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A crisis of confidence

By Alanna Goodman, 4th-year Biology student

In one of my favourite movies, The Sound of Music, there is a scene in which the main character sings about confidence. “I have confidence in sunshine! I have confidence in rain… Besides which, you see, I have confidence in me!” She tries to bolster her confidence, after having experienced what I call a “crisis of confidence.” This is the story of my crisis of confidence.

Queen’s was not my first choice. It was my back-up. I was not accepted to the program at my first-choice school. I don’t think it would have bothered me too much, except that my friends from high school told me I wouldn’t get in. They told me my marks weren’t high enough and I wasn’t smart enough.

The sting of having proof that they might be right followed me to university. When I moved into residence, I hardly spoke to anyone because a voice in the back of my head said, “What if I sound stupid? Or what if they don’t think I’m good enough?”

But it didn’t just affect my meeting new people. It spilled into my academic life. I was afraid to speak to my professors or work in groups. Writing tests or midterms was another problem. I remember early on at university saying to myself, “What’s the use in trying? You’ll be bad at it anyway.”

Looking back at my university career, I can see the growth I have made here and the time it has taken for me to regain my confidence. I wish I could say that there was some specific trigger which helped me turn it around, but I think it was a combination of things. One of those things was interviewing to be a Peer Learning Assistant. I was interested in it but I never really believed I could get in. Receiving my acceptance email gave me a huge boost. Meeting and remaining friends with those who were supportive was also important. I will never forget the first friend I made here, who still makes me feel like I am the most wonderful person in the world. I also had to actively work at thinking positively about myself and looking at academic challenges as something I could do if I worked at it. And if I didn’t do well on something, I had to remember that it didn’t reflect my intelligence or mean that I couldn’t do better.

When you find yourself in a crisis of confidence it’s important to understand why you feel that way – it took me a while to realize the source of my lack of confidence. Once I understood what had caused it I was able to work on changing my mind set and attitude (positive self-talk). This allowed me to change my behaviour (such as acknowledging accomplishments big or small) and my situation (finding the courage to speak to professors and focus on working hard).

A crisis of confidence can strike at any time – often when we least expect it or want it to. This is why it’s important to celebrate all our little successes in life and to laugh or at least shrug off our failures and build on them. Don’t let a crisis of confidence hold you back.

For more strategies on regaining your confidence and coping with stress, check out our Stress and Coping Skills module.

Photo courtesy of Evil Erin under Flickr Creative Commons Attribution license.