I recently participated in a scholarship competition that required a series of interviews at the nominee, semi-finals, and final judging. Thirteen of us from East High School advanced to the semi finals and all had interviews at the same time at Woods Cross. One of my friends shook as she waited outside her interview room wondering if she would be able to hold down the candy bar she had just eaten.
This girl had been nervous for weeks. When our advisor had asked how we felt about our approaching interviews, she answered with a squeak. The thought of scrutiny made her uncomfortable. She didn’t think herself worthy of Sterling Scholar. She doubted her credentials, had little faith in her work, and thus lacked the ability to confidently answer any questions about either.
Going into my interview, I felt the apprehension which comes with moments of expectation, but I did not share my peer’s nervousness. I was not going to be asked questions about Dylan Thomas, the philosophies of Camus, or Shakespearian anthologies. I was there to talk about me, my work, and my life. Who was a better expert on the subject than me? I know there exists an intelligent, confident hero in me worthy of my exaltation. I do not seek to hide my power, negating it with guilt or insecurity. Unfortunately, my friend, and many others like her, fail to recognize the hero in themselves. She sat sick in her chair because sometime in her life, perhaps overcome by lessons of humility or selflessness, she lost the ability to assess the true nature of her achievements.
A person is strongest and most confident when she exalts the accomplished hero in herself. I do not speak of arrogance, which involves holding oneself above others. My satisfaction with my work and myself will never be based on my standing compared to others. I spoke in my interview about my own power, not about the weaknesses of my fellow candidates. I shared my talent in writing, explained my theories on Objectivism, elaborated on the meaning behind my poetry, and discussed my experience with literature and analysis. I was loyal to my strengths without nervousness, shame, or apology, without embellishment, bragging, or pomp.
Because I understand the nature of my possibilities, successes, and failures, the scholarship judges could not validate me nor determine my worth. They would either like what I said or they would like someone else. Either way I would exit no different than I had entered the interview.
I wish I could have helped my friend understand how powerful she was and to exalt the hero within herself. However, there was too little time to overcome the chasms of insecurities that had been dug within her. So I watched her proceed to her interview timid and nauseous.
That night we found out the results of the interviews. I advanced to the final round. Unfortunately, my friend did not.