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Growing up as the youngest child, I always felt as though, no matter how hard I tried, I would never be able to keep up with my older siblings. I expected myself to be just as good as they were at everything, despite our age differences. If I saw them doing something effortlessly, I expected myself to be able to do the same, and if I put any amount of effort into the task, it meant I was a failure. To me, being strong meant not being hurt; it meant being so invincible that you weren’t affected by the things around you. I never imagined that strong people felt pain too — I thought that once I felt hurt or challenged, it was instantly a sign of my weakness. 

As I began school, this mentality continued. I didn’t have to try at reading, but I did at math, which to me meant I couldn’t do the math. If I had to put effort into anything academic, it meant that I was stupid because if I were “smart” then the things I was doing would be easy. Once I started high school and began taking Advanced Placement courses, my self-worth seemed to deplete. I was taking hard classes and they were hard for me. Although that should be an obvious cause and effect, it didn’t seem that way to me. I struggled to work hard because I thought it meant something deeper than working hard — I thought the fact that I had to try meant I wasn’t as good as those who found these things easy.

Coming to UC Berkeley, this mentality has thankfully shifted. I’ve found that the people I respect the most are the ones who work hardest, not the ones who just skate through everything they do. Here, classes are so challenging that no matter how “smart” you are, you have to work hard. I feel silly now, looking back, because I realize that strength, academically or otherwise, does not come from being unchallenged; it comes from being challenged and working toward your goal regardless. One of the hardest things for me has been not to judge myself for having to work hard at something. But each time I’m able to get over my self-doubt and try my best despite finding it difficult, I realize that I’m one step closer to becoming a stronger version of myself.

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Lucille Lorenz

UC Berkeley '26

Lucille is a first-year student at UC Berkeley, intending to double-major in comparative literature and English, with a minor in journalism. Outside of school, she enjoys reading, writing, swimming, and playing the cello.