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Photo ofKalia Jopling
Confidence is a tricky thing. I always thought it was something that had to be earned. Something that I will earn once people like me. It was a constant battle for me, just like a wrestling match announcer saying, “Next in the ring, self-doubt versus self-confidence!” I remember being about eight years old when my mom enrolled me into a beginner gymnastics class. I wasn’t a fan of lessons before,  but I still “gave it a try.” By which I mean, my mom hadn’t given me a choice on the matter. 
I was never great at gymnastics, but I've always loved gaining flexibility, so it was a drive of passion for me. Moving somewhere new, and not having many friends here was super scary. I was put in a class with about 4-5 girls, all close to my age. My first class went as all first classes usually go. Awkward. Since I was new to gymnastics, I felt self-conscious about my skill level. These other girls had been doing gymnastics for years! I was doing better, though, I still felt I would never be as good as they were at tick tocks, Y stands, or any of the tricks that they were teaching us. Starting at the beginning isn't a problem for me, but these girls were younger than me and that was hard to swallow.
Then, a quiet new student came. She was the youngest in the class.  No longer being the newest member, I felt relieved. We started warming up, and the coaches were talking to us about being welcoming to everyone, especially the new girl. We had to start practice after that so we went to the mats. We were practicing our bridge kickovers and everyone, including the new girl, except me didn't need to use the octagonal block for help. I needed to be just like them and I needed to progress twice as quick to catch up. That's where my mind was at that moment and I kept trying and trying till I was satisfied. I was never satisfied.
In one of my last classes, they wanted to practice using the springboard. I was ecstatic, it was my time to shine. I was good at using the springboard, plus it was so much fun! Every time I jumped, I felt like I was flying. Every girl showed their progress and did amazingly. It was my turn next. I reached the springboard and jumped on the block. I had to do a handstand and the coaches would help spot me. Kicking off into it, my hair blocked my view and the coaches had to catch me from falling to the floor. I turned to see all of the girls laughing. The coaches didn't intervene and I felt like I was choking on my embarrassment. After that, I didn't want to do gymnastics, but my mom wanted me to finish the course she paid for. Feeling excluded was horrible, I didn’t want to be around those who laugh at me. So, I often stayed on the sidelines. 
On the last day, I felt inferior because I tried so hard and got teased for failing. I decided then and there I had a fear of public lessons. I’m not afraid of trying new things. I’m afraid of trying them in front of others. I wasn’t psyched to learn in a group setting, so I strived to be self-taught and that has helped me accomplish many things by myself. However, sometimes I still have had to take lessons. I've realized, too, that I didn't have to feel like I wasn’t good enough, I could have just gotten back up and tried again. I shouldn't be afraid just because I messed up once. It’s not going to turn out that way every time.  It took some time but I’ve learned I can't control how other people act. Only how I react.

© Kalia Jopling. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person's teacher.