The power of community

My favorite movie of all time is The Princess Diaries. To those waiting for their owl with letter in tow saying that they’re admitted into Hogwarts, move aside, because I’m still waiting for a disconnected relative of mine to pop up and inform me that I’m a princess (it’s going to happen one day, I promise). All fantasies aside, I’ve always loved the movie because not only is it hilarious, but it also sends a very applicable lesson to all. To those who never saw the movie (to which I ask, what have you been doing with your life?), imagine Mia first as the stereotypical high school nobody. Her looks aren’t particularly screaming glamorous, and she is honestly just trying to fit in among the jocks and cheerleaders at the school. As she undergoes “Princess Lessons”, she slowly but surely realizes how to embrace others and find confidence within herself. It’s funny how such a basic moral is in so many books, shows, and films yet we still have the horrible stigma that humans need to be perfect on the outside in order to harness what’s going on within. I write this column not to whine about stereotypes in society for the next couple of paragraphs but to hopefully put a new perspective into the endless self-confidence epidemic: your confidence comes from others, particularly the communities you come from.

Not many would suspect it, but I too share a similar experience to Mia’s “princess lessons”.  In a stereotypical nervous freshmen way, I originally was fearful I wouldn’t make friends, fit in, or ever figure out that Pierce Dining Hall was different than Peirce the building. Beyond the terrifying first weeks of school, I started making a presence in clubs and organizations which opened a new wave of anxieties. How do I lead a group? How do I motivate others? How do I even book Peirce 116? In a unique way, my four years at Stevens have taught me the answers to those questions and more about myself that I would have never learned. Experiences with my peers, the Office of Undergraduate Student Life, Office of Career Development, and the organizations I’m a part of not only posed challenges such as being an orientation leader, finding an internship, or holding executive board positions, but also networked me with communities that imposed confidence within me. Through these communities I might not have been taking lessons to be Princess of Genovia the past four years, but I definitely have been learning things to carry onward into my personal and professional life that I know for a fact I was not confident in previously.

I cannot scientifically conclude this, but communities definitely make individuals stronger. Gaining self-confidence is of course within yourself, hence the name, but it’s bolstered by your peers. It’s a lot easier to receive praise in a group or a community than just patting yourself on the back. It’s more worthwhile to get a thumbs up from a series of people than just one person. It’s pretty exciting to see progress among a variety of people than a singular being. Consider a community like a flying buttress: as much as the initial structure of the flying buttress is crucial to its success, like a person’s mindset is crucial to self-confidence, it’s really the side arches supporting the initial structure towards a common goal. Communities, no matter how big or small, support even the weakest of members. Some arches need more help than others and that’s okay but the communities definitely provide for those people as well.

It’s hard to think of an example of how to gain self confidence without utilizing others, just as Princess Mia had to utilize her grandmother, family, and friends to one day, SPOILER ALERT FOR PRINCESS DIARIES TWO,  rule Genovia. With my last weeks on campus, I find myself passing along waves of support to those who may or may not need it. Unfortunately, I’m not a princess, but I am a confident individual who will continue to encourage confidence in others just as others encouraged confidence in me. Honestly speaking, the power of community is truly amazing.