How I Gained Back My Confidence (After Losing It All)

 

Originally I had a different post planed for tonight. Yesterday while I was playing on my yoga mat, I was suddenly inspired to write my untold story. The story of how my first two years of college broke my confidence and left me wounded. The story of how I retreated from the outside world and became more introverted. The story of how tragically misunderstood I was throughout college.

I had written 2,253 words of heartache, disappointment, and regret. But, I ultimately decided not to publish it.

Frankly, I don’t have the courage right now to open up completely to the internet. Some things are meant to be kept personal (hence the term personal life).

But, writing about my untold story was cathartic. And I’ve decided that I want to share with you all the positives of my untold story.

Long story short, I lost all confidence I had in myself and my abilities just after my first semester of college. I was confident, but people saw this as being arrogant. I was outgoing, but people saw this as me bragging and being full of myself. I was happy, but people saw this as a point of weakness to destroy. People saw me as somewhat they could bully, name-call, ostracize, and gossip about.

That broke me.

It’s taken me several years to regain most of my confidence and to feel like that same happy girl I was before I went to college. Here’s what I learned throughout my journey –

ACCEPT THAT YOU CANNOT CONTROL WHAT OTHERS THINK ABOUT YOU

This was a really tough one for me to learn and accept. Up until college, my life was pretty simple. I worked hard, and got what I “deserved.” In reality, I just was extremely fortunate to have been what I deemed successful at the age of 17. But in college? Oh, it was so incredibly tough for me to learn that sometimes things don’t work out, regardless of how much effort you put in.

This same philosophy applies to people. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you look like, how you act, etc. Sometimes, there will just be people out there who dislike you simply because they want to. When I got to college, I was disliked by a group of people for the first time ever in my life. It was devastating. And I did everything in my power to get these people to like me. But at the end of day, those people that I tried so hard to please still didn’t like me. And I regret all of the time and energy I wasted trying to get them to like me.

How I have found peace is just through accepting that not everyone is meant to be friends with everyone. For proof, just look at yourself. When I think about my own relationships, I can easily come up with a list of people who would never make to “best friend” status with me simply because our personalities don’t mesh well. And that’s ok! Just respect that some people have their set opinions and beliefs, and it’s not always worth trying to change them. It’s all about choosing which battles to fight.

FIND A FRIEND (OR TWO)

When it comes to friendship, numbers don’t matter. No, I wasn’t a part of a large group of girls who were all close. But, I was lucky enough to develop a few beautiful, strong friendships while I was in college. These few close friends will be the same friends standing up with me on the altar on my wedding day, who my kids will know as Aunt so-and-so, and who will go on trips with me when we’re empty-nesters. One true friend is more valuable than twenty mediocre friends.

When I look back on my rougher college years, I regret not trying to make friends my freshman year. I got so caught up with school, swimming, and trying to please those who hated me so much that I missed out on valuable time with people who really care about me.

TRY TO REMOVE YOURSELF FROM TOXIC PEOPLE AND ENVIRONMENTS

One of the biggest progress milestones in my regaining confidence journey was graduating from college. Honestly, I just needed to move on from that toxic environment. With graduation came the deletion and blocking of some people on my contact list and social media.

If you know something isn’t working for you, then there’s no point torturing yourself every day. This can be applied to many real-world situations. Think about your current job/career. Are you excited to wake up in the morning to pursue your profession? Are you proud when you talk about what you do? Do you spend the majority of your time happy?

Look, I’m a realist. I get that even with the perfect job, there are good days and bad days. But that doesn’t mean that every day should be a bad day.

For me, graduating from college was leaving a slew of bad days. It meant leaving behind a place marked with so many unhappy memories, along with the toxic people who created those memories.

FIND SOLACE IN BEING ALONE

I used to think I was an extrovert. I can be outgoing and chatty with people I barely know, so therefore I labeled myself as extroverted.

When I first got to college, I tried to live up to my extrovert label. I was enthusiastic when I met new people, I went to as many social outings as I could, and I tried to maintain as many connections as I could. But it was draining and ultimately took a toll on me.

Initially, I started spending more time alone simply because no one wanted to hang out with me. No one included me in on plans for homework study sessions in the library, weekend dinner dates, or social activities.

Of course, I blamed all of the above on me. It was my fault that people didn’t like me. It was my fault that I was failing as an extrovert.

But then I realized that I actually like being alone. Going through depression has taught me that I truly am happiest when I am by myself. There are no social standards pressuring me to act a certain way. I can do whatever I want without having to expend energy trying to please the social needs of others.

I believe that the most confident people are those who truly know who they are. Their thoughts, actions, and words are not influenced by outside social forces. They have a reason for believing what they do, even if that reason is due to faith.

How can you be sure of who you are if you spend most of your time surrounded by others?

Learn to be comfortable with being alone, and then find solace through harmonizing your thoughts, actions, and words that are unique to you.

LIVE IN THE PRESENT

Easier said than done, right? To be honest, what has helped me live in the present the most is this quote:

If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.

Whenever I start feeling sad, I think of this quote and give myself a little pep talk about how it’s not worth wasting time and energy thinking about the past. You can’t change the past. You can only change the present.

Whenever I start feeling anxious, I think of this quote and realize that I’m expending too much energy worrying about things that yet to happen (or may not even happen at all). And I laugh to myself thinking how silly I am worrying about things that don’t exist!


I hope this post inspires you in some way. Whether it gives you the courage to break away from toxic people, carve out some time in your calendar to get to know yourself, or even just makes you think for a second, then I’ve done my job as a writer.

5 Comments

  • Kp
    Amazing post! I think this has so many relatable moments and really proud of your work!
  • Jordan
    I really like this! I can relate for sure. Love you, Cat!
  • Ruya
    Love this Cat! I went through some of the toughest times of my life in college and got rid of a lot of toxic people out of my life. Thank you for sharing these tips and I hope everything works out for you! -Ruya sweetshortandstylish.com
  • This breaks my heart that you had to deal with that, but these are such good tips! I think coming to peace that you can't control what people think of you is very helpful. www.mollyonthemoveblog.com
  • Jen Davis
    Cat I really enjoyed reading this. So much of what you said really reminded me of similar experiences in college (I, too, couldn't wait to leave, and didn't even go back to walk at graduation - and I am fine with that!) I'm so much happier out on my own and it makes me smile to know tht you're experiencing that same happiness of being in complete control of who you allow into your life and who you don't. Anyways, you are an incredibly talented writer and I'll of course be back soon (:

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