I recently shared a post on how our African cultural tradition entrenches timidity, to a degree. The amount of messages I received regarding the post were enormous with most agreeing and sharing how badly it had affected their adult lives.
The idea that elders are always right and that respect is synonymous to silence is not a rarity in an African home. Perhaps, it is the reason why the younger generation anger the baby boomers so much even in the workplace because millennials are rebelling against this principle. Stats show that companies like Andela whose style of management is very open-minded tend to have the lowest labour turn-over. I once worked in a company who had a flat system of leadership. This meant that there was always open communication between employees and their employers. You could be upfront about your problems without being made to feel as though you were being disrespectful. Where there were complaints, there was open communication between both parties which enabled employees to feel at home.
This isn’t always the case. In fact, most organisational structures in Nigeria which aren’t multi-nationals tend to still operate along the lines of culture and tradition. I once had a client whose company was really uncomfortable to be present at. It would give me sleepless nights every time I was made aware of the idea that I had to go in there for a meeting. In this company, subordinates weren’t allowed to send direct emails to their bosses, it would have to go through their supervisors. It was that bad. You could sense the tension whenever you would walk into the meetings with these clients. When their contract elapsed, it was a unanimous decision within my company to not renew their contract as everyone could feel the unease.
First off, I will say that if your work environment shares some similarities with the latter, it isn’t the end of the world and while quitting your job might not be feasible yet, until you’re able to bag a better one, it is so important that you are able to not lose yourself in the mix. Timidity isn’t a personality as is often believed, it is an attribute that is built over time due to several factors such as: familial backgrounds, schools, culture (both traditionally and at the workplace), friendships etc.
Timidity isn’t only present in the workplace. It can take shape in the way we relate to our friends and family as well. I only recently stopped cowering in my friendships; it was so difficult to do as I had been taught that being out-spoken meant that you were confrontational and I really did try to run away from that term. However, over time, I have learnt that it is quite the reverse. Not being able to speak up for yourself where you feel wronged or unhappy with a situation isn’t bravery or running away from confrontation, it is cowardice. I have stronger, healthier friendships now and I am at peace with myself and the few friends in my corner knowing that I hold no grudges or bad feelings towards anyone. In doing this, I have also taught those closest to me to speak up where they feel wronged or disappointed in my actions. In that vein, we’re able to enjoy good, healthy friendships founded on a mutual respect of each other’s feelings and emotions.
Are you cowering in any area of your life? Start by making a list of the areas in which you have to come to realise that you are. Write out your ideal situation and starting working towards it in small steps. Speak about the smaller issues then build up from there until you’re able to make it a part of who you are.
If it’s of any help, think of all the people you look up to who have made such great strides in their lives. Were they timid?