Tag Archives: self-confidence

A Me Away from School

Do you realize that we spend approximately 20 years in some type of school setting? Daycare, pre-k, elementary school, junior high school, high school, college, and beyond (if you’re pursuing a higher degree). If we live up to 100, that’s a fifth of our lives!

Beyond that, the years that we’re in school are our formative years, the years we learn pro-social behaviors and develop our identities. It’s no wonder students have high levels of anxiety and stress.

I, for one, have a lot of my self-worth tied to school. To grades. To my lack of a college degree. I’ve let my academic mishaps define who I am, and let myself truly believe that I am a failure. Meanwhile, I tell the students I tutor that failing doesn’t make them failures; it is a way for them to learn and improve. Yet, here I am living the opposite.

After years of telling myself that school isn’t as “do-or-die” as I believe, I finally withdrew from college for an indefinite period in November. I tried doing so before, but I kept nagging myself into trying again before I was really ready. I kept doing the same ineffective thing time and again. All for the purpose of validation.

I used the excuse that the industry I want to enter requires at minimum a Master’s degree to justify my continuous stunts in school. It’s not untrue. There’s little one can do in human services without licensure in social work, especially in the clinical sense. But I knew, from the bottom of my heart, I was spouting bs. I’d say I was trying to rationalize because people pointed out the errors in the redundancy of my school approach, but I’m sure it was to convince myself I wasn’t just being stubborn. To pretend that the true motive wasn’t to make myself feel like I’m worth something.

It’s hard for me to take out the school element of my understanding of self because it’s so ingrained in me. The praises I received as a child revolved around my intelligence and speculation of what my future would hold. I spent years being in school being rewarded for good grades and being scolded or disciplined for poor ones. I compared grades with peers, believing that the number on the paper made the person. I couldn’t separate me, my intelligence and my capabilities from the scores on my exams and the grades on my transcripts.

I remember the first time I did poorly on my math test. It was in sixth grade and I got under a 70, maybe in the 60s range, but my standards were much higher at 11 years old. I bawled. I was so distraught and so upset. I also feared the repercussions of a failing grade. My classmates and friends tried to make me feel better, most also not doing very well on the exam. It didn’t work. I felt pathetic and worthless. I felt like a failure. Not doing well in what was one of my best subjects? Preposterous! Impossible! Pathetic! Stupid!

I wish I could say that I developed a way to cope and to dispel those feelings and thoughts, but I didn’t. I haven’t. To be perfectly honest, even now at 26 going on 27, there’s a chance I would bawl over a failing grade in a subject with which I feel confident. Even if I don’t cry, I would definitely despair and my thoughts would spiral into the dark negative side of things. I would jump from “Oh, I did poorly on one assignment” to “I completely effed up my chances at a degree and will fail out of school.” And it sure doesn’t help that I have legitimately been academically dismissed from a higher education institution. I know it’s not because of my intelligence or my ability to excel in a school setting, but logic doesn’t necessarily always go hand-in-hand with emotions.

So, because of this twisted self-defeating relationship with school, I decided to take some time in the workforce. Take some time to get to know myself better. Take time to write and go back to my roots and my interests. Go back to the very beginning of what I want to pursue academically. I hope that this is a worthwhile journey, and that I’m not “wasting my time”. It’s hard not to think that I’m just delaying the inevitable, especially with people from all around constantly pushing the importance of a degree in this current climate.

I have to be strong in my endeavor. Strong against the naysayers and the doubters. Strong against my own preconceived notions of success. It’s going to take a lot… I already want to sign up for the Spring semester. Not even a whole semester off from school and I can’t imagine not jumping back in. I really have to think, is that the best thing for me? Is it the right move?

I don’t want to keep repeating the same cycle as if I’m not learning from my past or my errs. I am. It’s hard though. It’s extremely difficult to not be in school when I don’t have a degree to show for it. It’s difficult because when I’m not in school, all I want is the academic challenge. Then, when I’m struggling with anxiety because of school (not the academics itself, but my unresolved feelings) all I want is to escape — to work and move forward with my life. It really is a vicious cycle… and I hope to break it soon.

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Solitude

We live in a world where we have to be constantly connected; where our routine dictates the first thing that we do is reach for our phones in the morning, and the last thing we touch at night. We check for missed calls, text messages, email, and every other social media platform we have. We have an incessant need to be in constant company of other people–even virtually. The idea of being alone is frowned upon, and the assumption is that anyone who is alone is lonely.

For instance, when you get to a certain point in your life, it’s almost a sin to be single. You start getting pressured to date, or being interrogated as to why you aren’t, as if there’s some sort of defect. It’s as if the idea of not wanting a relationship or not wanting to be with someone is ludicrous. The idea that you just want to be, and live your life by yourself is so foreign, almost. So much so, that companionship is so important that hookup culture is accepted because you’re not technically alone, almost as if friendship doesn’t count anymore–like friends don’t count as company. And the worst part of the belief that we always need to be around people is that you can’t tell anyone that you just need alone time without someone thinking that you’re depressed or upset.

Why?!?!

We live in a world with so many different types of people and different personalities. Some people are introverts and they just need to be by themselves to recharge after a grueling day of being around people all the time. Some people, like me, are extroverts who just want to relax, too. What’s so bad about being by yourself? It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re in isolation or that you can’t be with other people, though sometimes it may be the case. In the words of Kelly Clarkson, “Doesn’t mean I’m lonely when I’m alone.” (Stronger, 2011). Sometimes being alone is required to recharge after a long day, or a long week. It’s not isolation, it’s solitude. And to some that may mean the same thing, it doesn’t. The difference between isolation and solitude is in how you feel. If you feel lonely while you’re alone, and dread or despair, that’s isolation. On the other hand, if you feel free or creative and just content with being by yourself, that’s solitude.

I personally struggle with the thought being alone. I always thought that being alone meant that I was isolating myself and that is bad, especially after I accepted that I struggle with depression and all the self-help books told me that I shouldn’t be alone. But that’s not true at all, sometimes I just like it. It’s nice not to have to expunge energy on other people all the time. It’s nice to just lay in bed, rest, and relax. There’s a freedom and lightness to not having to constantly check your phone and just do your own thing. It’s nice, and healthy! There are times when you need people, and there are times when you just need yourself. And when you need to just be on your own, and you’ll be okay just being on your own, go for it! Enjoy the solitude!

There are times when I will go places by myself, which is something I tend not to do, and it makes me feel good. Going out to a restaurant alone, getting my hair and nails done alone, walking outside alone all feel empowering at times. It gives me a chance to focus on the other people and my environment without being distracted by my company. It gives me a chance to enjoy my own company, something that rarely happens. And I learn a lot about myself when I’m alone, like the fact that I’m not as thrilled with people as I think I am. I am programmed to be so afraid of being alone with my own thoughts that I purposely throw myself into social situations, even when all I want to do is to be by myself and write. To be by myself period. I think that if I’m left alone long enough, I’ll spiral downwards. And that could be true, but the other half of the time when I’m alone and not lonely, I feel great! And I get to free my creative urges and write. So being alone isn’t all bad.

Also, there was a period in my life when I felt really alone and lonely. Eventually, that isolation became a positive thing. The loneliness faded when I accepted myself for who I was, and then I wasn’t so afraid to be alone anymore. And being alone made me happy. Made me confident. I became much more self aware and in tune with me. I had a new sense of self worth and it was great. Then I started dating because that’s what you do, right? And I threw myself into work and school–constant exposure to people. And eventually, I started losing myself again because I didn’t have any alone time. I was constantly around people. Constantly ignoring me and my needs. And when everything came tumbling down, I realized that I just need me time. And that’s what I’m doing now. The past few months of being alone, I wasn’t really… and the ones that I was, were the bad ones. I’m hitting the positive alone time now–the solitude. And I feel really excited about it. I’m writing again, and I feel lighter.

I am going to embrace the solitude because I need to, and maybe you do too. We all get burned out from always being connected with others, so maybe we should connect with ourselves a bit more to even out the score.

 

-Ling

Failure

I grew up with the expectation of success, there were no other options. Failure was more than just a one-time thing, it was something that would loom over you forever. Failure would incur disappointment, and disappointment would equate to shame.

Failure was is shameful.

But what constitutes as failure? Anything that isn’t up to the expectations placed upon you.

A lot of people don’t consider me a failure. My friends and family don’t believe that I am… Yes, I’m not living up to my full potential, but that doesn’t make me a failure… that makes me lazy. But being lazy is just a step toward failure isn’t it? If I’m not trying, if I’m not doing my best, aren’t I failing to meet these expectations?

I think of myself as a failure… and maybe that’s why my self-confidence morphs into the despicable self-doubt. I don’t think I’m good enough, I don’t think I can do what people seem to believe I can. I’m not where I’m supposed to be… that’s what I think.

I think I failed. I don’t think I failed my family or friends… not anymore anyway. I failed myself. I disappointed myself. I’m ashamed of myself.

And that’s something I have to bear every day. I have to carry the weight of the disappointment and shame, and the self-hate. I feel like a failure, and that’s my attitude towards myself, and my endeavors. I don’t set out to succeed, or do outstandingly, I set out to accomplish the minimum. I set out not to fail.

But here’s the reality: if you aim that low, you’re just setting yourself up for failure.

I guess that’s what I’m doing… I’m setting myself up for failure, and then blaming myself for it — entering in an on-going vicious cycle.