Common's Aha! Moment: Learning to Speak Up For Myself
In 2003, my girlfriend and I broke up. We'd been together for two years—we were practically engaged—and had been friends for years before that. After we parted ways, I entered a long period of heartbreak. Like any person who's been rejected, I thought, Man, what's wrong with me? I tried to figure out which of my own flaws had kept us from having a successful relationship. But in my gut, I knew my mistakes. My ex had a lot of power and presence, and that had made me less assertive about my own needs. I had sacrificed parts of who I am to avoid conflict. When you're not sticking up for yourself, things start building up.
About three months after the breakup, I was really feeling the loss when something dawned on me: It wasn't just in my relationship that I'd let myself be overshadowed. Even with my managers, my mentality was, It's all about your needs. When they wanted me to try out for a TV show that paid good money, I went, even if in my heart I wasn't feeling the material. Other times I'd downplay my opinion to avoid seeming full of myself. In listening sessions with journalists for a new album, instead of rapping along to the track or looking them in the eyes and saying, "Yo, this is great music—we worked hard on this, and it came out beautifully," I waited for someone else in the room to acknowledge the quality of my work. I worried people might feel put off if I was too confident or showed that I knew I was good at something.
I realized I'd been consistently reining myself in—in relationships, friendships and work—to avoid disappointing anyone or making people uncomfortable. I knew I had to embrace the gifts God gave me—I had to let my light shine. When I started doing that, I immediately felt stronger.
Now, in an intimidating situation—say, in conversation with a movie director—I'm not thinking, I'll come off as a jerk if I give my opinion on this scene. I'll just come out and say it. And in relationships, I stand my ground. For example, I like to go to church on New Year's Eve—to spend that time with God. My ex would always want me to go somewhere with her instead, and when I did, I'd regret it. Now I'll just say to a woman I'm dating, "I'm going to church—and I'll meet you right after." —As told to Crystal G. Martin
How to Be More Confident