Last month I spoke at a youth conference that had over 2000 young people in attendance. I was thrilled when I heard there would be breakout sessions dividing the youth into 3 groups as per their age. One of the reasons I was happy was because standing in front of 2000 people is a tad intimidating but we shall not focus on that reason. Let’s just say I was happy to speak to the group that had campus guys and young professionals because I felt more at home there. For two days the other facilitator and I spoke to these amazing people and answered a myriad of questions – most of them on relationships, of course. After one of the sessions a girl followed me and asked me an interesting question “how come you are so confident? You speak boldly and put your points across so well. You look like you don’t fear anything.”
Part of me wanted to say “oh really? I sound like an amazing person, tell me more” but we were in church and we had been taught about pride earlier in the day. Another part of me wanted to tell that I in fact fear many things and then go ahead and list them but then I would end up terrifying her and not helping her at all. So I set aside all the things I felt at the time and decided to answer her honestly and I’ll share what i told her with you.
Growing up, I lost my dad when I was ten. I have 4 siblings and my mum had just been retrenched. The only way I got through school was because my fees were paid by various sponsors right from primary school. Anyone who has been sponsored through school will tell you that it is an embarrassing thing for a teenager. You can feel your friends stare at you with pity when there is an announcement during assembly for “sponsored kids” to be left behind. But I was not bothered. I stayed behind with pride. Why? Because of something my mum had cultivated in me; confidence.
My mum constantly told me that I was bright and that was enough to rule the world. She constantly reminded me that I was in Alliance Girls because I had qualified to be there and it was nobody’s business who was paying the fees. The point was it was getting paid. On the rare occasion she made it for visiting day she reminded me that all those cars in the driveway did not belong to the students but to their parents. It was meant to make me work for my own but it also made me unapologetic of where I was from. She taught me early to speak up and make eye contact. She fussed about being a good communicator saying “what is the point of having great ideas if you can’t express yourself?” She spoke about many things, I didn’t listen all the time but on this one I did. And I’m glad I did.
Why am I talking about this today? Because I saw the #AlwaysStandUpKe campaign by Always and it resonated with me. I saw who their brand ambassadors are and I was impressed. Just looking at the lives of Elizabeth Marami (Kenya’s first female marine pilot) and Silalei Owuor (Kenya’s female basketball captain) tells a story of confidence and standing up for your dreams. To any young person reading this, here are some things you should know:
Confidence comes from the inside. The reason words like esteem, motivation and confidence have the word self before them is because each of them is an inside job. Sure it is great to be told good things about yourself (and I’m eternally gratefully to mum for that) but at some point it has got to come from within. If you love and are proud of yourself, you will present yourself with confidence.
Confidence opens doors: Qualifications are great but being able to express yourself is even better. Sometimes you will sit in an office lobby waiting for an interview and when you look at the other people interviewing for the same job you will want to run. But you will not. You will stay, give yourself a pep talk and go in and give it your best shot. Sometimes during a class (or work) presentation you will be asked something you know nothing about. You will not look down. No. You will answer the question with confidence and in good English and hope no one realizes you are bluffing. Confidence will give you amazing opportunities.
Confidence helps you speak your mind: As you grow older there will be times when you don’t agree with people, important people. It may be in a class or in a boardroom meeting. Confidence with help you to say “No, I don’t think that will work” and proceed to give a better idea.
You are a brand. Present yourself with confidence.
Author: Wanjiru Kihusa
I am Wanjiru Kihusa and I’m a writer and founder of Still A Mum – an organization that seeks to reduce maternal and newborn deaths in Africa. I am especially passionate about women and children.
I blog to share my thoughts and experiences hoping that in the process someone will learn from my life.