Dark title, right? Well in today’s post I’m ripping off the bandaid, and telling you all about my experience with how I lost confidence in myself, and how I’ve been recovering from my fall.
I dove into a similar topic in one of my previous posts (“Your Accomplishments Don’t Define You”), so feel free to check that out if you haven’t already! (;
Lately, I’ve had a lot of conversations with friends about the different types of confidence. We specifically talked about two. These two are: the confidence that others’ thoughts/opinions of you don’t matter (self-image) and the other being the confidence you have in yourself and your capabilities (self-confidence). My lack of self-confidence has been my biggest struggle of 2020.
I love discussions, debates, seminars, etc.. What do all of these events have in common?...an opportunity to listen and learn from the people around you. As I’m sitting there listening to these wonderful thoughts and opinions of others, I realized that I never spoke up to share mine. I tend to be the quietest person in group settings - social or professional - the only place I’m ever loud and proud is at home (sorry fam...hehe). This isn’t because I don’t have anyone to listen to me or that I’ve never had an opportunity to share, but it’s because I have always chosen not to share. However, I hit my breaking point.
A few months ago my mindset towards my capabilities hit a low. Just like the majority of the population, I have experienced and struggled with imposter syndrome. According to Harvard Business Review, “Imposter syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success.” Well, I felt very inadequate to have had the opportunities that I have experienced this far, and I still feel inadequate for the ones that are to come post graduation. Looking from the outside in, it’s all so silly. In reality, I worked tirelessly to do well in my classes, to prepare well and be confident in my interviews, to find and explore new career opportunities/conferences, to prove myself at my internship, to succeed in my leadership position, and more. I have a disciplined work ethic. I have strong ambitions, and I think I’ve done a wonderful job with chasing after whatever it is that I want.
So why did I feel this looming sense that I’m not good enough? That I’m not smart enough to be where I am? That I don’t deserve to be where I am? I'd sit in my room for hours on end thinking about these questions. Well that, my friend, is the
dark rabbit hole of an overthinker’s mind rooted from self-doubt and the treacherous tricks the mind can play on one’s self.
As much as I’d love to say that I have had a healthy relationship with myself, I can’t say that I have. Like most people, I struggle to be kind to myself. Despite my accomplishments or the compliments from family and friends, I still find the smallest things to critique myself on. Everyone is their worst critic.
Showing Up for Me
Growing up, I always had a strong determination to succeed in every aspect of my life. I studied hard to make the honor roll, I ran as fast as I could in P.E. to prove to myself that I could be the fastest kid in my class, I read as many books as I could to get a gold sticker - the list was endless. Although it was fulfilling to see my parents smile or hear them say that they were proud of me, I was craving after this feeling of accomplishment. “I did this for me. I’m proud of myself.” That feeling carried me throughout elementary, middle, and high school.
In high school, I was fixated on doing well in my academics. I wanted to have straight A’s, be on the student council executive committee, and make it to the top 10 student ranking list. I had this cookie cutter vision of who I needed to be to get into a good school and earn scholarships. But the truth is, that even if I checked off those boxes, I know it wouldn’t have been enough. It wouldn’t have made me happy. Despite how hard I worked, I didn’t get straight A’s. Even though I loved science and math so much, I wasn’t the best at them. In fact, my teachers used to tell me to drop from the Pre-AP level or to not pursue AP classes at all. That hurt more than I could’ve described. It was at this time when I realized that one of the areas where I feel most vulnerable is when people doubt my intelligence. Don’t tell me no and don’t try to dictate my capabilities. It will only encourage me to prove you wrong and to prove myself over and over again.
Regardless of what others didn’t see in me, I still felt confident in my potential and my capabilities. It didn’t matter if the students or teachers around me didn’t see me. Yes, it still hurt, and there were days when it truly brought me down. However, I was never there for them. I showed up every single day for me. I wanted something more. I wanted to push myself towards greatness, towards success - whatever that may have meant to me in the years to come, so I did just that.
High school flew by, and I was happy with how I turned out even without checking off my cookie-cutter boxes.
But my feelings towards my self-confidence began to change when I started college…
The Lies I Told Myself
I can’t really describe what the switch was between high school and college, but all I know is that I wasn’t the same person anymore. I was excited for change. Funnily enough, I was even more excited that I didn’t know anyone at college and they didn’t know me. However, I was nervous for every class, every presentation, every assignment, and joining any kind of organization.
Yes, for the most part, most first years have jitters. But, why was I so nervous about every single little move I was about to make?
Well, let’s take a step back and reflect/analyze Liana’s past mind:
As I mentioned earlier, I had a cookie-cutter vision of what success meant to me. It was never my vision of success. I created this to-do list based on what I saw other students doing, what I read success to be in books, and even what I saw on social media or TV. I had this loss of identity and had grown this fake sense of accomplishment and vision because my identity/accomplishment/vision was never mine to begin with. It was very much inauthentic. Rather than dealing with it, I decided to just push through and began to hope that I’d find what my vision was along the way.
As I plowed through my first two years of college, I continued to check off my boxes, to my standards - classes, good grades, leadership positions, etc. I wasn’t the perfect student, and I wasn’t the perfect exec member for my organizations. However, I did my best in everything I could, and that’s what really mattered. I was truly grateful for every experience and goal I had met this far. It felt wonderful to have that growing feeling of accomplishment and progression.
So what made me fall off? What made me lose confidence? When did l lose confidence?
Despite feeling like I was on my way to the top, my confidence in my capabilities began to deplete. Sure, on paper I was moving forward, and I modeled the poster child of a good student. But, I lost sight of what really mattered to me because I never established that for myself in the first place.
I worked hard to get an A. I did my best in my leadership positions. I looked for one opportunity after the other. But I came home exhausted and drained rather than feeling proud and accomplished because I was putting all my energy, effort, and emotion in the societal terms of success. I truly thought that the more I could accomplish, the more I could build my confidence. Boy, was I wrong!
My imposter syndrome fully kicked in, and it became an unhealthy mindset I found myself in frequently. I lacked desire, passion, and even motivation to find what excited me from one day to the next. Thank God, I grew up in a disciplined household, because honestly, discipline was the only thing getting me through most of this fall semester. Online school was fine, and I ended the semester with good grades, but I was drained. All I did was wake up, work, do school, maybe hangout with friends, and then go to bed. I’m not saying everyday was boring or dreadful, but it didn’t have that same spark like it used to. I wasn’t enjoying where I was, and that was the kicker of it all.
I fell into a rut because I placed myself in this cycle of constant missed expectations and feeling like I wasn’t good enough. But this cycle began to break when I started being intentional about knowing and understanding my self-worth.
My Road to Recovery
Regardless of what anyone says, compliments and all, you can’t move on and truly be confident if it doesn’t come from you. It NEEDS to start with you. I started writing and reading myself affirmations, and it may sound silly to do so, but it has helped me have a more positive view on myself. Your thoughts define your perspective, and being genuinely kind to myself - even about the smallest things I’m proud of myself for - has grown a light in me. But what has really helped me with redefining what it means to be confident and sure of myself, was reconnecting with my faith and finding community.
Last month I started going to a college ministry group with a friend of mine. I haven’t been to church since March, and I have been missing that sense of community and conversation I used to have. As humans, we’ve always sat at the peril of our own thoughts and emotions. Regardless of how logically intensive I’ve trained my brain or thought process to be over the years, I am an emotionally-driven person at my core. Well, as a class A overthinker and an emotional being, I understand that our thoughts and emotions can be extremely volatile. You’re probably reading this and thinking the same thing too. We’re highly influential individuals not only by others but by our own minds and hearts too. But when we fall into a rut or a lull where we are constantly picking at ourselves, it’s so difficult to pull ourselves out.
Loving yourself, being sure of your capabilities, and having self-confidence is anything BUT simple or easy. I’ve realized that putting my self-worth in accomplishments, other people, and imaginary expectations has always failed me. I’m beautiful and strong because of my vulnerabilities and for the things that make me crack. I’m beautiful because I have a Creator who sees me for all that I am, and proudly says that I was made in His image.
I understand that not everyone reading this post shares the same spiritual beliefs, but I just wanted to say that there is someone who loves you despite all the reasons you tell yourself you’re unlovable. I’m still recovering and relearning what it means to love myself and be sure in who I am. I know I will be facing bumpier roads ahead, and even though it’s terrifying, I’m excited for the challenges I will face.
I’m growing into my skin and taking the time to learn more about who I really am and who I want to be. I want to learn to love myself each step of the way. As I am on my personal journey of exploration and understanding, I hope that you’ve been able to do the same too. We’re figuring it out, and oh my, what a chaotically beautiful thing this is to experience together.