Say what needs to be said

It took Wattpad co-founder Allen Lau decades to learn to speak up, instead of stopping himself when something needed to be said. He writes, “For me, I kept telling myself I needed to err on the side of speaking up too much. Trust me, even with that, the end result is that on many occasions I still find myself thinking I could have spoken up more, even today.” 

Like Allen, it also feels incredibly unnatural for me to speak up. I’ve often liked listening more than I like talking, and I definitely like thinking through what I want to say before I say it. But sometimes people confuse that with not making a contribution, and they feel confused—they don’t know what to do.

If this sounds familiar to you, it’s good to get out of your comfort zone and to practice speaking up—biasing towards speaking up more often than you think you should and not overthinking it, because even then you’ll probably be speaking just enough. Challenge yourself and practice, and don’t hide in your comfort zone. Observe how people gracefully interrupt, draw attention for their work, and promote themselves.

The counterpoint to this is not to let other people’s standards and definitions define you. As Michael Karnjanaprakorn writes, “My advice to anyone who doesn’t fit into a box. Don’t try to. Be yourself. Embrace your individuality. Be different. Because, in the end, it’s not the boxes that define us but how we choose to define ourselves.” Move to achieve your potential, but not to fit into someone else’s box—or to avoid fitting in.

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