The Importance of Believing in Yourself

“As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

When I was just a child, before the age of 4, I rarely spoke or looked people in the eyes. I wouldn’t respond when people called my name.

At the age of 4, my preschool teacher chastised me for not following directions like the rest of my class because I saw no point in following them. She told my mom that I’d never be able to read, cut with scissors, write my own name, or function in society.

I was diagnosed with high-functioning autism at the age of 4 and was put through a lot of therapy with the help of my parents. They believed in me when no one else did. I didn’t know about my diagnosis until I was a teenager.

I had always felt different from almost everybody else throughout my childhood and didn’t know why. I wouldn’t go outside the house very much because I was extremely afraid of wasps and hornets (everyone shamed me for being afraid of hornets and wasps even though I couldn’t control my fear). I was extremely sensitive to sound and had an extremely low pain tolerance and would violently react to pain and cry.

Though my childhood was good, it was extremely sheltered and I didn’t interact with many people. I had only a few close friends and I interacted much more with adults (mainly in my own family) than with children. I was part of a baseball team and boy scouts when I was a kid and I eventually quit both of them because I didn’t interact well with the other boys and got frustrated easily at everything. I didn’t understand the way they interacted and why. They were asking me not to quit but I angrily stormed off and quit. I didn’t really have an incentive to do a lot of activities and didn’t like most of the boys because I felt like I was treated differently from them and not as an equal. Neurologically, I was treated as a minority.

I had low self-confidence and was bullied in elementary school. I didn’t know why I was here and though I liked science I didn’t think had a purpose for living. I didn’t want to be ordinary like most people. I was put into special education because though I was highly intelligent and could read at a college level in elementary school, I was extremely poor at functioning socially. My special education teacher as well as my parents worked with me tremendously to help me read emotions and body language and to effectively communicate.

Even after graduating from elementary school where I knew many people and had a few friends through special education, I socially and emotionally shut down during middle school and only focused on being a good student and going through the motions because I heard middle schoolers talking about drugs and alcohol and that frightened me.

After two trips to Europe, I developed a passion for languages and traveling and finally saw some kind of purpose and ambition in my life I could strive for. My high school, which was a Catholic college prep school, was what saved me from falling through the cracks. There I not only became passionate about life an started believing in myself, but I actually had a lot of friends for the first time and I had a social life. Learning languages is more than just something I enjoy and more than just something I’m passionate about, it’s ultimately what gave me self-confidence and forced me to overcome my fears and put myself out of my comfort zone. Language learning helped me gain enormous self-esteem and confidence. Cross country and track and field did something similar, because both taught me it’s okay to make mistakes and to stumble as long as you have the resolve to keep going. Language learning and running got me to become confident and believe I had worth and purpose.

My shining self-confidence got me through high school and into college and I developed my social life even more. I got involved in clubs such as an Arabic club and a Japanese club in high school. At Southern Oregon University I volunteered actively in my university’s International Student Association and was the president and public relations officer of the university’s United Nations Club. I gained many friends, some of whom I’ve developed a deep lifelong connection with. I also continued learning new languages and became really good at it to the point where I could learn languages completely on my own using my own strategies, which I’ll talk about another time.

I had great trouble in finding a job during college and kept trying to apply and didn’t get into anything, so I read the book “What Color Is Your Parachute” in hopes of figuring out the answer. What I got from the book was just standard job and career advice which really didn’t resonate with me. Then in the summer before my third and last year of college (I graduated in three years), I read a book called “The Art of Non-Conformity”, which completely spoke to my heart and I figured out I wanted to delve into a non-traditional career. It was a book that affirmed my difference from everyone else and told me that it was okay to go on my own path and blaze my own trail and not do what everyone told you to do. All my life I was just trying to fit in when every attempt I made to fit in was always responded to as rejection. I decided that I needed to completely give up on fitting in and affirming myself for the differences I have and viewing them positively and to not find a career, but rather flow into and create a career that suits my needs and passions.

I successfully graduated college early and now I’m trying to get into a career that is suitable for me. My life has consisted of trial after trial and a gradual journey to self-acceptance. What I’m trying to emphasize is simply to never stop believing in yourself, no matter what obstacles come in your way. Keep being persistent. My persistence and optimism helped me even when my self-esteem was extremely challenged. I will not give up on myself. One quote I always say to myself every day is Muhammad Ali’s affirmation “I am the greatest!”

I will continue in my journey to becoming the greatest I can possibly be. I am the greatest.

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