Owning Up to Our Capabilities: Starting the Academic Year with a Confident Mindset

by The Cowl Editor on September 9, 2022


“I have no idea what I’m doing.”

How many times have you found yourself using those words? Heard friends say them? How often have you really meant it? How many times have you proceeded to do the thing anyway?

There’s an epidemic of smart, capable people—especially young people, especially introverts, especially young women—downplaying their talents and abilities. I can’t count the amount of times a classmate has turned to me and said, “I have no idea what I’m doing with this assignment,” and I’ve replied with, “Yeah, same,” even when my thoughts have already been churning, and it makes me wonder whether theirs were, too. I like to think I’m pretty confident in my own writing ability (and it’s something I enjoy doing), and yet I find myself more often expressing exactly the opposite. Take finals week as an example: tally the amount of times you’ve heard “I’m going to fail” versus “I’m going to do really well.” Statistically, most of us here at Providence College, an institution which boasts nearly a 90% graduation rate, aren’t failing. Why do we like to pretend we are?

Gen Z is criticized relentlessly for being image-obsessed. I agree that this also presents itself as a widespread issue, particularly on social media, where flexing your new car or five thousand-dollar vacation with a filtered photoshoot has become the norm. Not only does that foster envy and self-esteem issues, but it also leaves little room for expression of what’s really worth “flexing.” In Aristotle’s words, regarding self-expression, honesty is a virtue, whereas excess humility is a vice.

Those of us who’ve recently been through job interviews or created LinkedIn accounts realize the difficulty in answering the question: What are your greatest attributes? I think it’s time we stop being afraid, when appropriate, to voice them.

Maybe it’s social awkwardness we’re trying to avoid. Maybe we worry that saying, “I’m really proud of the thesis I’ve composed” will come across as conceited. But I don’t think we need to belittle ourselves in order to get along. Human connection and friendships are more often products of mutual participation and enjoyment in activities than mutual self-degradation. Owning up to our capabilities can also help foster an environment of positivity and inspire confidence in others—if even just a few people start believing in themselves, the whole group may follow. 

As a senior, and as your Editor-in-Chief this year, that is my goal.