From a young age, we are trained to celebrate achievements. When a baby learns to walk or talk or even be toilet trained, he/she is rewarded with a sticker or a ‘you are so smart!’ comment.
At school, the top score is recognised with accolades and awards. Eventually, children learn to associate a top score with higher self-worth and those whose scores are lower, are often left feeling a little less hopeful.
While good grades are essential to get into a prestigious University, it doesn’t need to determine your self-worth. There are many entrepreneurs who are successful even though they didn’t do well at school. One of my favourite inspirational entrepreneurs is Sir Richard Branson.
When I was at school, around grade 7 or 8, I had not performed that well in a maths test. I vaguely remember being sick. The day that my maths teacher was to give out the corrected papers, I was so nervous. It is a known ritual that the teacher calls out students based on their scores – from the top score to lower scores. If you panic when you are taking the test, this is the next level of anxiousness – knowing your score.
As an adult, I now feel it is so embarrassing for students who score lower marks – the system is so flawed.
Anyway, back to my story, I am usually the kind of student whose name gets called earlier on (not to brag), but that particular day my name was called 5th or 6th – the details are blurred in my head. I think I scored like 72% or so, but I was so embarrassed with that score. My teacher was asking me why I didn’t score my usual 90%+ and I couldn’t even bring myself to say that I had been sick. In my mind I thought, it was not an excuse! I managed to collect my paper and went back to my seat. My cheeks were red and I was almost in tears. I think that episode was one time where I got a tutor to help me and I was determined never to get a low score – ever again!
In your life, you might have experienced something similar – at school or at home or at work. My teacher probably never meant to make me feel small, maybe all she wanted was to encourage me to perform better and had I explained that I had been sick, she wouldn’t have said much.
What we experience as children forms the basis of our adulthood. This has resulted in a society where, as adults, we have learnt to associate our self-worth with achievements. The amount of money (or lack of) in our bank, the number of friends you have, your job, the number of social media likes you get on your post, achieving goals or even our relationship status seems to determine our self-esteem.
It is important to understand that things will always not go the way you want. Friends come and go, money comes and goes, job changes happen. This is a part of life. If that is the case, then how do you feel good about yourself all the time?
Here are 3 ways.
1. Make a list of all things you love about yourself.
This has nothing to do with your achievements. List out all the qualities that you are proud of – kindness towards others or you may be a good listener. If you struggle with this, ask your friends and family.
2. Practice unconditional love
If you have children or a pet, you know however much they trouble you, you still love them? Practice the same with yourself. Regardless of what you do or how you are, be compassionate towards yourself. This can be hard at first, especially if you have a tendency towards perfectionism. Love yourself regardless of your achievements.
3. Enjoy the journey
Quite often we miss the scenery while we are in a hurry to reach our destination. Learn to stop and smell the roses every day. You may or may not reach the goal you set, but you sure can enjoy the people, places, things and experiences that come your way while you are on your journey.
Letting go of perfectionism and the need to base our worth on external validation is an ongoing journey for all of us. Now that I think about that episode at school, where I felt bad for scoring 72% – I find it funny – so much emotion for a reasonable score.
What are you going to do to celebrate your perfect life with all the imperfections?