I know this post is somewhat out of the ordinary, but having just finished my penultimate year at university I’m feeling quite reflective. Here is an important lesson which I’m only just beginning to learn.
Every since I can remember, I have been incredibly hard on myself in the academic aspects of my life. Maths has always been my weak point, and I have distinct memories of being 11 years old, and getting so angry at myself for not being asked to move into the advanced maths class at my primary school. This mentality wasn’t caused by anything except myself. My parents have never been anything but supportive, and it’s not like at the age of seven I was concerned about my grades, I just always needed to feel as though I was ‘smart’, and always felt the need to have to prove it (to others, yes, but mostly to myself).
Looking back on that 11-year-old version of me, I wish I had realised then that being smart has nothing to do with the number that’s given to you at the end of a test. Smarts can come in all shapes and forms; it’s not just to do with academic achievements. Even ten years later, maths is still my enemy. If anything, 11 year old me was probably better at it than I am today.
As young adults, we constantly have it driven into our heads that we must succeed. That we must do well in school, get into uni and get a job that pays well. We can choose to listen to these messages or not, and unfortunately I think when I was younger I let myself get a bit too wrapped up in the idea that success is everything. I wish I could go back to when I was 17 and started considering nursing as a job (purely to please other people) and knock some sense into myself. In no way did I want to pursue a career in that field, but again the need to prove myself was leading me to believe that maybe it was for the best.
This year has been absolutely crazy for me, and I have done and achieved more than I ever thought I could. I think, however, that this has only gone to increase how hard I’ve been on myself. Because of my constant highs, the lows hit me even harder. And even still, my ‘lows’ are still good marks, but when you’re constantly pushing yourself to achieve, getting 60% on an essay you worked hard on can literally drag your mood down for days.
I think that every now and then, we need to fail, or at least do something badly. We need to get ourselves grounded and realise that while you may not have done as well as someone else, or as well as you expected yourself to, it doesn’t actually matter. Failing allows us to keep our feet planted on the ground, and lets us realise that we are only human, and humans make mistakes. Humans can’t be good at everything.
And with that, I challenge you to find something you’re bad at. Awful at, even, and I want you to complete this challenge and realise that being good at things isn’t everything. Sometimes life works out in funny ways, and failing at one thing might lead to you absolutely excelling at another. And sometimes, you’re bad at things but you still want to try them out anyway, just to see if you can improve. The thing is, without determination, you’ll never know what you’re capable of. That’s a lesson I learnt from the advanced maths class I forcefully entered into when I was 11 😉