How I came to find my sense of self.
Confidence is one of my strongest and – I personally believe – best qualities. When I walk into a room, I feel self-assured and worthy. I know that I can contribute to the conversations and that I have a story that is worth telling. But, it wasn’t always this way. Building up my confidence has been a long journey.
As a kid, I was shy. Reading answers aloud in class, make presentations, public speaking… basically anything that would put the spotlight on me, I dreaded. However, by my own volition or at the encouragement of my parents, I never let fear define me.
In 5th grade, I ran for class secretary. I presented my campaign speech to 300 of my student peers. In 6th grade, I auditioned for choir, which involved singing “Happy Birthday” in front of 150+ classmates. I did not make the cut. In 7th grade, I spoke at my aunt’s funeral in front of friends, family, and strangers. All five nieces and nephews wrote eulogies, but I was the only one to speak, as I felt that those were my words and mine alone.
Every time I challenged myself to push through the fear, it became a little easier the next time. And as I have grown, I have been presented with more diverse opportunities to test myself.
At just 19, I applied for my first promotion with Target and was surprised when I was chosen to lead a team of 20. I was excited for this opportunity as I had never truly led a team before. What really brought home the first key confidence nugget was when I was recognized for my hard work and promoted again just five months later. In the span of a year, I had moved from being a seasonal cashier to an executive, leading teams of over 230.
At the same time as this, I was finishing my third and final year at UC Davis. I had set out to graduate early, and there I was, at 20, walking across the stage to receive my diploma. Again, the pride that accompanied the achievement of my goal brought with it confidence. Confidence in myself, in my abilities, and my uniqueness.
With a degree in one hand and the job I wanted in another, I truly felt stable. It was this stability that allowed me explore new things. I looked for new forms of exercise, like aerial yoga, boxing, and pole dancing. I visited new places, like Alaska, Italy, Colorado, and Ireland. I lived on my own, dated different people, and formed new friendships.
With trust in myself to make smart decisions and the knowledge that I can handle my own, I began taking risks. I decided to move in with my boyfriend, but not to co-sign on the mortgage with him. I decided to seek out and interview for a new career. I decided to quit my job and move back home. I decided to earn my master’s. I decided to publish a very personal blog.
The more I have tried new things, the more self-assured I have become. For instance, during all of my recent travels, I have given myself time to travel alone. Although the location varies, I find that my reaction is consistent. Each time, I have felt only a sense of wonderous exploration and adventurous opportunity, never fear or insecurity. It wasn’t until I began traveling that I learned that I am a spontaneous and adventerous person. The same goes for writing. I wasn’t until I created this blog and wrote for the first time that I realized what a key part of my person it is.
Trying new things has given me a greater sense of self, and there is no better show of confidence than understanding who you are.
My sense of self was most recently put to the test during an MBA interview with my top choice school, University of Oregon. I had two 30-minute sessions to convince strangers that I deserved one of 60 spots in this elite program.
I walked into each interview with a calm confidence, an engaged interest, and passionate enthusiasm. I had confidence not only in myself, but in my worth. I had earned a seat in that interview room and my story, aspirations, and opinions were worth hearing. This was my ultimate show of what Amy Cuddy calls presence.
To me it has become clear, confidence levels boost when you try new things. Even if your attempt is unsuccessful, like mine was in 6th grade, you get a better understanding of who you are, and in that moment, I learned that I am resilient.
Here is my sense of self in one sentence: Tess Meyer, a passionate professional with an adventurous spirit and conscientious introspection.
Have you gained confidence through a new experience? Tell us about it below.