Cultivating Confidence

by Pauline on January 24th 2018

What is self-confidence?

In 1890, the philosopher William James in his Principles of Psychology wrote, “Believe what is in the line of your needs, for only by such belief is the need fulled … Have faith that you can successfully make it, and your feet are nerved to its accomplishment,” expressing how self-confidence could be a virtue.

For me, confidence is about being:

  • Being comfortable in your skin
  • Being aware of your abilities and leveraging them to your advantage
  • Knowing that you rock (or even, that you are the Rock)
  • Knowing you can do anything you set your mind to.

There was a time when this confidence was non-existent to me.

It was like an emotion I felt – at the time – I could never experience. If your growing up and glowing up experience is similar to mine, the story begins at school. The environment at school did not help build up my confidence. In short, kids are mean.

I recall being pointed at in the playground because I resembled Tracey Beaker with her big, puffy, curly hair. I was made fun of for having darker skin compared to everyone else, for having a beauty spot on my face when I was, quote, “not even beautiful”.

A smol Paw

It wasn’t just my appearance but my brain and my abilities that was picked on constantly. Do you remember when you had to read a book in front of the rest of class? I dreaded it when my teacher would ask me to read out a paragraph. I’d start hearing the giggles of some of the other kids because I’d read extremely slowly and stutter between words. At the end of one of my readings, I remember a boy coming up to me and asking me very slowly if I knew how to read and if my parents had taught me how to do so.

I wasn’t the greatest at Science (this was before I discovered my love for helping people and learning about how things worked.) Back then, I scored low grades because I found school a place of hell where I was called the “ugly, dumb, Asian” instead of a place of learning where I could apply the knowledge and be someone doing great things in the future.

I recall getting one of the lowest grades in my Physics class. I actively tried to hide it and not tell anyone. Of course, someone asked me – possibly knowing full well I probably didn’t do great. They asked loud enough at the right time: when everybody stopped talking. I don’t think I said it out loud, instead, they put their nose right on my paper and started telling the person next to them whilst looking back and forth at my paper smirking. Unsurprisingly, it made me feel awful. This memory sticks out to me the most because I remember tearing up and trying so hard not to cry.

I lacked so much self-confidence, cared so much about what other people thought of me and most significantly, believed that everything they had said from how my face looks weird to how I didn’t have any talents, a future and would “probably drop out” were true.

Day in day out I would return home, stare at myself in the mirror and hate everything I was seeing in my reflection. I wanted to be thinner and have bright blue eyes like the models I would see on magazines, I wanted to be smarter but the cool-type of smart – not coding, I was bullied for that, I wanted to look like and BE like x, y, z.

I just didn’t want to be me.

Over the next few years, I agreed with everyone who made fun of me so I dyed my hair blonde, I stayed out of the sun to avoid getting darker, I got my hair chemically straightened so nobody would call me out for having curls, I stopped openly talking about a sparkly website I built. I tried to blend in as much as I could until I blended so much into the crowd that I practically wasn’t even there.

Now don’t get me wrong, confidence isn’t about putting yourself in the spotlight all the time. You can be confident in yourself without even expressing it but I didn’t have any of those – confidence from within let alone enough to show it out to the world. Because I feared, if I took a step out, I would be ridiculed like I had been in the past.

I’m not sure exactly when I started building up my confidence.

It might’ve been when I joined the theatre group (I had wanted to be an actress so I could meet Zac Efron) where I could be anyone during a period of time from history or even the future. Do you know what I found? Acting took skills and talent from ME. Through theatre, I found I was pretty good at being overly dramatic, creative and even funny at times. I wrote scripts for my theatre group and performed them during shows in my school and other schools! My confidence in my abilities started to grow.

It might’ve been when I first discovered Kpop. This may seem silly to some of you, but discovering Kpop was such a game changer. Up to this point, I was only shown white, successful pop stars on TV growing up in the UK. I don’t recall ever seeing someone Asian to relate to in any way, but then Kpop made me realise that there are very successful Asians (especially females!) out there creating AMAZING things and putting themselves out there. I could be like them – ok, maybe not a Korean pop star – but the realisation that I could put myself out there, regardless of what I look like or where I’m from hit me hard.

It might’ve been when I studied my arse off for an exam then walked out Results Day, grinning with the highest grades I’ve ever achieved that boosted my belief and confidence that I wasn’t the dumbest one in the room.

It might’ve been when I signed up for Computing class and fought the looks and judgement from the rest of the class or when I found support groups like the blogging and coding community.

It might’ve been when my heart was broken with no explanation. Perhaps on the day I finally got up from bed and decided to tell myself that I am beautiful and am deserving of love without doubts.

It was probably multiple different things but I know that fundamentally, it started with a gradual mind shift away from constantly wanting to change to full acceptance of my differences and absolutely loving them.

Rewiring your brain to think this way isn’t easy and it certainly doesn’t happen overnight. I wish I could give you a step-by-step guide on how to be a more confident but everyone is (and situations are) different.

One thing I do know is it starts in the mind. It starts with awareness. It starts with the courage to face things that scare you like bullies and not let their words or opinions affect you because YOU know yourself more than anyone else does.

The impact of self-confidence is incredible.

You shine. You feel it and people see it.

Now I proudly tell people where I’m from, I let my natural features shine, I fight any imposter syndrome or self-doubt that washes up my way, I speak up (literally on stage but also to speak my mind, I am no longer ashamed or afraid), I never let anyone undermine who I am, what I can do, judge if I’m x enough and most importantly, I want to become no one but my better self.

Obviously, I’m not perfect.

Most recently, rejections have taken a blow at my confidence.

I questioned EVERYTHING that further took a punch at my self-confidence.

I started focusing on the things that I was bad at,

wondered what I was even good at,

compared myself to people my age out there achieving great things.

Am I good eno– I stopped, I knew that was a dangerous path to go down on so I shifted gears; just in time.

I remembered the challenges in the past and how I overcame them, I remembered my achievements in JUST THE LAST MONTH, I thought of those who believed in me instead of reminding myself of the words of those that didn’t.

I began to believe too. And that belief in my abilities, in my worth, in ME.

That’s confidence.


Posted under: Health & Well-Being, Life



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22 comments

  1. Claudine says:

    Aww, I loved reading this! You’re super amazing and confident, it’s hard to believe that you experienced all of these things as well. But knowing all of this and seeing where you are right now makes you even more admirable 🙂

    I felt the same way as you did when I was in school, though the reasons were different. Still, I’m glad that you found ways to build up your self-confidence. You may not be able to pinpoint the exact time when it happened, but I think all of your experiences, combined with the discovery of things you’re good at, might have fueled it <3 Thanks for sharing this!

  2. Sue says:

    Thanks for sharing Pauline! You really are amazing, and no one can be you. We’re all made to be different, and no one can be compared to anyone else, because we’re all different and incomparable. Each of us fulfills a part in this world, and no one can replace any of us.

    I also struggle every now and then though with comparisons, and thinking of the criticism people give me, or thinking of what people might be thinking of me. But I’ve found I’m most happy when I’m not thinking about myself, and just being myself, and thinking of others, and loving others.

    I learned as a kid that it doesn’t matter what you do, if you’re nice to people or not, or if you’re a new kid, or an old kid at school, whether you are good at something people admire, or you suck at some things. There will always be those who are mean to you. But just don’t join in what they do or say, but instead continue in kindness. Sometimes you may even become friends with one of them, and see life from their viewpoint, and see how their family is structured too, and find that they aren’t so mean anymore.

    • Pauline says:

      Continuing with kindness is my motto. Despite how mean people are sometimes, I know that I shouldn’t ever add to the hate but instead share love and only love!

  3. Amy says:

    I love this post so much. It’s so great to see how far you’ve come, and how happy you are just being yourself. Whatever did it, I’m glad you managed to be proud of who you are and what you do. I can’t imagine what it must have been like growing up with hardly any role models who looked like you. This is why representation is so important, whether that be in terms of race, gender, disability, LGBTQ+, etc (the list is endless). It’s great to see you becoming a role model for young women in coding and smashing all those stupid stereotypes.

    Ugh, I can relate to being bullied in school. I always got teased for being good at maths, to the point where I stopped trying to do really well. I won an award I my first year of high school but made my mum call in sick, because I didn’t want to be teased anymore. I’m so glad stuff like that gets better as you get older. I can’t imagine being anything but proud of my achievements now!

    Sorry that you’ve been feeling less confident lately. I definitely wouldn’t worry about rejections. I got loads because I hadn’t graduated yet, then loads that were just down to experience levels. There will be that job out there for you, especially with a CV like yours!

    Keep smashing it, Pauline!

    • Pauline says:

      I LOVE YOU SO MUCH. Thank you so much! I agree, I look back at how fearful I was when I did my Computing Class but now look at me, encouraging others to do the same. I’m so proud of myself for taking that initial step!

  4. Vicky says:

    It really sucks that kids were so mean, but I’m glad that you’ve overcome a lot of it throughout the years. You’ve accomplished so much to be proud of.

    It can be really hard, sometimes, to believe in yourself when you don’t see people who look like you being confident and believing in themselves. Representation and diversity is so important in everything that we do, and I’m sure that there are people now who are going through things you went through, who look to you as a role model and someone to aspire to be more like. I know I’m one of them!

    • Pauline says:

      I wish I had someone to look up to who looked like when I was younger so that I could feel like I could do the same and be as great as they are. This is why representation and diversity IS SO IMPORTANT. 💖

  5. Megan says:

    I had a rough time in school too. I often got picked on, and I hated it. Mostly at my intelligence. I’m not dumb (I do at least know that!) but I sometimes learned at a slower rate (like math!), so I understand how that can feel.

    Actually the last couple years my self confidence has taken quite a hit. Often its due to work. A lot of people try to drag you down.

    So yeah, I know how it can feel, and something I gotta work on.

    But you however, are so amazing for being able to grow to a point where you have some much confidence!

  6. Chynna says:

    Kids are actually so cruel. We need to start teaching our kids to be kind from the get go. I remember in primary school I got called a yellow toothed monkey by a boy and I just remember feeling like absolutely shit because I hadn’t even done anything to be called that. I was minding my own business. He was probably why I actually had no confidence to talk to boys for the LONGEST time. Whatta asshole.

    I am so glad that you were able to find your confidence, girl. Your glow up is REAL and you are smashing it. Haters gonna hate, am I right? I like that Kpop has been included in this list – 2NE1 😀

    Go Pauline, go Pauline, GO! Keep rocking the world. Make them shook 🔥

    • Pauline says:

      WHAT THE HELL. WHO IS THIS BOY. I JUST WANT TO HAVE A CONVERSATION. WOW.

      I’m so sorry you had to go through that, I remember a boy called me “too brown” and that I “stuck out too much” in the school photo because of my skin colour. He told his friends and they began pointing at me and calling me a monkey too. I hated it. Kids are awful, teaching compassion is so important.

      YES 2NE1 IS THE MAIN CONFIDENCE BOOSTER AND I AINT EVEN AFRAID TO SAY IT.

      Thanks bbygal. I love youuuuu!!

  7. No words for how much I LOVE this. It’s really crazy how we let OTHER people rip our confidence to shreds. I experience a lot of similar things growing up, and it has taken me a VERY long time to build my own confidence back up. But what’s also interesting is how comforting it is to share in experiences and realize we’re not as alone as we felt for a long time! As a society, if we really focused on building each other up, there are so many incredible things we could do. I love you for putting this out there and sharing! YOU are one badass chick.

    Susie | http://milehighdreamers.com

  8. Kassy says:

    This is such an amazing post. It makes me so happy that you have been able to accept yourself and have such a great change, when compared to your high school days!

    I can see a lot of similarities in the things we have been through and it gives me great hope that I can reach that point as well. 😀

  9. Holly says:

    I can relate to this post so much. Thank you for sharing. 😊

    I never felt like I fit in at school. Primary school wasn’t too bad but secondary school was horrific. I got bullied because I was slim and people thought I had an eating disorder, which I didn’t have. It really knocked my confidence. I also hung out with the wrong people in my first few years of secondary school. They weren’t really my friends. I got wound up easily and they took advantage of this.

    I always felt like I was different, even though I couldn’t put my finger on why that was. I didn’t like what everyone else liked, and not because I was trying to be cool. I just felt like I was years ahead of everyone else.

    I think I started to feel more confident when I got my first job, which was just a little part-time job at Argos. I had to speak to people. I didn’t have a choice! I worked there over two Christmas periods, and I remember my manager commenting on how much more confident I was in my second year of working there. Also, finishing school and moving on to a different college made a huge difference. Getting away from the people who held me back was incredible.

    It hard when your confidence takes a knock. I lost so much of my confidence in the last few months of my last job thanks to people doubting my abilities. When I had therapy for my anxiety my therapist told me not to think of it as a step backwards. Instead just think of it as a side step, and you’ve just got to work out how to get back on track.

    In regards to job rejections, I know how difficult it can be. Try to remember that a lot of employers don’t even read all of the CVs they receive. And if you got a rejection following an interview, focus on the fact that it was experience you can learn from. I believe that everything happens for a reason, so I’m sure there’s a better job waiting around the corner for you. 😊

  10. Kim says:

    You are so right! And I think I’ve experienced similar as an asian growing up in a predominantly white area. People looked at me a little differently. They weren’t racist, but I could sense that they considered me different from them and that messed with my confidence. Discovering K-Pop really helped though – once I saw other asians in the media. Watching Asian Youtubers have helped my confidence too!

  11. Cat says:

    Kids really can be so mean 🙁 I’m sorry that you had to deal with people picking on you and being terrible through school. I really hope some of them have seen the type of person you’ve become now! You’ve come so far! Your blog and social media just shines with self-confidence. I wouldn’t have guessed the type things you had to deal with before. It’s always hard to tell what people had to overcome in the past, so thank you for sharing!

    I also really enjoyed reading about your confidence growing, especially the Kpop part. I don’t think it’s silly at all! Growing up, I felt there was a lack of Asian role models as well. You’re doing awesome, Pauline! Thanks for sharing such positive messages!

  12. Nancy says:

    I totally feel you about being picked on as a kid. It’s upsetting that kids picked other kids for so many things. I’m glad you’ve found the spark to build up your confidence over the years and be who you want to be. It’s great that you’ve overcome a lot of these obstacles that was unfortunately set by your peers back then and you took the opportunity to grow instead of sheltering away.

    Rejection is something we don’t like to face but as long as you don’t give up, you don’t lose. Keep doing you, girl!

  13. Tabby says:

    My little girl has just started school and I’m dreading the day I ever find out that another kid is mean to her. I think it would probably break my heart. I suffered plenty in school, I didn’t listen to the right music or watch the right TV shows or wear the right clothes… I remember how horrible it was but I was so lucky to have a really good support system and I didn’t get my confidence knocked. The idea of any of it happening to my kid? 🙁

    I’m sorry you struggled but I loved hearing your story, hearing your successes… I may have cried a few tears for you with a smile on my face, and I hope you manage to keep on believing in yourself

  14. Hiro says:

    Kids are so so so mean. Like, honestly, having spent years working with kids, I’m sometimes shocked at how cruel they can be, while at other times, they are the most pure things possible. The world generally seems out to beat us down and burn down any precarious tower we begin building called “Confidence,” but I’m glad to have met you on the other side. 🙂
    Rejections and confidence-kickers are always disappointing and upsetting, but I think the important thing is to let ourselves feel it, mope for a bit, and then get up, dust off our knees and continue walking along. Because honestly, life’s about how many times you manage to get up because there’s no point in striving for life if it were all rainbows and unicorns. 🙂

  15. Eena says:

    This entry seriously hits home. I used to be picked on when I was younger, especially when puberty hit and I started breaking out into a rice field on my face. Life isn’t easy, but it’s what you make out of it that makes it worthwhile. Thanks for sharing this, Pauline; you are very brave for doing so! And definitely such an inspiration.

    Keep in mind, you are beautiful inside and out – no matter what! ♥

  16. Amy-Anne says:

    Okay first up, that last photograph is literally one of the most gorgeous things I’ve ever seen – it really summarises up the whole idea of your post. And I believe in every word you’ve written here, confidence is definitely a thing that grows up with us in time, and is so, so important to our wellbeing and the way in which we present ourselves to the world.

    Amy;
    Little Moon Elephant