Kendra Coburn is a mathematics junior and Mustang News columnist. The views expressed in this column do not reflect the viewpoints and editorial coverage of Mustang News.
When I first stepped onto our campus in September of 2015, I had no idea that I would be crying in public this much. I cried on the first day of WOW. My parents’ car drove away over the horizon and suddenly I realized how scared I was to be completely on my own for the first time in my life. I cried when I failed my first class (and my second). I cried after I pulled my first all-nighter to finish a project for Fundamental of Computer Science (CPE 101), only to receive a 0 percent from the automated grader. I cried in front of multiple professors, sometimes with other students in the room.
An advisor once asked me, “How’s your quarter going?” only for me to respond by immediately bursting into tears. I’ve lost track of how many times I have cried on campus.
But my tears are not what have surprised me. It would be wholly naïve — and even arrogant — not to expect any setbacks in college. Every guidance counselor’s office is plastered with posters reminding us that anything worth doing will be a challenge. What surprised me was why I was crying.
When I came to Cal Poly, I found myself surrounded by students who were able to face the same challenges as me and utterly vanquish them with a single phrase. “I am enough,” they would say, through self-love social media posts and shirts with feel-good slogans on them. By incanting this simple spell, these sorcerers gracefully overcame any problem placed before them. They were smart enough, pretty enough and talented enough. No matter what the situation called for, they were enough. Yet, when I repeated these same words to myself, nothing changed. This was the source of my tears.
I have only recently come to realize that the reason these magic words never worked for me was not because I am a muggle living in a wizard’s world. It is because these words aren’t magical at all. They are just a lie we choose to believe in. Children believe in Santa Claus as a way to explain how presents appear under the tree. Adults believe in themselves as a way to explain how success appears in their lives.
Self-confidence is both transient and nebulous. Just as a child’s belief in Santa wanes with age, our faith in ourselves will phase in and out of our lives. We will not always be able to incant a magic spell to protect ourselves. There will be days when we try to say, “I am enough,” and it will sound as far-fetched as the notion of an old man using reindeer to fly around the world in a single night. There are many days when I am so discouraged by my failures that I can hardly stand to look at my own reflection. On those days, I try to be honest with myself. I am not enough and that is okay.
It is okay not to love yourself every single day. Cal Poly has taught me this. As long as you strive to improve yourself — academically, socially, spiritually, or in whichever way you see fit — you can believe in your potential. Because you will be enough. Someday.