In Competition with Myself

I heard the alarm go off at 5:00am from my mother’s room, and I knew that she would come to my room to wake me up.  The day had finally come for me to start my new life at college.  I was excited.  I wanted this new adventure.  Yet, I felt some anxiety because this was not only a new experience for me, but for my family as well—I am a first generation college student.

Here I was going to college—the first in my family to do so.  On top of that, I was going with low self-esteem. And on top of that, I was going from a small town to a campus with over 30,000 students. I was not comfortable at all with the thought of being around so many students.  Plus, being around so many confident, intelligent people made me feel uneasy.  But I wanted to be like them. The only support my family could provide me was a listening ear, not really how to navigate college or any tips.  So, I had to take a leap of faith and figure out everything on my own.

The thing about being brave in this experience is that I was taking on more tasks than one.  Yes, I was a first-generation college student, but I was also suffering from not truly loving myself.  So what did I do? I went to different events on campus that helped to welcome and orient first-year students. Different events included things like Salsa Night, comedy shows, talent shows, movie screenings, cultural festivals, and other events that helped me feel like I belonged. I also pushed myself. And it was hard sometimes.  I struggled with experiencing different events on campus because of my low self-esteem.  I had a hard time figuring out how to appear on campus. I fell in love and got my heart terribly broken.  I had some mental breakdowns.  I cried in front of the mirror when I was alone.  I truly felt like I hit rock-bottom at one point so I went to counseling sessions that my school offered. But from all of that struggle, came good. I figured out the ins and outs of classes.  I learned how to (eventually) make friends—because you will most likely not make actual, enduring friendships until your second semester.  I helped found a student organization on campus that focused on helping local foster children, and eventually became President.  I involved myself in undergraduate research, started presenting at conferences, and even won some awards.  Would you look at that?  I became somebody. I became a leader. I became a mentor.  I became someone that I actually liked.  It did not happen overnight, though.  It took persistence and determination and a desire to see myself succeed.  Crying in front of the mirror allowed me to see the person that I did not want to be.  It gave me the motivation to find help.

But what really helped me though?  I confided in friends, I allowed myself to feel whatever I was feeling, and, most importantly, I kept pushing.  I am not the most confident person in the world, but I am confident enough, and that is something that I could not say before. There is a quote that I live by, and it helps me get through the days when I feel low: The only person you are in competition with is yourself.  That is me.  I am not worried about others and what they are doing and comparing myself to them anymore.  I no longer feel out of place.  I feel like I am at the right place.  I am in competition with only myself, and I will succeed as well as I can with every challenge.

Jerica, Class of 2017

Want to hear more from Set to Go? Get updates about Set to Go and other JED news.

By submitting this form, you agree to receive emails from The Jed Foundation (JED). View our Privacy Policy, Terms of Use, and Contact Information.

Go to Video...