Behind the Speeches

At the end of my sophomore year, one of my classes had a list of superlatives. We nominated fellow students, and then the teachers took our papers and tallied them on the board. I actually won more than anyone else in the class: most likely to save the world, best public speaker, most charitable, and…most optimistic. I was actually shocked at that one. I had never thought of myself as an optimist before. But as I reflected on the speeches I’d given to my class, the peace and self-acceptance efforts I championed, the way I told and lived out my own story of hope, I realized that all that really was optimism.

The public might not know it, but deep down, I experience an enormous amount of pessimism and self-doubt. I don’t give speeches about those raw fears alone–I always find a way to make it positive, because the last thing I want to do is spread more negativity in the world. My pessimism is actually very apparent on a one-to-one basis, or when I’m with my closest friends and family. I’ve committed myself to a genuine life of honesty. I wear no mask. So, when I’m talking or writing to someone individually, I’m actually pretty harsh on myself. I turn in school papers with “I’m sorry I suck at school; I tried, but I have no dreams” or “This writing is terrible” scrawled at the top. One-on-one with teachers, I tell them honestly that I feel somewhat inept. They tell me I need more confidence. When I’m sad, I have no issue telling people “I’m having a shitty day” if I really am feeling that way. I’ve come to school wearing all black on my most despairing days. People tell me I need to stop freaking out and assuming the worst. But I seem so optimistic because I don’t make public efforts to push my negativity on others. I want to heal the world, not dampen it. So when I’m working for world peace, I keep my personal doubts within myself.

Also, I must say that sometimes when I make these speeches about self-acceptance, I’m partly trying to remind myself. It’s easy to talk to others about how they should love themselves, because it’s so plain to see, but for me, for someone who lives with herself 24/7, it’s so hard sometimes. I’m learning, and I’ve gotten a lot better! When you stare too long at a piece of you’ve made, you start to see flaws and imperfections that aren’t really there. That’s how it is with self-image.

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