Oracle After Hours: Self-reflection leads to confidence, self-determination


Rachel Koopersmith, columnist

I am a person who needs constant validation from others. 

Even now, as I am writing my first column for Oracle After Hours, I struggle with questions like, “What will people think about me after reading this?” and, “Is this introduction any good?”

From an early age, many of my teachers told me to have confidence in my work. But, having self-confidence never came easy. 

Starting high school with this mindset, I was beyond nervous. I was so consumed with pleasing others that I placed added stress on myself all throughout freshman year. I pushed myself past my limits trying to get good grades and felt embarrassed asking for help. Going to the TLC was out of the question, as I assumed there was a negative stigma attached to it. I strived to be this perfect version of myself which exhausted me both physically and mentally. By the winter, I felt hopeless. I was tired. I had lost sight of the things that made me truly happy. 

Then the pandemic hit, changing every aspect of our lives as we knew it. As difficult as these months were, one huge benefit was a much slower pace of life in the spring, leaving me with significantly more free time. 

My parents actually instituted a “no-screen time” period every night between 6-8 p.m. While I hated the idea initially, I realized that two hours every night without practice, homework, TV or my phone actually gave me the opportunity to stop and think. What do I really want to spend time doing? What activities bring me happiness? 

Over the last few months, I’ve made some difficult decisions: what classes to take, what clubs to join, what travel sports to play. I don’t necessarily have more free time as a result, but I’ve realized that I have a lot more energy and enthusiasm for what I’m doing. I’m trying to focus on what makes me happy rather than trying to please my parents, teachers and coaches.

After my time of self-reflection in the spring, I find that this year I am more self-reliant and self-confident. I am able to make decisions more quickly, and have more confidence in the decisions I make. I’m starting to realize that if I feel good about what I’m doing, my performance is better.

This being said, I still have a long way to go. For example, while I have been gaining confidence academically, athletically I still feel crippled by the fear of making a mistake and letting down my teammates. I hope, at some point, I will consider myself a confident person, but it is going to take more than a few months to change my mindset. 

 Our flaws are what build us up and shape us into who we are. Making mistakes allows us to grow. I am trying to engrain these concepts into my head.

In high school, we can be so focused on pleasing others that we often lose sight of our true passions and forget to enjoy the things that truly make us happy. So focused on quantifiables such as test scores and grades, we put an immense amount of pressure on ourselves, which only leads to a stressful life. 

You’re only a high school student once, so why not make the most of it? Spend these four years doing things that make you happy. Step back for a moment and breathe. Focus on your mindset, on yourself and ultimately aim to become a more self-reliant, self-determined person.