July 8, 2019
Word of the Week: Confidence
I remember it was still dark outside when I woke up. It must have been around 6:00 am, which was pretty early for a sixth grader. I had butterflies in my stomach, the good kind. It was my first tournament for forensics, the decathlon of speech and debate. I had been practicing my rendition of “The Paper Bag Princess” by Robert Munsch for weeks, perfecting complicated characters like a fearless young princess, an evil giant dragon, and a helpless prince. I was excited to show the world how masterful I was at bringing one of my favorite children’s books to life.
“SOCK IT TO ‘EM BABBBY, SUPER DUPER WHAMMY, SHOW THEM WHO IS BOSS LADYYY!” my mom said on my way out the door. This is what my mom said to my sister and me before any big life event – school tests, tennis matches, musical performances, job interviews, you name it. She’d do a little dance and double high-five us while she said it so we’d get sufficiently pumped up.
“And remember, the most important thing is that you worked hard and learned a lot!” she yelled behind me. “This is your first time and you are only a sixth grader so don’t be disappointed if you don’t win.”
I whipped around, insulted she would even suggest such a thing. “Of course I’m going to win, Mom!” I shouted as I got into the car.
I had a pep in my step all day long. I’m the best one here, I kept telling myself. Even though I had some first-timer jitters, I felt completely in the zone. Performing came naturally to me. I watched as my competitors clammed up, forgot their lines, and got distracted by noises in the hallway. Me, on the other hand, thrived under pressure. For example, when there was an unexpected fire alarm in the middle of one of my performances, I could have crumbled. Instead, I decided to use it as an opportunity to show the judges that I could excel even under difficult conditions. The judges must have agreed because, by late afternoon, I had made it to the finals.
As I sank into a big auditorium chair covered in red velvet waiting for the awards ceremony to start, I was both excited and nervous. I wanted to win so badly. When the judges got to the “Storytelling” category, my heart froze. This is it, I thought to myself. I crossed the fingers on my left hand – a habit I would carry well into adulthood – and took a few deep breaths. I looked out into the audience and locked eyes with my parents. They gave me four thumbs up.
First, the judges read a list of “honorable mentions,” meaning kids who made it to the finals but didn’t place in the top three. My name wasn’t called. Next, the judges announced the third place winner. My name still wasn’t called. My heart started beating faster and my hands began to sweat. Then I heard, “Second place goes to…Elizabeth Su!”
I couldn’t believe it. That’s me! I won second place! I was shaking all the way down the aisle and up the few steps to the stage where I picked up my Stanely Cup-sized trophy. I was beaming with pride. It was surreal to look out into the audience and realize everyone was clapping and cheering for me. My face hurt from smiling. I wanted to shout, See, I told you I could do it! Not to my parents, my coach, or my teammates. But to myself.
These days, whenever I feel insecure or catch a wave of the Imposter Syndrome, I try to channel that confident 10-year old little girl. The one who knew she was talented. The one who wasn’t afraid to shine. The one who owned her desire to win. The one who showed everyone what she was capable of.
She is the original badass.
Ask Yourself: How often do you dim your light to make other people more comfortable? When is the last time you were proud of yourself? What needs to shift in order for you to shine brightly and be unapologetically you?
Weekly Mantra: I was born to shine