Developing My Self-Confidence at BC

One of my first memories at Boston College was Admitted Eagles Day when I barfed in a trash can outside Stokes Hall, before projectile-vomiting a second time with my head protruding from my mom’s car as she shamefully pulled away from the University. Turns out it had been a bad idea to mix alcohol and pills the night before, and probably a worse idea to gorge myself on red velvet cupcakes at the refreshments table the next day.

I like to tell this story to freshmen who may be uneasy about fitting in at a BC, a university that puts particular emphasis on achievement, conformity, and appearing effortlessly in control. New students are expected to seamlessly transition to unfamiliar environments and gracefully undertake any challenges in the way. When we mess up, we are supposed to feel upset and embarrassed, then work quickly to recover without missing a beat.

I also like telling this story because I think it’s funny, and it is a good reminder of how irresponsible and ridiculous I was (and still can be). Somehow, even though I was a wreck, I remember being  comfortable with myself and maintaining relative self-confidence.

At the very start, I felt like I didn’t belong at this school. I’m sure I am not the only person who has had difficulty tackling new social experiences without sacrificing their authenticity. Making friends at BC as a freshman was exhausting for me, but I was still optimistic for the future and assured in myself and my abilities.

It’s cool to look back and see how I’ve changed over the years. I frequently plan my meals more than two minutes in advance, using a crockpot to slow-cook chicken, veggies, and sometimes chili. I have been known to spend more than five dollars on a bottle of wine, and I even have adult acne!

Some things have gotten easier. Over time I have refined my social skills, and in just one month I have made more new friends than I made over the course of my entire freshman year. But some things have gotten harder. I am far less self-assured and confident than I used to be.

This is most likely due to my apprehension over life after college and whether I am doing enough to prepare myself. If anything, I should be more sure of myself than when I started at BC. I’m certainly involved in more activities, engaged with more people, and holding more leadership roles than when I was a freshman. But as my accomplishments have grown, I have developed an internal sense of doubt in myself and my abilities.

Most of us have heard about the finding that female students leave BC with lower self-confidence than they had as freshmen, while male students tend to gain self-confidence. This information, discovered in 2012 by Kelli Armstrong, Vice President of Planning and Assessment, led the Women’s Center to create the Rise mentorship program, which matches small groups of women from the senior class with female faculty and staff members.

Rise is now in its third year. I was lucky enough to be placed with a group and mentor for the coming year. We’ll meet together once a month to discuss life post-college, navigating relationships after BC, and other big, scary concepts.

Last week at our first dinner, we discussed how, because we are seniors, our involvements on campus tend to require us taking on leadership positions. More often than not, we are the ones acting as mentors for underclassmen instead of the ones receiving guidance. This means that, for the most part, we miss out on talking over problems in our own lives, and instead help others with their issues.  

I have noticed that the female people in my life do something that males do not. They tend to take time after something happens to discuss it, to summarize what went on, and what could have made it better. Driving home from a social gathering, my mom likes to talk about what happened, processing the events and relaying it back. I’ve noticed that male-identifying people tend to, in contrast, continue pushing forward without taking a break to evaluate what happened.

When we downplay our struggles or attempt to hide our pain, we lose out on opportunities to learn from our mistakes. Without taking the time to evaluate how things went wrong, we don’t get the chance to increase our self-understanding.

I think the stereotypically feminine behavior of reflecting and summarizing helps many to gain a level of self-understanding by pondering decisions and mistakes. And this self-understanding is related to our self-confidence. Rise, I hope, will help senior women to discuss and evaluate the events occurring at this unstable time, allowing us to form a better understanding of ourselves and, in turn, improving self-confidence.

I wonder if the statistic on female self-confidence has changed at all since the original survey, and if Rise has helped women become more sure of their paths after college.

I really hope that taking more time to reflect on my experiences and mistakes with a mentor will help me to gain a better understanding of myself and my future plans. Hopefully this will help me to grow as a leader and mentor, and I can continue passing tips down to freshmen who feel like they don’t fit in.

Featured Image by Zoe Fanning / Heights Editor