When I was younger, my mother used to take me to the playground. Like any four or five-year-old, I relished the opportunity to climb, swing, or slide on something.
But why am I telling you this?
Well, I could be on the monkey bars, and another child could approach the playground from the very far side, it didn’t matter if they were younger or older than me, didn’t matter if they were even going to talk to me, but if they simply came within my vicinity, I would start bawling, screaming and want to go home, every single time. My mother, of course, would pretend she didn’t know me, because that was highly embarrassing for both of us.
I’m not sure why I used to have a self-induced panic attack every time a child came within a 200m radius, but I do think in some part, it was due to my lack of confidence. Lack of confidence in my ability to talk to other kids, and lack of confidence that I would be liked by other kids.
This matter of confidence would follow me throughout my life, particularly during high school, which is why I wanted to talk to you about it today. Having little doubt in yourself and your abilities can be really difficult for a lot of us.
But to have confidence doesn’t mean you can bust out a totally amazing dance complete with flips and cartwheels in front of your entire year group on retreat day (although that is pretty awesome). It can also mean accepting your mistakes and weaknesses, not comparing yourself to others, or simply sharing your opinion.
It would make sense if I could trace my self-confidence as a linear progression, from a shy and awkward Year 7 student to an incredibly self-assured and courageous Year 12 student. But that’s not true at all. In reality, my levels of self-doubt have fluctuated, or come at different times at different amounts. For example, in Year 7, I made liking a colour my only personality trait, shamelessly promoted my craft blog and carried the brightest pink laptop satchel you have ever seen. If that’s not confidence, I don’t know what is. Yet, in year 12, I can still get nervous asking a question in Maths and have apologised to my debating team after every speech for the last seven years.
But obviously, my experience will differ to yours. Maybe you feel you have grown more confident as you’ve become older, or conversely, noticed yourself becoming more hesitant and cautious.
I have learnt that confidence is a skill, and like any skill, it takes practice to perfect. So, the more you stand up for yourself, refrain from passing judgement on others, speak up in class, or say no if you don’t want to do something, the easier it is.
What I’m trying to say, is the most important part of the theme ‘own your story,’ is not the word ‘story’. It’s the word ‘own’. Whatever you do, whatever quirks you have, whatever might make you feel a little out of place, own it. Or at the very least, don’t pass judgement on others for being a bit out there, and owning themselves. I used to do this, and an articulate friend helped me realise in her speech a few weeks ago, that the reason I was judgemental, was because I was actually jealous of their confidence.
So obviously, I no longer cry, scream, and want to go home when someone approaches me – at least, not externally. But this is not a testament to maturity, nor time, but rather, to practice.
And, because I would not be able to face Ms Poole without making a single, albeit slightly modified, historical reference, remember: when finding the confidence to ‘own your story’, you have nothing to fear, except fear itself.
Kate, Vice Captain 2021/2022