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Building Confidence

Posted: March 3, 2020

By Paula Hernandez Garaycoa, College Student

After a brutal week filled with a seemingly never-ending amount of work, drama within my friend group, and a nasty case of the flu, I found myself staring at all that I had committed to this semester and doubting every choice I ever made. I felt like a fraud, like I wasn’t smart enough to be in the classes I was in, like I wasn’t qualified enough to work at the internship I have.  Although I was able to recognize the flaws in my thinking and cope with the negativity in a healthy way, these feelings were not unfamiliar to me. I spent most of my time in middle and high school struggling with these negative emotions. Now that I am older, I have the perspective to understand that just because life is hard, does not mean that it is unmanageable. In fact, the very same struggles that can make life feel overwhelming can become important transformative experiences when placed in the proper context and when taken on with the right skillset.

An underlying cause of these negative feelings I felt, and sometimes still feel, is a lack of confidence. It’s a struggle that is not uncommon but is often not taken seriously enough. Confidence impacts both a person’s happiness and their external successes. In my own experience as a younger student, I found myself refusing certain opportunities simply because I felt that I was not good enough for them. Since that time, my confidence has improved a lot, thanks in large part to help from my family. For example, my mother always taught me that framing my circumstances is critical to my own confidence and self-perception. Noting that “I had a bad week” and not that “I have a bad life” or that “I am being challenged” and not that “I am incapable of performing at a high level” helps remind me that the struggles I face do not define me, but instead are simply a challenge I need to overcome. Understanding this was critical for my understanding that I could change how the things that I do not have control over impact me, my happiness, and my success.

That being said, the tricky thing with building confidence is that it is an ongoing process. Although now as a senior in college, while I have built my self-confidence, every now and then I feel the negativity creeping in. It saddens me to think about what my life would be like had I not been given the resources to boost my confidence and learn to deal with hardship. It took me years to establish the confidence that I have now and it took just as long for me to understand the importance of coping with hardship in healthy ways. It is an ongoing process, and we ought to be teaching things like respect, healthy coping mechanisms, and developing personal power as part of the regular school day and starting from a young age.

The inescapable truth is that life is hard. It is unpredictable and comes with struggles and hardships that oftentimes feel impossible to overcome. The question then becomes, “How can we cope with life at its worst?” I think back to my time in middle and high school when it truly felt like every week was a bad week, and I cringe. I wish I had been given the tools to cope with bad weeks and to turn my own thinking around. Everyone has bad weeks. If we teach young people the life skills needed to manage them, there will ultimately be a happier and more fulfilled generation.


Overcoming Obstacles offers hundreds of K-12 life skills lessons designed to prepare young people for all of the challenges life presents. It’s free now and forever and available for download by registering for an account at overcomingobstacles.org.