According to a study conducted a few years ago, more girls leave college with lower self-confidence than when they started. My experience has been the opposite. Who knows if this means I arrived at college with such low self esteem that the only way to go was up, if I was just incredibly lucky to have a experiences with the people and activities in my life or if it was a mix between the two. Either way, if there’s one thing my college experience has taught me (and it’s taught me many things), it’s how to love myself a little more.
Girls often don’t have a lot of confidence in themselves, but my confidence was even lower than normal. Opening up immediately (even in small ways) was difficult. I struggled to even joke around with people I just met. Even if I had something to say, I would usually sit in silence and smile at the remarks of others. I always thought someone else was better for a certain position or task, thought others were prettier, other people were more fun to hang out with. It’s not that I didn’t think I was smart, pretty or fun. I didn’t think I was smart enough, pretty enough, fun enough. I didn’t think that I was enough.
I’ve been working on my confidence for most of my life, but it wasn’t until freshman year of college when I realized how important self-esteem is. During my second semester, as I talked to one of my friends, through our rambling chatter, the topic came up. She told me one of our friends said to her, “Caitlin is awesome. Actually, one of the worst things about her is that she doesn’t think she is.” This comment made me realize that I needed to work on accepting myself. I knew doing so would make me happier and a better version of myself, as I wouldn’t worry about how I wasn’t living up to who I imagined myself to be.
Despite the realization, becoming more confident in yourself isn’t as simple as pressing a button that suddenly gives you a boost. It takes time, a lot of internal work and beyond what you can do for yourself, requires putting yourself in a positive environment.
For me that environment turned out to be the theatre community. I became involved my first semester at Boston College as a way to do something fun and artistic while also making some friends. As I became more involved over my four years, I realized theatre and the friends I met lifted up my confidence. Theatre is inherently collaborative, and that nature alone gave me new strength in my voice and value. This only grew through the warm and welcoming people who fostered that environment. They made me feel valued and loved, and then I started to value and love myself.
This self-love took a long time, and only came about after an enormous amount of work. Junior year I finally got to be stage manager for a show called One Flea Spare. At the first rehearsal, my hands shook and I stumbled over a few words, even though I was only leading about eight people. But I was determined to prove myself capable and even good. I learned how to fake the confidence at first. You can’t survive in a leadership position if you’re like Blurryface—insecure and you care what people think. During the process, I started to slowly believe the confidence I was putting on and became more comfortable.
Later that year, I found out I was going to stage manage the big Mainstage musical Carousel (which had over 30 people in the cast), and direct a small play called Time Stands Still. These achievements boosted my confidence, but they didn’t do so on their own. When I started these endeavors, I was still nervous and insecure, but by the end, my voice was steady and strong (albeit still just naturally quiet…what can you do? ) Each project pushed my leadership abilities a little further, and each time another project ended, I came out a little more sure of myself .
I surrounded myself with people and an academic field that lifts me up. My theatre friends are very vocal about what they love in each other and how much they love each other. My theatre professors and mentors are always eager to chat and provide encouragement or advice. Theatre has been an incredible way to become more in touch and more sure of myself and helped me find a way to love myself.
Ultimately, confidence comes from within, and there was a lot of work I had to do on my own to get as far as I have. I’m not someone who believes that success all boils down to one person, even if you’ve worked harder for your own success than anyone else. My journey to confidence has been tricky, but I had enormous help along the way. I still have a long way to go, but I finally feel like I’m getting there.