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Fake It ‘Till You Make It: How I Learned To Gain Confidence

I recently transitioned from my high school in my miniscule hometown of Steamboat Springs, Colorado to the bustling atmosphere of UC Irvine in Orange County. California. The transition itself was actually not that bad, which shocked me. My whole life, I had severe social anxiety and I did not handle change very well. I grew up in a town where diversity was limited and clique culture had a chokehold on everybody. If you weren’t in with the ‘“popular” kids, life was pretty dry. 

I spent my weekends in my room either rewatching Glee (gleek alert) or New Girl, or watching the various Snapchat stories of other teenagers in my town throwing weirdly exclusive house parties — to which I was never invited. 

I’ve recently started recognizing that this environment that I was raised in actually did have an enormous affect on my psyche and personality, which I was blind to my whole life since it was all I had ever known. And now, as a college student, I think I’ve finally found my place in the world.

Growing up, I was an extremely shy kid. I would cry when I had to talk to a teacher, refused to go to doctor appointments, and never spoke to anyone unless I absolutely needed to. I always blamed my sensitive personality on being a Virgo.

In my town, it’s very hard to grow as a young person and develop your unique, individual personality. Due to the tiny population and great distance from larger cities (Denver is a four-hour car drive), everyone already knew everything about you. It’s frankly very concerning how information circulates throughout the town. Rumors would go around, and by the time it got back to the person who started it, it would be a completely different narrative. If someone did something even slightly unexpected, every single person would know about it the following day. Anonymity did not exist. 

Now that I am at a top university along with 33,000+ students, the fact that they all know nothing about me is thrilling. I cannot even begin to explain how exciting and wonderful that is to me. I have a chance to completely make a new impression. An impression like the first day of kindergarten in my hometown. 

This recent anonymity has awakened something of a newfound confidence in me. I find myself going up to random strangers and starting conversations. I’ve been told, “Molly, it’s really cool how you just go up to people and make friends.” Trust me, I have never before been that person in my life. Now, let’s get into the how I got here:

I have Ms. Emma Chamberlain to thank for this first one — talk to people like you already know them. 

Talk to them like they are a distant family member that you know and not a completely new person. I used to put people on pedestals — I would build up this idealized version of them in my head and make them completely unattainable. Once I realized that they are too, just a person, it became a lot easier to talk to people. Also. when you feel like they already know you, it is also a lot more organic, amd there is no pressure to be the ‘right’ kind of a person. I know it sounds silly, but it truly works wonders. 

This second one is my personal favorite — compliments!

If there is one thing people love, it’s compliments. It’s also a surefire way to get a conversation going. It’s human nature to want to talk about yourself so when given an opportunity, people are gonna take it. I have made at least 10 new friends this quarter literally just complimenting people. 

The last one is key — remember the fact that no one is better than you. Everyone is faking it. 

I know how that sounds, but I cannot stress how many times I have said to people, “I thought you were so cool when I first met you. I was scared to come up to you,” and received the response, “That is literally exactly how I felt!” Everyone is in the same boat because no one is as confident as you think they are. To me, confidence does not really exist. I do not think there is a person in this world that is 100% secure in who they are. People always told me just “fake it until you make it,” and now that I have seen it first hand, I could not agree more.

Molly Summers

UC Irvine '25

Molly is a first year Literary Journalism major. When she is not in class, Molly enjoys reading, hanging out with friends and drinking copious amounts of iced oat milk lattes. Born and raised in Steamboat, Colorado, Molly has skied and spent the better portion of her life outside. She is very excited to be in southern California for a change and be a part of Her Campus!
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