Confidence is a very important trait in life. While other traits, such as persistence, often do not have any effect on what others think of you, confidence is one of the few that is the first trait others see. It is an incredibly powerful tool to show those around you that you actually know what you are talking about and are actually worth listening to. Being able to naturally and confidently talk to everyone is a crucial skill used in everything from requesting promotions from managers, to calling strangers and asking them to advocate on issues you are passionate about. Self-confidence can be the final factor in having a company choose you over another prospective employee, or getting that one final, crucial vote to finally pass that legislation you feel so passionate about.
Despite recognizing its importance, confidence was a trait I never had. I was always the “quiet kid” who would sit in the back of the classroom, and rarely participate in anything. This lack of confidence had many effects on my life, varying from being scared to ask for help when I needed it, to not be willing to apply for jobs because I was not confident enough to go into interviews or even ask the person at the desk for an application. Despite knowing how consequential not addressing this flaw could be, I accepted it and did nothing to increase my confidence. This problem was so bad that many others around me would notice my lack of confidence. They would push me to practice speaking in public or to participate in other activities to improve this major character flaw. Even after reluctantly participating in these aforementioned activities, my insecurity never left me, and it plagued me in everything I did.
This all changed when I joined the Teen JUST-US program. Prior to the program, I noticed many of the issues plaguing our society (racial injustice, homelessness, and poverty, and disability injustice), but thought there was nothing I could do to combat them as a high school student. I was just resigned to living with them. During the first day of the program, I learned that I could actually have an impact on these issues. I was pleasantly surprised to see all my fellow teens sharing similar viewpoints and hoping to cleanse the world of these injustices. Completely fascinated by the discussions and the inherent history behind many of these issues, I found myself becoming more and more open with a group of what were initially complete strangers.
I began to bond with them extremely quickly, especially, considering we only ever talked through texts and Zoom. This was a major change for me, but it was only the beginning of a series of experiences that would completely change my perspective on self-confidence.
One task that helped me become more came from what I thought would just be an extra assignment to fill some of the extra time I had on my internship days. I was assigned to call donors of Yad Chessed, a Jewish economic justice organization, and ask them to share their email addresses for a newsletter. While some might scoff at the simplicity of the assignment, I was terrified at the prospect. I had never called this many strangers and I was dreading the thought of being the “annoying one asking for stuff” over the phone. Once I stopped panicking and actually started calling people, I realized how completely baseless that fear was. Despite leaving a lot of voicemails, the genuine conversations I did have were all pleasant. I realized that unlike what people say, most of the strangers on the other side of the phone are actually kind people. Even if they refused what I asked of them, they did so respectfully.
These calls completely changed my outlook on confidence. In my internship and in the biweekly cohort meetings, I became more vocal and more confident in my work in general. I was becoming more and more confident in the other calls I made for Yad Chessed, and I also volunteered to participate in additional phone banking outside the internship. I am honored to have participated in so many fascinating discussions with the cohort., I am also very grateful for this opportunity that I know will change my life forever.