How I built my confidence in secondary school

After being bullied in primary school, Criodán has some advice on making a conscious effort to build confidence

Written by Criodan O'Murchu


“Confidence is key” – that’s the phrase. Yet for so many, in this modern age, confidence is tougher to find than a needle in a haystack. The current young generations in secondary schools and college appear to be rife with anxiety, fear and apprehension when they should be sure of themselves, tall and proud. As someone who has been on both sides, I’ve decided to write about my experience and share how I dealt with my lack of confidence and become the person I am today.

Bullying in school

So, we have to start at the start and pinpoint where and why I was not confident in myself. In primary school I was bullied. I was bullied for as long as I can remember from first class right the ways up to sixth class. After fifth class, things improved slightly having told teachers and my parents. I was excluded from games, picked last for sports, made fun of, not interacted with to name a few things. It was relentless and debilitating. I had no interest in sports because of this and looked forward to the bell at three o’clock so I could go home and play my Xbox, at home, alone.

In turn, I had no friends when I went to secondary school. I had to start on the bottom rung and work my way up. It was difficult for me, being socially awkward to make friends. Having been bullied, I was terrified of speaking up, trying to make my own points and voicing my opinion. I was more than happy to keep my mouth shut in class and just go with the flow. Making friends was a slow and difficult process and it took me a long time for me to even trust the people who I began to call my friends, all due to my past experiences.

Stepping out of my comfort zone

The realisation that I needed to change came when I entered Transition Year. As part of TY, the entire class of about twenty-two took a three-day trip to Achill Island as a bonding trip and to work on our Gaisce awards. Our TY coordinator was a geography teacher, and so, asked us to prepare a short presentation about the local area. I was dreading this. We only had to present for a minute in front of our class and the two coordinators. Once my name was called, I reluctantly made my way to the top of the room. I was shaking like a leaf. I really was. I couldn’t even read the page in front of me. Afterwards I was almost annoyed with myself. It was only my classmates and teachers, so why was I so anxious to ‘perform’ for them? I knew then that I wanted to change.

So I forced myself into these situations. I attempted to give more input in class. I was more outspoken and gave my opinion on small issues at first. Work experience helped a huge amount too. For mine, I visited my local GP and a neonatal consultant in University Hospital Galway. Here, I was pushed to be among professional adults in an extremely prestigious and professional environment. With that, I had to act accordingly. I had to ask questions, be engaging, get up close and personal with the situations I was presented with. It was terrifically eye-opening for me.

Enjoying new experiences and challenges

Later in TY, we held an open day at the school for incoming first years. A couple TYs were asked to talk about the year, the opportunities we had available to us and our work experience to the incoming first years and their parent. I volunteered to speak and I was still slightly nervous. There was about two hundred people waiting to hear us speak. I was third and last to speak and as I waited, I could feel my nerves build. I could feel the pressure, the eyes falling on us. However, once I had started the pressure eased off and I began to enjoy it.  The more I talked, the more I wanted to keep going. This I believe is when I knew I had a grasp on my confidence.

In 6th year, I had the opportunity to speak at our end of year ceremony. This time I jumped at the opportunity. Myself and a friend of mine opened the ceremony and explained our event theme. I loved it. I did not want to get off the stage. That was when I knew I had done enough and was on the right track to being an extremely confident person.

Exercise helps my confidence

Another thing that most definitely helped me was starting jiu-jitsu. Since primary school I had never been into sport. I had tried football and disliked it. I started boxing in third year, but after TY I made my way into a local jiu-jitsu gym and I have never looked back. The coaches were all extremely inviting and helpful. They took me, a not very sporty and not very athletic person, who lacked in confidence and converted me into a confident person, capable of handling themselves, physically and mentally. I can never thank them enough and I would absolutely recommend jiu-jitsu as the sport in order to gain confidence in oneself.

As a summary I highly recommend

  • Forcing yourself (somewhat) to do things that are uncomfortable
  • Jumping on new opportunities when they present themselves
  • Doing a sport or activity that promotes confidence

Little by little, you can absolutely build your confidence. It’s a marathon and not a sprint.

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