Hi everyone! I am Jennifer Quiroz, a summer intern at The Practice Space. I am here to talk about my personal journey around confidence. For as long as I can remember I have always been the shy kid: the one that would turn red when she was called on, the one that would lose her train of thought in the face of a large crowd, and the one that never said a word – even around her friends. This has always been an issue for me. I struggle with a lot of insecurities when it comes to my appearance and certain aspects of my personality which inhibits me from speaking my mind. Despite still having some of these characteristics, I do have to say I have come a long way.
Growing up, I didn’t really have many friends which is one of the reasons I was so quiet, I didn’t have anyone to talk to or feel comfortable around. I did spend a lot of time around family though, when I wasn’t with my intermediate family I was with my cousins. My cousins, however, were kind of harsh at times. They would always look down upon my ideas and jokes and tease me for being “weird”. This was something that ultimately silenced me — I didn’t feel wanted at school and when I was around my cousins I felt like I had to silence myself so I wouldn’t get “roasted”. I eventually internalized the belief that I wasn’t good enough and I shouldn’t even bother to speak my mind because I might get put down for all that I say. This then led me on a quest of finding somewhere in which I could be myself, somewhere where I could belong and finally feel comfortable expressing who I was.
I started to take action in high school. I tried out everything I could: sports, clubs, extracurriculars, summer programs, hanging out with different groups of friends, etc. I wanted to find my calling and a place where I felt like I belonged. Through some, at times painful, trial and error I started to get a sense of what made me feel good about myself and what I wanted to steer away from. I realized that I loved to tutor others, learn about and help out my community, apply to summer programs and help others apply to summer programs, and I loved being a part of my high school cross country team! This team really set out to be a safe heaven for me, it was a place where I finally felt like I belonged and where I could finally be myself. It was also a community where I felt like I was part of something greater than myself – which I always longed for. Cross country to me was kind of like a metaphor to what life is really like: we just have to keep going despite any pain in order to achieve our goals. There were times where I felt like giving up because of how physically and mentally challenging this sport was, but I never did and I kept running. Looking back on all my pain and struggles and knowing that I crossed all those finish lines made me feel good about myself. Something which I hardly felt. I proved to myself that I can do anything I set my mind to, even if I thought I would never do such a thing in a million years. Through cross country, I gradually started to have faith and confidence in myself that made me look at life through a brighter perspective.
My open love and passion for cross country led one of my teachers to ask me to speak about my experience during a family meeting (an assembly we would have every Friday at my high school). I still remember the whole experience as if it were yesterday, I remember sitting on the sidelines feeling so much nervousness and excitement flood through my body. I remember when Ms.Marker introduced me and I remember the nervous little walk I made up to the center of our gym. There I was with a notecard in one hand and an intimidating microphone in the other. I was off to a rough start but as soon as I realized that I was in a safe space where the audience members where people I knew and supported me, I started to become more confident in my speech. I remember making the crowd laugh, and I remember looking over at my friend while they gave me a look of accomplishment and reassurance that I was doing a good job. It was a momentary event for me because of how much growth I have come to show. Freshman year me would have never imagined I, Jennifer Quiroz, would be speaking in front of my whole senior class during a family meeting (these thoughts would randomly pop in my head as I was gazing across the room in awe). The support I felt from the audience and my friends that day made my fear of public speaking diminish and made me feel more confident in my abilities.
Despite my ongoing struggle with confidence and my continuous striving to better my mindset and lifestyle, I always come back to moments like these that remind me that I do have the ability to do things that scare me with grace and success. If I could overcome past struggles who says I can’t continue to do the same in the future.