perks, such as being spoiled and getting all the attention at home. However, at some point, it contributed towards my reserved personality as I often kept to myself. Interacting with people brought on anxiety as I found it difficult to socialise. My shy personality confused people because they could not work out who I was and often, it seemed, did not take the time to get to know me.

“Oh, she’s the quiet one,’’ they would say. I heard this phrase countless times from relatives, teachers as well as my mother’s friends. It was difficult for people to tell what kind of a person I was and therefore, they reached their own conclusions.

The conclusion that was mostly shared by people was that I was a snob. I was deeply offended by that label and I had the pressing need to prove people otherwise, I did this by being ‘extra’ kind towards people and by never saying ‘no’. Every favour that was asked of me, every assistance that was required and even sometimes, expected of me, I always did. I also made sure that I fulfilled all my promises so that I lived up to people’s expectations of me.

In 2016, there came a fallout with a close friend that I felt was taking advantage of me. I then decided to take control of my own narrative and to define who I was. I came to the realisation that I could not stop people from drawing their own conclusions about me, but that I could stop myself from letting them define who I am.

I started speaking out for myself, and as I gained more confidence, I could let people know that I couldn’t help them with certain things and most importantly, I learned to say ‘no’. I also got the courage to accept it when people frowned upon the ‘new me’ and I found peace in knowing that I did not have to be liked by everyone.

I had to accept that more often than not, I was going to disappoint people, break my promises or not be able to offer my assistance when someone needed it. This was not because I was doing so intentionally but because I am only human.

Yes, I have lost a few friends because of this change but I’m grateful for those who have embraced me for who I really am. Above all else, I’m grateful for the freedom that the change has given me.