Brooke White estimates she cried "50 billion times" during her American Idol experience as she struggled to find self confidence that she said was lacking before the competition even began.

"Finding that inner confidence is something that has definitely been a struggle for me, but I'm learning, I'm growing, and Idol definitely helped me work on that," she told reporters during a Thursday conference call.  "We always say this show brings everything to the surface that might be an issue for you, and that one is certainly one of them, but I worked through it, and at times, had to work through it in a very public way."

Prior to becoming the eighth Idol seventh-season finalist eliminated from the competition after "over 45 million" home viewer votes were cast immediately following Tuesday night's live performance episode, White said she was "very open and honest" with her "struggle" with self confidence.

"It escalated at times during Idol, and at other times, I felt like I had a better handle on it.  It was very much a roller coaster ride," she explained.  "Tuesday, I think I felt kind of a resurge of confidence that I hadn't felt in a long time, a lot of joy, gratitude for being in that place and I think that's what gave me that boost, and it felt great.  Even though I went home, it was wonderful to leave on that note."

As if dealing with confidence issues weren't enough, White told reporters she also struggles with "comparison issues" -- never a good thing when you're competing in front of 30 million viewers on a weekly basis.

"Definitely I've had comparison issues my whole life," she said.  "I didn't start singing until I was a teenager, until I was about David Archuleta's age, and I never thought I had a nice voice.  It wasn't pretty, it was this low, raspy thing, I didn't have a big range, and I think I was very intimidated by other singers, especially on American Idol where it's so focused on vocals.  I didn't know how well I would do, or if I would survive."

White added she would constantly compare herself to the other seventh-season finalists during rehearsals.

"I'd hear everybody sing and I'd think, 'Wow, how did I get here? This is amazing and these people are incredible,'" she told reporters.  "Sometimes it was easy to feel intimidated.  I'm learning that everybody is different."

In addition, White said she really didn't have a choice when it came to facing the nerves and pressure of competing on Idol.

"You get there, and I think there has just been something within me, when I thought I wasn't able to keep going, and you totally feel like you're sinking and it's like, 'Okay, swim,'" she told reporters.  "You have to.  You realize you're here; you have to make the best of it.  The pressure is so incredibly difficult, but you know what, I was here to do my absolute best, and be as true to myself as possible, and I can say in my heart, even with the challenges I faced, I think I was able to do that."

White said she did let the pressure get to her and added it might have stopped her from fully enjoying Idol.

"Honestly, the pressure was gigantic, and I didn't even tune into the media, I wasn't even into it, but just your own insecurities that you feel throughout the whole thing, and the pressure, and the workload -- physically, mentally, emotionally -- is huge," she explained.  "You still have to find a way to enjoy it, and I did in so many ways, but standing out on that stage, I just let it get to me, but I gave it may all, I totally gave my heart.  I know that, and I have no regrets because of it."
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Despite describing Idol as "this incredible roller coaster ride filled with a lot of emotions, and a lot of experiences," White said she wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

"I can't even believe I made the top five, such an amazing, amazing journey it has been," she said.

While White was eliminated after Tuesday night's episode that saw the Top 5 finalists each sing two Neil Diamond songs, it was actually her performance of "You Must Love Me" the previous week when she made her biggest blunder -- forgetting the lyrics to her song, stopping and then restarting to sing.

"I think you take what you can get, and I was grateful to people for seeing past my mistake," she told reporters.  "I think beyond the mistake, I did my very best.  I did my very best, I emotionally connected with the song, and I gave it everything I had, so for whatever reason that people felt motivated to vote, that's beyond my control."

White said that forgetting the lyrics "freaked" her out and sent her into a sort of panic.

"I started thinking, 'Oh my gosh, what if this happens again?' It just kind of plays head games," she told reporters.

So when she was having problems with the lyrics to a song this week, she wrote herself a note.

"I had the word palm on the palm of my hand," she explained.  "When I was singing the song in my rehearsal, I kind of felt as if palm tree was not sticking in my brain, so even just the practice of writing it down on my hand helped me remember it.  I didn't even look at it because it was on the underneath side of my hand, but whatever you can use.  We don't use teleprompters, and I was playing an instrument, and singing on two songs, so it was a lot of things to remember in less than a week's time."

White was one of several Idol seventh-season finalists with previous experience in the music industry, and she touched upon it while talking with reporters.

"At the same time as being a nanny, I was doing my best to try and do the singer/songwriter thing," she said.  "I did do an independent album, performed around L.A. for a couple of years, and tried to get some of that experience under my belt, but that was pretty much it.  It was just going out and doing it the hard way."

When White auditioned for Idol last summer, she spoke about how she doesn't drink, smoke or even watch R rated movies, and judge Simon Cowell assured she'd come over to the "dark side" once her time on Idol was up.

"He joked with me [Wednesday] night that he thought he might have brought me over to the dark side, and I just said, absolutely not," she told reporters.  "No, I've had a lot of support from people to remain the same person that I am, and I feel live I've been given the support, and I feel like I've had the strength to just remain that way, so it's all good."

Some of the best support White said she received was from her husband.

"He's pretty great," she said.  "He's just a very laid-back fellow with great perspective, and he's 100% supportive.  I've been really fortunate to find a guy who could hang with me through this."

Someone who wasn't so supportive of White after her Tuesday night performance of "I'm a Believer" was Cowell, who described it as a "nightmare."

"I think sometimes he has some valid points, and sometimes I think his delivery is just plain mean," she told reporters.  "When [Paula Abdul] said Wednesday night, someone has to give hope to [the contestants] for their dreams, someone has to be positive, and I think she gets that.  I think Simon comes from another side, he wants to push you do your best, and his way of doing that is being harsh, and very blunt.  That's his style, sometimes I take it, and sometimes I leave it."

White was one of the finalists who benefited from Idol allowing seventh-season contestants to play instruments during their performances, which fit right into her wheelhouse as a singer/songwriter.

"I was so excited because I think in the beginning, I felt so insecure that my singing wasn't going to be enough," she explained.  "I'm not a good enough singer for this show, and I'm learning to get over that as well... Part of what I want to do is be a singer/songwriter, and that means for me playing an instrument.  I didn't even know going into it that they were going to let us do that this year."

While White said playing an instrument during some of her performance "increased the workload a lot," it was a challenge she was willing to take.

"I'm glad I challenged myself and took risks," she said.  "I don't know if it always worked, but at least I tried."

White said she also plans on playing instruments as part of the annual Idol tour this summer.

"We are doing about three songs apiece, so I'm really looking forward to it," she said.  "I'm definitely going to be playing piano, and having a good time just connecting with the fans.  It's all about the music, and not all about the competition and the judging, just the good stuff."

Beyond the tour, White said she looks to establish herself as a singer/songwriter.

"What I did on the show is as close to what I -- without performing my own material -- would love to write, or at least co-write, and build an album around that organic sound, keep it real, keep it raw, and keep it fresh," she said.  "I know it is 2008, so you have to make it current, but I definitely think that's my avenue.  I want to play the piano, I want to play the guitar, and I want to be very involved with the music, and connect with people on a very honest level."