Growing up as the oldest of five children with a single working mother, I often became the head of the household, helping my mom take care of my siblings. We had to move multiple times because my mom couldn’t afford to pay the rent. My mom would spend days crying, feeling stressed and frustrated because she didn’t have enough money. Even though I was emotionally drained, I tried my best to make her feel better. She often said to me: "Cuando yo este triste, ustedes tienen que estar fuertes y cuando ustedes esten triste, yo tengo que ser fuerte.” “When I'm sad, you have to be strong, and when you all are sad, I have to be strong.” So I put on my brave face, held on to hope, and told her that everything will be okay.
I grew up with abandonment issues because I never had a real connection with my dad. I never understood why he turned his back on his only daughter. Though my siblings' dad came in and cared for me as if I was his own, I constantly felt like I could be abandoned any day by the people I cared for. I was abused, and I suffered from loneliness, self-doubt, and depression, so I developed defense mechanisms to deal with everything. I was really insecure, and I avoided going beyond my comfort zone because I was afraid of what would happen if I showed people who I really was. If I shared my experiences I would be putting myself out there to get judged and criticized for just being me. So I stayed hidden, not fully living, to avoid feeling rejected.
I was really insecure, and I avoided going beyond my comfort zone because I was afraid of what would happen if I showed people who I really was.
As I grew older, I realized I had to forgive those who hurt me. I had to let go of the past and move on to fully live my life without suffering and hate. It has not always been easy, but I have forgiven those who hurt me, and I have accepted who I am. I've realized that I am enough, and that neither my circumstances or other people can define me. I am the only one who has the power to define who I am.
Last year I was accepted to Year Up, a year-long program that provides young adults with skills, experience, and support that will empower them to reach their potential through professional careers and a higher education. As the program began, I noticed that I was holding back on showing what I can really do. I was doing well academically, and I got along with all the staff and my colleagues, but I was still holding on to my fears. I would hesitate to participate, to present my ideas, or to speak out because I was afraid that I would be judged, even though I knew I shouldn’t let other people's opinions define who I am. Eventually, I began to realize that if I wanted professional growth, I had to get out of my comfort zone and be comfortable with the uncomfortable.
Eventually, I began to realize that if I wanted professional growth, I had to get out of my comfort zone and be comfortable with the uncomfortable.
I started to participate more often, which earned me the Professional of the Week award for embodying Year Up’s core values, which are to respect and value others, build trust, be honest, engage and embrace diversity, be accountable, strive to learn, and work hard and have fun. Then, two of my colleagues and I created a support group, and I led the decoration committee for the Year Up Bay Area 5-Year Anniversary.
Soon after this, we were going to be placed in our career tracks, and I realized I had a big decision to make. On the track placement survey I had to choose between Project Management, Data Analytics, or IT. In the beginning of the program I was set on the Data Analytics track because I was interested in learning more about data and coding. I also knew it was the safe choice, where I wouldn't have to stretch too much. However, Year Up taught me to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. If I wanted to grow, I had to choose what was uncomfortable, what made me afraid, so I chose Project Management and I was approved. At first, I was a little nervous, but I knew it was the right decision to help me overcome my fear.
I did much more than just overcome my fear. My choice led to an internship at Symantec as an Account Manager on the Enterprise Resiliency team. I am extremely thankful for each member of my team for the support they have given me from the start. They believe in me and know what I can do, they motivate me to push my limits, and they encourage me to keep going and try my best. I can say with confidence that I will continue to push myself to be comfortable with the uncomfortable because I see now that that approach has allowed to me to reach my full potential. Getting comfortable being uncomfortable taught me that the only way to overcome any fear is to face it. And once I did, I felt liberated, fearless, and unstoppable.
I used to believe that it was natural to suffer from insecurities, low confidence, and self-doubt, but I am now convinced that our experiences are what shape and define us.
I used to believe that it was natural to suffer from insecurities, low confidence, and self-doubt, but I am now convinced that our experiences are what shape and define us. While my experiences are unique to me, I know that at some point in our lives we’ve all felt insecure, lacked confidence, and doubted ourselves. These feelings may come from what other people say about us, society’s opinions about how we should be, or our own experiences.
As a Symantec intern coming from Year Up, I have met people who fully support and believe in me, but there are others who see me as less-than and who underestimated me. We can’t control what others think, feel, or say about us, and we can’t control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond and what we let define us. Lou Holtz says, “Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it.”
I am living proof that what I have gone through nor the negative opinions others may have about me don’t have to lead to perpetual insecurity and low confidence. I've decided that only I get to define who I am and how to respond to what happens to me. And you can make that decision too.
Dublin's InspireFest lives up to its name. After attending the event, Gráinne T. shares her personal and professional journey from her times of self-doubt to re-discovering her self-worth, energy, and passion.
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