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Authentic Eagles: Troy Vagianelis On Self-Doubt

As Boston College students, it can be tempting to hide our true selves. Embracing our individuality  can help us to understand ourselves and experience the world around us as genuinely as possible. Authentic Eagles is a series that gives a voice to the people who have experienced firsthand the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of being one’s authentic self at BC. We hope that readers are inspired to have conversations and reflections of their own, working toward being more authentic individuals.

Troy Vagianelis, MCAS '16

Wait. Do I sound annoying? Am I trying too hard? Are they mad at me? No. Stop. Think. Don’t Think. Overthink. Do I want this? Of course I do. Am I depressed? No. Stop. Think. Repeat.

I am a high-functioning over-thinker. These moments can envelop me: I will lay in bed or sit in class, constantly questioning if the last interaction I had with a friend was awkward, or if the reason my roommates keep secrets is because they do not like me. Even though I know that these thoughts are not true, the feelings are. They stem from my self-doubt, self-criticism, and a lack of confidence.

Last year as an RA, I lived by myself in Walsh. Having a single might sound like a dream come true for some, but it left me alone with my thoughts. Too much time and not enough distractions meant that things started to go south about halfway through the year. My anxiety kicked in and quickly spun out of control.

Thoughts like, “Am I happy with my friends? With my image? With my career choice?” constantly plagued me.  Everyone around me was asking these same questions, but they were pulling through. I wondered why I couldn’t overcome my worries in the same way. Was I sure that I was on the right path? A weird uneasiness haunted all my choices and made me question who I was as a person. While others experienced life changes and epiphanies, I felt stagnant.

I knew that I was not depressed, but I couldn’t help having negative thoughts. Every missed party, awkward interaction, and failed communication felt like a sign that I was not liked. It didn’t matter if I told myself that these thoughts were overreactions. My chest still tightened. I still lost feeling in my legs. I still got dizzy. I did not believe myself.

If you have interacted with me around campus, you would never guess that I struggle with confidence. But those who are closest to me can probably think back to times where I have asked for reassurance: to proofread my essays or to confirm that my interactions did not seem awkward. I even ask for approval on decisions that I am afraid to make because of the commitment. My lack of confidence shows to those who truly know me, those with whom I feel comfortable letting my guard down.

My self-doubt carries me away from authenticity when I fear losing community. So in order to reverse this lack of self-assurance, I had to strengthen my community. By reaching out to the relationships that lift me up and make me feel comfortable being who I am, I was able to relieve some of the stress and judgement that comes both from others and myself.

Looking back at the moments that washed away my doubt, I see myself emceeing Relay For Life and leading without inhibition. I look back to being an RA and sitting in my room chatting with residents about their interpersonal issues. I feel a sense of ease leading Appa and getting to watch members of my group transform through the experience. My anxieties disappear when I remember these moments, and I feel strong enough to be my true self, without worrying about what others think.

I am not sure why my fears evaporate in these moments, but I think it’s because being a leader and devoting myself to serving others gives me joy. It is where I can go to be happy.

Another place where I find solace is with my friends. While I may come across as needy or affirmation-seeking, my friends know not to be critical and to have the patience to help me reframe my mind. They have mastered talking me down and getting me to stop worrying so much about my actions and how they are perceived. When I do get anxious, I know that I have them nearby to lean on.  

I am still not complete when it comes to being self-assured. I often need to distract myself from my own thoughts and to figure out a way to do so productively. I still fall back into my nervousness when I am left alone with too much time to think, but in my time at BC, I have found people that lift me up no matter how far I’ve fallen. I’ve also learned that it is okay to draw happiness from others when you need it most.

Ironically, I can’t decide if this piece accurately portrays how I feel or not; I am hesitant to commit to publishing it. I sit here writing this and worry that my words will fall flat, that no one will relate, or that what I have to say does not matter in the big picture. However, the most authentic that I can be in this moment is by sharing these feelings, uncertainty included.