I was seventeen, awkward, and lacking confidence when I went away to college, but I was ecstatic about the new adventure that was in front of me. I remember going shopping to pick out extra long twin sheets for my dorm room bed. Between my roommate and I, we also bought a small refrigerator, a microwave, and the tiniest tv you’ve probably ever seen. I couldn’t wait to decorate my new walk-in-closet size room. I had an Elton John “Imagine” poster and a “Peace” poster that would have glowed in the presence of a black light. I know I had a couple more posters that I had bought in the college bookstore, but I can’t remember what they were of, I just remember how excited I was to get to pick them out. It was my chance to make my space feel like my own, apart from the little girl bedroom with flowers and bows that I had back at home.
Not only was I excited to be living in the dorms, I was excited about being on my own, no longer having a curfew, having more freedom, being able to make new friends, and the chance to reinvent myself. I had my friends in high school, but I wasn’t what you would call popular and during some point of my adolescent journey, I managed to convince myself that people didn’t like me. I was pretty quirky and I think it is safe to say that my confidence was almost nonexistent. I don’t know where I got the idea in my head, but I realized that going away to college would be a chance to be somebody completely new. Nobody knew me and I decided I could be whoever I wanted to be, so that is exactly what I set out to do.
I went away to my first year of college and decided that I was going to make as many friends as possible. The first week of school, I dragged my roommate around and we literally knocked on every single door of each room on our floor. I said hello to every single person that crossed my path in the elevators. It got to the point where the people that I was meeting thought that I was drunk because I was constantly talking to everyone and I took the word “outgoing” to a whole new level. They would see me later in the week and had a hard time believing me when I told them that I didn’t even drink at all. I think the whole entire time I was away at college, I had one shot of sour apple puckers at a frat party and half of a Hornsby’s Cider in the comfort of my room on the fourteenth floor. Drinking alcohol wasn’t of any interest to me at the time. I also wanted to challenge myself to meet new people without the help of liquid courage. I honestly didn’t need any substances because I was so excited to be at school that I was pretty much full of energy and high on life. I was on a mission to turn my social situation around and it was working. That got me to thinking about where I went wrong before. Why was it that all of a sudden I was able to make so many new friends when previously, I felt like I was either picked on for being awkward or completely invisible?
I realized that one of the major issues I had was that I was waiting for people to come to me, leaving it to them to be curious about getting to know me, and then deciding whether or not I was likeable. I let it be their decision instead of my own. Once I went away to college I decided that I was no longer leaving that decision up to anyone else. I decided that I was likeable and if someone chose to disagree with me, then that would be okay, but I was going to brand myself differently. I was no longer going to be the girl doubting herself and waiting for people to come to me. I was going to experiment with going into meeting people already assuming success. That was what made all of the difference. It wasn’t that I was any different as a person, it was that I was presenting myself differently and once I believed I was likeable and put myself out there, other people did too. The funny thing about it is, I now get called quirky all of the time, but instead of it being something I am ashamed of, it has become something that I have come to own. Now when people call me quirky, it actually feels like a compliment.
The thing is, people are going to buy what you sell them. If you’re doubting yourself, other people are going to doubt you too. If you’re putting yourself out there as someone that is fun and awesome to be around, that is what people are going to believe. When I was ashamed of being quirky, it came across as awkward, now that it no longer bothers me, it comes across as someone who is comfortable in their own skin. This had occurred to me before I ever went away to school and so I decided that this would be my own personal experiment. I was out to prove to myself that I wasn’t destined to feel unpopular for the rest of my life.
You can see this very clearly if you look at how people shop. Most people will spend money on brand name items because of the way they position themselves. If you ever go to the pharmacy and look at boxes of medicine, there is usually the generic brand and the name brand. The name brand usually costs a bit more, but if you look at the active ingredients, they are exactly the same in both boxes. So, if the active ingredients are the same, why is it that so many people are willing to pay more for the brand name? Very simply put, the bottle that is the name brand has a higher perceived value. Just look at a regular t-shirt versus a Nike brand t-shirt. Nike has branded themselves in such a way that they can charge six times as much for a t-shirt just by putting a swish on the front of it. With all of their marketing and advertising, they managed to sell the idea that their product is superior to the t-shirt that is a fraction of the price, but quietly sitting on the hanger. There isn’t much difference between the two t-shirts other than the swish and the way Nike has put themselves in your face to let you know, that they are awesome. You have the ability to do the exact same thing.
In the time that I was away at college, I finally felt like it was easy to make friends for the first time ever. I spent my childhood feeling like most of the kids at school didn’t like me, but I could never understand why. During junior high I got teased for my little girl voice, my frizzy short hair, looking like a boy, and there were a few students that were just downright mean. It was awful! I wish I could say that by turning things around for myself in college, my confidence just skyrocketed, but it didn’t. It took many years to rebuild my self esteem and overcome the thought that there was something wrong with me.
Now that I am twenty years older and facebook exists, I have found out that some of the kids that were mean to me, were actually struggling too. It was their low self esteem and self doubt that lead them to put me down. I wasn’t alone in my doubts and neither are you. After many years of working with people, I have realized that it is usually the people that are hurting the most that go around hurting other people. I wish I could have seen that at the time. Maybe it could have saved all of us from struggling through those awkward teenage years.
When I was younger, I never knew how thankful I would become for all of the hard times I went through. They turned me into a welcoming committee for new people, so that no one would ever have to feel alone. They made me more compassionate and sensitive to other people’s feelings. Once I got past my own fears of rejection, it became a lot easier for me to start connecting with anyone that crossed my path. Everything that I have ever been through has lead me to exactly where I am now. I absolutely love helping other people become more confident so that they can step into the best version of themselves. I also love being a cheerleader and supporting other people in their success. I no longer feel the need to compare myself to others.
Why am I telling you all of this? You may or may not be feeling likeable and you may be waiting for everyone else to prove to you that you are. It’s so easy to stay in the constant question loop of, “what’s wrong with me”, when you aren’t getting the external results that you want. That doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you at all. The trick is, everything starts with you. You get to choose who you want to be and then it is up for you to let the world see who you are just by being yourself. If you don’t like something about yourself, it is either in your power to change it, decide to accept it, or look at things from a different perspective. If you don’t show people who you are, then they are going to be left to wonder who you may or may not be. That doesn’t mean that you have to go knocking on everyone’s door or say hello to every single person that crosses your path in an elevator.
It means that you know that your voice matters.
It means that you know you’re likeable and good enough just the way you are.
It means that you love yourself, including your flaws.
It means that when you’re brave enough to be yourself, you will start attracting the people that fit you.
My college experiment showed me that most of my insecurities were in my head and I just needed to shift my perception. It wasn’t that people didn’t want to know me, it was that my lack of self esteem wasn’t giving them the chance to. Make the decision that you’re going to lead with confidence so that people can see that you’re worth knowing. You’re allowed to have flaws and they don’t matter as much as you think because there isn’t a person on this earth that isn’t flawed. When you find your tribe, those people will see past your weaknesses and bring out your strengths. I can promise you that you’re likeable, even if you don’t fully believe it yet. When you make the decision to believe in yourself and start shifting from the inside, everything on the outside will start to shift too. If you’re wanting some extra help, setup a complimentary consultation with me, I would love to help you!