I’ll be going a bit personal with this story. This is not the “strong man” type of story I will naturally share.
One of the biggest frustrations I have been facing for the past two to three years now is the fact that many people see me as a strong man who has his life all figured out and faces no down times.
Now, I know I have quite above-average emotional intelligence that even when I’m in my emotional lows I still turn up and face public tasks optimally. While this is a desirable trait, it becomes frustrating when I’m in more personal spaces and need a lot of emotional encouragement and people still expect me to remain strong.
I’ve had several quarrels with my friends for joining the rest of the world in calling me a strong man. For God’s sake, can’t someone just see that there’s a child in me crying to be pampered and taken care of? (I’m fighting tears writing this.)
I spend most of my time helping and giving out to people and insignificantly few people ever think I have needs too. No, I’m not here to complain; I’m here to share the story of my driving lesson that made me cry.
Part of my goals for 2021 was to learn how to drive. Everything was working out fine until the day I was to start the driving lesson. I felt very sick and couldn’t start, so it was unavoidably postponed to this year. Nothing stopped it again, lol.
I started and the first day was exciting. It was a dream come true! Exciting, I expected the second day to be as well but it was almost directly opposite. I had gotten the basics already from Day 1 (well, in my own opinion) and just needed to perfect making turns when I hit an electric pole with the side of the car.
Whenever the ugly incident flashes back there are only two scenes that ring in my mind. The first is me not knowing where I was or what to do for 10 seconds and the second is the owner of the car checking to see if I damaged his car.
With these two scenes are also two sounds. The first is the bang of the car hitting the pole and the second is the voice of the owner saying, “you are not putting your mind into this thing.”
I continued driving and it was time to make the next turn. I couldn’t move. I parked the car and suddenly my whole eyes were filled with tears. I couldn’t hold back. I came down from the car and cried ensuring nobody saw my tears. (It seems the children playing on the street did, though).
While on the surface it looked like I was crying because I didn’t know how to turn, there was more to that. Those tears were the only words I could use to tell the story of the past 22 years of my life that had just flashed into my mind.
A play on my background
The only experience I’ve had with cars is fear. My parents never owned one and while growing up, I remember, whenever I was to enter any car, there was usually so much fear— even to touch the door of the car.
What if I spoil it? What if I don’t know how to open it and people laugh at me? and many others.
So here is this same person being asked to firmly turn the steering wheel of a brand new someone else’s car. What if I turn it and it pulls off? What if I’m too firm and something breaks? What if he thinks I want to spoil his car?
These were the fears in my head, not driving itself. But who will understand me? How can I, all of a sudden, begin to treat Almighty Car as nothing?
Hmm… Truly, you cannot physically enter a reality you have not first entered in your mind. If your environment pushes you to a place your mind has not entered, you will unconsciously fight it and move back to where your mind is.
A play on low self-esteem
Something else my background beautifully gave me was low self-esteem. After being frustrated with my slow pace of reception, he gently asked me, “What exactly is wrong?”
“I am afraid,” I answered.
“That I won’t do it well.”
But he didn’t understand. What I meant was, “I know I can drive. I know I won’t hit anyone. But I’m afraid I won’t please you. I am afraid I won’t drive the way you want. I am afraid I’m bugging you by asking you to teach me to drive. I am afraid you will soon get tired of me and not want to teach me anymore. I am afraid I’m wasting your fuel and time… and so on.”
It was all about him and what he thought of me, not driving at all.
I have learned several skills and every skill I learned, I wasn’t taught by anyone physically. I have noticed that I learn faster when there’s no person teaching me physically because I don’t have anyone to please.
With the presence of a physical tutor, 70% of my energy (emotional and mental) is channeled towards pleasing them, that the 30% left makes me a slow learner. Because of that, they truly get frustrated with me, and all my fears of not pleasing them come to pass.
I think one of the biggest curses of people-pleasing (a core symptom of low self-esteem) is that it makes you actually displease people.
Firstly, people can sense when you are craving to please them and instead of appreciating your effort, they begin to see you as a manipulator or someone who doesn’t have a life of his own. This displeases them.
Secondly, in a bid to try to please people, you stay away from your core identities that make you unique as a person, that most likely attracts them to you, and begin to do things they don’t appreciate but you think they do (e.g. saying yes to every request they make).
People who truly love you don’t expect you to do everything they want. By always serving their needs and not giving them room to serve you, you make them look like a dominator. This displeases them too.
Lessons on loving and tutoring
This entire incident made me revisit how to love. I think a core component of loving people is in letting them know that you love them (accept and are committed to them) regardless of what they do or do not do.
If only I was hundred percent sure that I didn’t need to earn his commitment to me, I wouldn’t be afraid.
Now I know on my part I need to work on being myself and allow people to be displeased with me (and even leave) if they want, but a lot can be done on the other side to help.
If he didn’t make the environment tense up by constantly saying “you’re not putting your mind in this. I expect you to have gotten better than this” at every mistake I made, I would have been freer and more confident to drive.
Genuine love that is not based on conditions makes relationships effective. Teaching or tutoring, which is also a kind of relationship, needs loads of expressed love to be effective too, except we continue to deceive ourselves that everybody is emotionally strong and will automatically know that we accept them even when we scold them.
Olusegun Iyejare is a career coach and certified counselor. He helps individuals discover and maximize their potential to live satisfying lives regardless of obvious limitations holding them back.