Becoming confident in social isolation


Photo by Elizabeth Cheng

Social isolation let my own, unfiltered personality unfold in the comfort of my home after being stagnant for so many years.

Chelsea Lee, Design Editor

I always remind myself, “Fake it ‘till you make it.” But I’m no actress. I’ve been fighting my introversion for years, trying to pretend that I’m an outgoing, charismatic person who is comfortable with who she is. Yet everyone I knew still saw me as the same quiet girl, reticent and reserved.

Confidence has been a lifelong struggle of mine. Hiding behind the shield of my father’s legs while meeting my uncle for the first time as a 3-year-old, my relatives reasoned I was feeling shy in a new environment with new people. Although these may have been factors, my reaction was really due to my inherent shyness, which was present no matter how familiar I was with the environment or people.

I often hear people saying, “Why are you so quiet?” “Speak up!” But when I gather up enough courage to say something, I hear, “I didn’t know you could talk.” It’s tiresome receiving constant reminders about my lack of participation in discussions and self-contained personality. Thinking back to my past experiences in class, I realize I listened to my group mates chat without sharing my own thoughts like I wasn’t part of the conversation. I never noticed how absent I was around other people because I always overanalyzed my every move.

Social interaction was one of my greatest anxieties because I was worried about others’ negative opinions of me. But, the COVID-19 pandemic alleviated that distress by allowing me to build up my confidence without others’ judgments. Hiding behind a computer screen during Zoom classes gave me a break from trying to confront my fears. The minimal interaction of virtual learning relieved me from being constantly concerned about others, and the extra time I had during remote learning gave me the opportunity to reflect. I broke down specific factors that made me uncomfortable and talked through my mental chaos with my grandparents, whom I’ve always felt safest with. I realized that the memories I was so embarrassed about were inconsequential in hindsight. It let my own, unfiltered personality unfold in the comfort of my home after being stagnant for so many years.

Of course, the pandemic didn’t completely resolve my insecurities. Seeing my peers for the first time in more than a year at Viking Day, much of my self-doubt rushed back immediately. However, even with the renewal of my concerns, I knew I was stronger this time around. Now, I take opportunities to gradually push myself out of my comfort zone, from chatting with new classmates in class to leading ArtReach club meetings as an officer. In these situations, if I’m hesitant to say something, I push the words out before my mind can impede me. If self-deprecating thoughts stack up, I knock them down by reminding myself that none are as important as I make them seem. Little steps, which may seem insignificant alone, are what gradually increase my confidence.

Many of the lessons I’ve learned during my ongoing journey include advice I had heard before, but none truly impacted me until I reached the conclusions myself. Some lessons I just had to learn the hard way introspectively, and some I am still in the process of learning. Some lessons I may never learn, but I am alright with that because although I may never be the sociable extrovert I would like to be, I couldn’t be more proud of the immense growth I obtained while progressing through my continuous struggle with confidence.