Learning to embrace yourself to be the best you

Ryan Raggio, Staff Writer

Illustration by (Sarah Hardiman)

It took me 20 years to finally recognize that being myself is acceptable whether it’s how I act, my interactions with women, how I choose to dress or not comparing myself to others. When I figured out who I was, I became a more authentic version of myself.

During my first year at Quinnipiac University, I tried not to care about what others thought of me. This mantra never stuck with me because I was too self-conscious and had always struggled with being my own person. It may not have looked like it, but when I walked around in public I was extremely insecure. I’d show up to class sweating because I thought people who saw me were judging me in every possible way.

There were a handful of times when I’d be standing in front of my closet looking for something to wear for a minute round trip to the Bobcat Den. I made the extra effort for nothing. I was stressing myself out because I was nervous about what others would think if I showed up with slides and messy hair. Now as a junior, I dress more comfortably when I go out.

When I met new people I would put on a standoffish attitude to look cool. In reality, I seemed like a douchebag. This relates most to my interactions with women. I would act like my friends that seemed like they easily attracted women. In contrast to the tough-guy persona, I actually felt anxious and insecure. To cope, I put on a metaphorical mask to hide my real personality as a defense. This worked temporarily, but when it came time to meet the real me, women were surprised or felt I was too much. Because of my prior experiences with rejection, I threw on this mask to hide and hope it’d hurt less.

After doing some self-reflection, I realized that there is no point in hiding my true self and that trying so hard to be someone I’m not is a waste of time. My brother’s friend recommended the book, “Dating Sucks, But You Don’t,” by Connell Barrett. One of Barrett’s main points was about rediscovering self-confidence. It opened my eyes to what my parents had been telling me for years, to be myself.

The irony of this is that I don’t like to read, but I was desperate for answers. I learned that embracing your qualities and showcasing them to others is what creates authentic relationships. I’ve struggled with overthinking and having anxiety about what others thought of me. After breaking away from that torment, I feel free.

I’ve played baseball my entire life. My coaches, teammates, family and friends have asked me the same question, “Who do you see yourself as?” I’d aim to remain humble with my answer by choosing a player who I think I perform like a speedy outfielder with great defense and solid contact. However, I always aspired to be a home run hitting superstar. Secretly, I believed I could be like those kinds of players, such as Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge, Angels outfielder Mike Trout or Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper. I constantly daydreamed about myself hitting a walk-off home run in a championship game. If I failed in an at-bat where the team needed a clutch hit, the aftershock of failing hurt tremendously. It took me years to finally realize, I’m not that guy. I’m not a home run hitter. My mission is to get on base, steal bags and score runs. Once I accepted it, I saw failing as a moment to learn from because I knew that I wasn’t trying to overdo anything and be someone I wasn’t.

Now in my junior year of college everything has changed for me. I don’t care about what others think of me and my anxiety has become easier to ignore. I still try to be a role model for my younger friends and I do care about what my friends think of me, but it’s not controlling my life like it was when I was a first-year student.