This story was submitted to us from a participant on the Washington Ireland Programme 2011.
This summer I am on a bit of an adventure. I have left my home in Northern Ireland, my life as a university student, and my friends and family all behind, to spend two months working in the United States of America.
It all feels very new and exciting. I am living in the Washington D.C. (America’s capital city), and working for an international charity (my dream job), whilst getting to know a lovely group of students from Ireland and many other people too.
So far I have learned a lot, and had a lot of fun. Now that I have reached the half-way point of my time away, I am so glad that I plucked up the courage to apply, and I’m definitely not pining for home.
I think that shows how far I have come from my early teenage years. I had the same love of adventure then, the same career aspirations, but I was very shy. I would never have believed then that I could overcome my fears like I have.
I would have found the idea of spending my summer with 25 complete strangers very daunting! I would have worried; What if I don’t fit in? What if I can’t do the work? What if no one likes me? I didn’t have those worries when I applied though, because I have learned to be comfortable with myself. Instead I was excited to get to work, and couldn’t wait to meet everyone and start making friends.
I have learned that the secret to being confident is like everything else: practice makes perfect. I knew that being shy was holding me back from doing things I really wanted to in school but it was difficult to break free.
No one else is judging
I spoke to a friend who I thought was really self-assured though, and she explained that her secret was to keep pushing herself to do the things that scared her. She said everyone doubts themselves, but you should remember no-one else is judging you as harshly as you are yourself.
So, for years I have been setting myself little challenges to improve my confidence. At first they were small things, although they felt very big. I would practice talking to shop assistants when I was buying things, or I would answer a question in class, or speak to someone new.
Over time, though, these little things made a huge difference. I realised that making mistakes was not the end of the world, because everyone did and they all understood.
Confidence and self-esteem are things we all need to work at. Building confidence is a difficult thing to start, but you can only improve, and one day you will look back and feel proud at how far you’ve come.