I spent a good portion of high school struggling with low self-esteem. I never fit the image of the popular girl, and at that age it made me think that no one wanted to be around me because I was too “weird.” This began a cycle because where I didn’t think anyone wanted to be around me, so I started acting like it was the truth and making myself feel bad. It was only well into college that I decided I’d had enough of feeling like I was inadequate. I saw something online that said “fake it ‘til you make it” and decided right then and there that that’s what I was going to do. I was going to pretend that I was the fun, outgoing, confident girl I had wanted to be in high school.
The first thing I did was find a staple makeup look that I liked and that I was good at. For me, that was winged eyeliner. I told myself that if I made that my thing, whenever I was feeling down, I could just swipe on some Maybelline Lash Stiletto and feel like I was looking hot again. And weirdly enough, after a few failed attempts with liquid eyeliner, it started to work. Every time I had a bad day and wanted to just wear sweatpants to class, I told myself that I wasn’t going to mope — I was going to look good for myself. When I started putting more effort into my appearance, I also started to become more comfortable with myself when I wasn’t looking as good. On days when I did just want to lounge around in sweatpants, I was fine with looking like a mess because I knew that if I wanted to put effort in, I could look awesome — I was just choosing not to in that moment. This realization that I had control over my appearance was one of the first steps in gaining self-confidence.
I stopped apologizing for my accomplishments. I used to be the type of person who would dismiss my accomplishments as a stroke of good luck or make them out not to be a big deal. But by doing that, I started to believe that I wasn’t responsible for my accomplishments. So nowadays, instead of attributing my good grade to luck or an easy test, I attribute it to the fact that I studied my butt off. It’s a little thing, but I didn’t realize it was hurting me so much. That isn’t to say that I’ve started bragging. I’ve just learned to accept congratulations and compliments instead of thinking I didn’t deserve them.
I also started doing things that I wouldn’t have done normally and learned about some parts of myself that I didn’t know I had. For instance, I discovered that while I am shy in person (at least initially), I have no problem getting on stage to make an announcement or to perform or to get a meeting together. That all started when I volunteered to help on stage at an event; in a state of previous self-consciousness, I never would’ve done that. Now, I’ve performed a lip-sync in front of 300 people and organized meetings without a problem.
The last thing I did was try to stop caring about what other people think about me. Admittedly, this is still something I’m struggling with but it’s not something that weighs me down. I used to be super self-conscious about silly things — what type of music I listened to, the movies I watched and what I did in my free time. Those are things that define who I am, and being embarrassed about them was seriously bringing me down. So I slowly started to shed that self-consciousness. Why yes, I still watch every Disney movie. Yes, I listen to a lot of trashy pop. Yes, I play video games. Yes, I still have a ton of stuffed animals and I sing when I do the dishes. I want to be myself — completely, fully, unapologetically — and the opinions of others should not get in my way of doing so. This is the hardest step for me and it’s something I’m still working on, but every day I’m learning to love myself a little more.
So, did faking my confidence turn me into the fun, outgoing, confident girl I wanted to be in high school? Not at all. I didn’t turn into that girl. I stayed almost the same. What happened is this: I learned to love myself for who I am — I turned into the fun, outgoing, confident girl that I always have been but never saw before.