You are not here to prove yourself worthy. You are enough as you are. It’s okay to not be an expert in everything. It’s okay to fail. You’re here to learn. You’re here to discover. You’re here to be happy.
It’s so hard for me to believe the paragraph that I wrote above, when I have been told otherwise my whole life. My entire existence and self esteem is built upon performing well, upon being the quintessential good girl.
I don’t want to blame anyone. But from a very young age, my achievements were all that mattered. To my parents and teachers and almost everyone else, if you weren’t the best, then you were never going to be any good, and therefore you were useless. “Not good enough” was carved into my brain, every day. Maybe it is my own fault for believing them. When I reflect on just how broken I am today, I fall into the never-ending abyss of self hate.
Honestly, I lost so much on my mission to earn those straight A’s and more. Happiness. I spent every minute working or dreading the work I had to do. Sleep. I never went to bed before midnight after 1st grade. Friends. They became competitors in an endless race. Health. I destroyed myself physically and mentally while trying to be perfect. Self worth. I was never content with who I was, unless I performed at the highest level possible.
And my biggest loss? Dreams.
When I was younger, I wanted to be so many things—a bus driver, a painter, a ballerina, an astronaut, etc. Eventually I found out that I wasn’t the best at everything. For example, in 4th grade I took an accelerated math course, and while I had an A+, I wasn’t the fastest mental math whiz in my class. I was repeatedly told that I wasn’t good enough, and that I would never be able to succeed in any of the fields I expressed interest in. My friends scoffed when I told them I wanted to become an aerospace engineer.
I was engaging in many unhealthy behaviours to cope with the stress by then. My only healthy coping mechanism was writing. I found solace in writing as I continued to feign flawlessness. Writing was the only thing I found bearable, because when I wrote I was free.
When people asked me what my dream job was, what I wanted to do when I grew up, I said I wanted to be an author. Or a hermit philosopher, because I also liked thinking about things. People sneered at me and said I was wasting my expensive education. They told me that those weren’t real careers, and that I would never earn enough money to support myself.
I don’t know exactly when I stopped dreaming, but I did. It only got worse from there. I self harmed and thought about suicide constantly. Dreams matter because they give you purpose and excitement. I wanted to be loved, accepted, and recognised so badly that I lost sight of everything that actually mattered.
This post wasn’t supposed to be depressing.
I started writing this blog post because in the past few days, I’ve noticed myself dreaming. It’s amazing to be dreaming again, after so many years. It’s so nice to be thinking about the immense possibilities in my future, rather than to just be planning my next week’s assignments out.
Right now I can see myself as a secret agent, a criminologist, a counsellor, a writer, a professor, a homicide detective, a philosopher, and so much more. All of these visions feel real. I’ve even shared my aspirations with some friends and adults on campus, and none of them have told me that my dreams were too far-fetched, too unrealistic.
One more thing, and I hope this fits in with the rest of the stuff I’ve talked about so far… I’m starting to enjoy math class again. Sure, it’s difficult. It’s challenging. It gives me headaches. But I’m learning and conquering (understanding) new topics. This gives me so much confidence and excitement. In the beginning of the year, my goal was probably to get an A. Now, I have goals that go something like: “Today, I will learn how to rationalise the denominator when there are radicals.” I’m learning for the sake of learning. It really helps that there are no academic awards, rankings, or whatever at my school. And that I am the only person with access to my marks (my scores are still in the 90s). Now I’m planning to take Calculus and Statistics before I graduate, so that I’ll be better prepared for my dream careers.
I am not here to prove myself worthy. I am enough as I am. It’s okay to not be an expert in everything. It’s okay to fail. I’m here to learn. I’m here to discover. I’m here to be happy.
I’m beginning to believe in this, and in my dreams. There are still so many things from my past that I cannot erase. I still berate myself, I still find myself stuck in a fixed mindset, I still feel very inadequate. Maybe these things will hold me back forever, although I hope not. But I know it’s not too late to be curious, passionate, and excited. After all, I’m dreaming again.
Before I sign off, please please please never tell anyone that they’re not good enough. Loving something is so much more important than getting it all right or being the best. Everyone should be given the opportunity to dream, or to dream again.
Thank you for reading. Good night.