Capstone Presentations: Annika and Being Your Authentic, Uncool Self

February 27, 2019
Emma StiefelFellow Voices

At the conclusion of Year On’s 2018 Fall Semester Experience, each fellow gave a capstone presentation of what they’d learned during the past four months. This is a summary of what Annika Z., one of the fellows, shared.

Annika began her presentation with courageously saying something most have thought but few are willing to be admit out loud:

“I care way too much about what other people might think of me.”


After this first moment of vulnerability, she told the story of how she’d gone from being insecure and caring way too much to having the confidence to be uncool and tell all those others about her fears.

Annika had always been scared that others might judge her; she didn’t want to face criticism or speak in front of a crowd. So, she tried to conform to others’ expectations as much as possible. “Over time,” she said, “I got really good at pretending to be someone I’m not.” But Annika eventually learned that pretending to be someone else is exhausting, and it certainly doesn’t make anyone happy.

When she decided to take a gap semester, therefore, she was hopeful that living in another country, finding a new community, and getting out of her comfort zone would allow her to reinvent a new, more authentic and secure version of herself. It’s not easy to change old habits, however, even if they’re artificial. At the beginning of her gap year, Annika felt like her life was basically the same.

A slide from Annika’s presentation featuring the lead singer from her favorite band.

But then her favorite band announced their annual Halloween show in the Bay Area and she, of course, went. As the group played a song titled “Uncool,” they yelled at the audience to repeat the line “I just want to be uncool!” Annika sang along, feeling “more like myself than I’d felt in a long time.” Since then, she’s tried to hold onto that feeling of being herself. Her perspective has finally shifted to focusing more on who she actually is than whatever others might think about her.

“I realized that you don’t have to be liked by everybody,” Annika shared. “You have to like yourself.”

“And,” she said to the laughter of the crowd, “being uncool is kind of cool.”

You can watch Annika’s capstone presentation here:

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