I have always been known as someone who is confident. I am an extrovert, a loud person and I would compare myself to marmite, you either love me or hate me, which can quite often be the case with loud people who speak their mind. I always aimed to be more likeable and conformist and over time I have realised that this is not who I am and no longer desire to be either of these things.
My confidence doesn’t spread to all areas of my life. Academically as a young teen I felt I had little to no skills to apply to most of the work I was set. The only subject I felt confident in was art and a lot of people regard this as a hobby rather than a profession. At the age of 12 my parents took me out of school half-way through the year. They placed me at a rather quirky school where I was the only girl in my year, teachers brought their dogs to class and our lessons were held in a rented church in the middle of a busy high street. Despite the schools unusual style, it was well known for getting kids into the top schools around the country. My ability to survive if not excel in most social situations meant that I was not fazed by the idea of being the only girl in a class full of boys at the cusp of puberty. Academically the teachers told my parents, not so discreetly, that I was ‘ground 0’. I worked hard during that year for the first time in my life, guided by teachers who really cared what I achieved.
I arrived at my next school with my head held high, optimistic about my abilities to excel both socially and now academically. The only difference was that this school wasn’t quite so liberal and artsy as my previous two had been. I was now at the opposite end of the spectrum at a very traditional school with old fashioned values. My extrovert nature began to hinder me, as your greatest strength often can, making me a chatter box in lessons, failing to listen and thinking I knew better. By the time it came round to my last parents evening before my GCSE exams, the Scottish physics teacher told my parents ‘At this rate Gabriela is going to fail her physics GCSE.’ I looked him dead in the eye and said ‘No sir, I am going to get an A’. I had worked hard before and achieved my goals and I could therefore do it again and that is exactly what I did achieving all A*’s and A’s (with the exception of one B).
By this point in my academic career, I was now fully confident in my academic capabilities and I had learnt how to be an independent learner. I sailed through my A-levels landing myself a place at Edinburgh College of Art. Yes I had come full circle. You can’t deny what you are naturally good at, even if it is ‘just a hobby’. University was quite different to what I had imagined. I had thought during the summer before I joined that my artistic talent could only go up. I thought, next stop Edinburgh College of Art and then a solo show at the Royal Academy. Being at a private school had instilled in me the idea that I was one of the best, one of the ‘chosen people’ and my ability to work hard and achieve my goals had given me a false sense of confidence that I could not fail.
At school you are told what to do and you structure your time to achieve these tangible goals. At university the road to success seemed anything but linear and every instruction was filled with ambiguity. Again, my extrovert nature went into overdrive, perhaps overcompensating for my now lack of ability to produce anything worth anyone’s time and more importantly my own. I spent the first two years partying and had little to show for the now £18 grand of debt I was in … so far. My confidence in my ability to produce hit an all-time low leading me to consider dropping out of university. At this moment I was offered the opportunity to go on a semester abroad to Vancouver. This experience revitalised me and gave me a new perspective on my creative freedom and how I could use it to my advantage. I finished university with a sense of achievement but not of success. Four years of more failures than success’ had changed me. I no longer felt confident in my ability to achieve my goals but more to just cruise through them.
Over the past year since graduating, I have reflected on my journey of self-confidence through school, college and university, leading me to where I am today. Covid 19 with all its downfalls has given me a rare pause in time to reflect and create on my own terms. I have fallen back in love with art and being a creative. I have faced some of my fears, including the act of writing, slowly rebuilding my confidence in my ability to not just achieve my goals but to surpass them with a sense of pride and success. I am rebuilding my confidence not just in preparation for my studies at SCA but for myself.