This is the latest addition to my collection of letters to female characters who’ve inspired me throughout my years as a fangirl. If you have a letter (or letters) of your own you’d like to share, check out this post to learn more about the book of letters I’m compiling, and send your letter(s) to firstname.lastname@example.org!
When I first started watching Glee in 2009, I was struck by more than a few similarities to my own high school experience, which had ended three years before. I had been a theater kid, a member of my school’s show choir, and far from what anyone would call popular in high school. But the thing I related to the most was a line you said in the eighth episode of that first season:
I want everything too much.
In you, Rachel, I found a reflection of the ambition I often keep hidden in the deepest part of my heart, because too often I’m afraid to tell people how much I want my dreams to come true. What if they laugh at me? What if they tell me I’m not good enough? What if they think I’m ungrateful with what I already have for wanting more?
You didn’t care. You owned your big personality, your big dreams, and your big plans for achieving those dreams. Confidence radiated from you like sunlight, inspiring others to be their best just to keep up with your glow. And what was so important about your confidence was that it wasn’t delusional. Your theatrical personality and your over-the-top methods for getting what you want were things characters and the audience were supposed to laugh at or roll their eyes at, but your belief in yourself wasn’t a joke. And for a young woman who still—now a decade removed from high school—wishes she had your confidence, that matters immensely.
When I watch scenes of you singing, I’m often moved to tears because the joy on your own face is like a look into my soul whenever I get the chance to be onstage. I never had a talent for singing, but I found my home under the bright lights as a dancer. I can’t thank you enough for showing the world what it’s like to never feel more comfortable in your own skin than you do when you’re onstage. There’s an energy that comes from performing that—even in my most articulate moments—I’ve never been able to find the right words to describe, so I appreciate being able to just show someone a video of you singing “Don’t Rain on My Parade” or “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” and being able to say, “That’s it. That’s what dancing makes me feel.”
But my appreciation for you comes from so much more than just being able to relate to your love for performing. Because your performance scenes are only part of your character; another important part is your confidence away from the stage. You weren’t one to downplay your abilities to make other people feel more comfortable. You never hid your talent out of fear that maybe you were the only one who thought you were any good. You knew you were good. You believed in yourself, and you weren’t afraid to show others that you believed in yourself. And we were meant to root for you because we saw the hard work that you put in to earn the recognition you received.
I wish I was more like you, Rachel. It dawned on me not too long ago that I have a horrible habit of downplaying my talents—not as a dancer but as a writer. I can write with all the confidence in the world, but when it comes to talking about my writing or any recognition I receive for it, I shrug it off and act like it’s nothing important. It’s not that I don’t believe in myself, because I do. It’s not that I’m not proud of myself, because I am. It’s that I often find myself scared of how people will react if I voice that I think I’m good at what I do. I’m afraid to let people see that I’m confident in my abilities, because what if they think I’m crazy to believe in myself?
I call this my “bad American Idol audition” complex: the idea that you think you’re good at something, you show your talents to the world with your full confidence on display, and then people laugh at you because you’re nowhere near as good as you think you are. I’ve been battling with this ever since I decided I wanted to become a writer—this gut feeling that I’ve found the one thing I’m actually good at but the fear that if I let myself show that gut feeling, it’ll be met with ridicule. I sometimes think that if I act nonchalant about my abilities, then maybe it’ll hurt less if other people don’t think I’m any good.
When it hit me that I’ve never really gotten over this complex, I knew who I had to turn to for inspiration: you, Rachel Berry. I watched a bunch of your performances, and I was reminded of the importance of being your most authentic self in every moment of your life, and that means not being afraid to have confidence. It means not being afraid to think you might have a shot at making something of yourself if you find out what you’re good at and develop that talent with hard work and passion.
I was also reminded during my little trip down Glee memory lane that you faced rejection. When you were initially rejected from NYADA, you had to deal with the idea that someone didn’t believe you were as talented as you thought you were. But you proved them wrong in the end. That’s why I love your performance of “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” so much—it represented you showing the world that you still believed in yourself, even when someone didn’t think you had what it takes. You took the reins and proved her wrong, and you were able to continue to chase your dream because you didn’t give up after a setback.
There was a time last year when some negative feedback I received made me wonder why I ever thought I could find success as a writer, and sometimes I still think about it and wonder if they were right. But now I know I should take the time I waste thinking about that response and think about you instead. Because in you, I have an example of someone who found a way to let her talent speak for her and open doors for her that should have been closed. I have an example of someone who found a way to listen to the positive voices around her instead of the negative ones in order to find her own voice again. And I have an example of someone who didn’t just reach for the stars; she became one.
You wanted to be special, and so do I. But you taught me that it’s not what you achieve that makes you special; it’s who you are. And you continually remind me of the importance of owning the special things about me instead of downplaying them.
Thank you for believing in yourself, because it makes me feel like it’s okay for me to say that I believe in myself, too. Thank you for showing me that people won’t hate me for being confident if I back it up with hard work and a desire to help others around me shine, too. And thank you for knowing from the first moment we met you that you were destined for great things and for ultimately achieving those great things—because that makes me feel like I’m not crazy for thinking I can make my big dreams come true, too.