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.