What does the word ‘confidence’ mean to me?

Confidence is a quality that I believe doesn’t come instantly to most people, whether they are visually impaired or not. Personally, it is something I’ve developed with time and effort. I’ve found that as I’ve had more new experiences and met more people from different walks of life my confidence has increased. Confidence is also a quality that can fluctuate depending on the situation. Naturally, as human beings we will be more confident in situations we are familiar to than those that are new to us. 

Confidence and my Visual Impairment 

Being a VI Uni student, I have found that my visual impairment is what has enabled me to build my confidence. For example, starting Uni is a big step for everyone in their life and when you’re visually impaired worries arise about accessibility and fears of navigating the world as a young adult. When I started Uni, I thought this was the time when I would have to sort everything out by myself in terms of ensuring my needs are met. However, this perception was somewhat unrealistic. It is not so much that you have to sort everything out by yourself, but more that you are required to initiate and self-advocate more, so others are aware of your needs. This skill of self-advocacy was something that I developed within my first year of Uni and contributed to increasing my self-confidence about my disability. 

What has confidence taught me?

From my experiences, I have realised that confidence plays a fundamental role in one’s ability to self-accept their disability and to form their personal identity as an individual in society. Despite this, realistically, it is difficult to be confident all the time when facing challenging times in life. In such times, I would advise, that reflection can act as a powerful tool to combat negative emotions. Often writing your feelings down or even talking about them to a trusted friend or family member can make all the difference. 

Making friends and socialising  

My struggles socialising 

Introducing myself to new people was something I personally really struggled with within my first year of Uni due to Covid-19. In previous times, I would often introduce myself to others who sat on my table in class or who were in my tutor group. However, these techniques didn’t work as well when I started Uni.

I found myself having to adapt to a situation that no one was used to. Therefore, the way I went about introducing myself to people was by joining societies and virtual study sessions organised by the University. It’s definitely not the same, having to meet a group of students for the first time over an online platform but it gave me a greater sense of belonging.

Even now, I worry about the prospect of socialising and making friends as no one can be sure what the situation will be like when we go to Uni. Will we be able to meet others face-to-face? Will we have the opportunity to meet fellow students on campus? These are some of the questions that come to my mind. However, whatever the situation, there are always solutions even if they are not evident at first. All students are in the same situation, and I know other students who are not visually impaired but have still struggled with the impact of the pandemic on socialising with others. 

So, if you are worried, you’re not alone in this. Try your best to keep positive and reach out to student groups and societies and find something you are interested in. A lot of societies hold online coffee afternoons where you can come along and meet others within a relaxed environment. I’ve found this to be a good way to make friends.  

How do you start off a conversation? 

I always start the conversation by telling others a bit about myself- my name, what I’m studying, any favourite hobbies I have (it’s almost like verbalising an intro profile that you might use on social media). However, there’s no set of hard rules that you need to follow when starting a conversation but simply go with the flow and talk about what feels right to you. The most important thing is to be yourself!

How to talk about your Visual Impairment with others?

I always try to be as open as possible and find that mentioning my visual impairment can actually spark interest in others. People want to understand how I see the world as a VI individual. Most are quite keen to learn about my conditions, and are often fascinated at how I learnt braille or how I use my cane etc. So, don’t be afraid of bringing the topic up because it’s really important to educate others about what’s it’s like to live with a visual impairment.  

Making blind mistakes 

Being a VI young person, can bring about many perks, but sometimes funny blind moments do arise. The number of times I have met someone new, and then later thought I heard their voice and greeted them with their name, to hear an embarrassed silence or the words “Are you talking to me?” is hilarious! Of course, it’s embarrassing but I’ve come to accept making these classic blind mistakes is a part of me- it’s who I am.

What I always tell myself after making blind mistakes, is that most people are lovely and will accept me for who I am whether I am VI or not. Those who choose not to accept me for who I am, are not worth worrying about.

Maymunah is taking part in the Uni In Sight campaign with Thomas Pocklington Trust, Deafblind UK and LOOK. You can find out more about this campaign, here.