I’ve always felt like the only things I can offer people are the skills that come from being the stereotypical “smart” member of the class. While I still do not feel entirely comfortable with calling myself smart or intelligent (something I definitely need to work on), I was always the “Hermione Granger” of the class. You know what I mean: the one who tried really hard and did all the homework. The one whom people expected to know all the answers and to know what the homework was; and, most stressful of all, the one who was expected to have gotten a good grade. When I do get the grades I want — and when things are going well in my life and I can live up to these expectations — it’s great. It makes me feel special. But there are times when I don’t, and that is incredibly hard for me because I have basically built my entire personality around that “smart girl” label.
A lot of the time I blame myself when this happens. “It’s your own fault,” I say, “for putting yourself in this spot.” But at the same time, I get angry at myself for thinking thoughts like this. Being the “smart,” prepared member of class forces me to challenge myself — forces me to be prepared. Why should I feel ashamed of that when I sometimes can’t live up to those expectations?
Sometimes I honestly forget how much I do; while it’s not as much as others, I constantly remind myself that it’s still a whole lot. I’m a full-time Masters student who has a part-time job, and I write monthly for Germ (whoop!) as well as for an awesome charity, Binti, that challenges expectations and taboos around menstruation. I also run my own small online cosplay magazine called Cosplay City Magazine.
However, sometimes when reading that list, I still think, “That’s not that much, really, and people expect me to do more.” I know I am not the only one who feels this way. I have seen my friends get frustrated with themselves so many times at university when they feel like they are not doing enough. It’s already hard enough juggling full-time education with a part-time job, and it’s damn near impossible when you start adding other things into the mix.
Like everyone, I’ve also had people look down on me and think I’m stupid. In secondary school (high school for an American audience — and actually for some people in the UK), there was somebody who did not disguise the fact that they thought I was useless and basically not bright enough to be there. Even though I knew they were wrong, it still brought me down (of course it did). Eventually, they actually realized what they presumed about me was wrong, but by then the damage was done. It actually made me stronger, though, because it made me realize that people’s impressions of you can be wrong.
As you can tell, I have been thinking a lot about this subject this year. My Masters course will finish this year, and I am really hoping to get a distinction (something a lot of my classmates know). I didn’t get the grade I knew I could have gotten in my undergraduate degree — although I can now admit I did amazingly well considering the personal issues I was going through at the time. So, getting a distinction is something I really want to prove I can do, but I have realized that I will not be able to do this until I believe in myself more and worry less about what I think people expect of me.
Therefore, this year I am going to try to let it sink in when people say that they respect me. I am not going to accept a compliment and then spend the next few days thinking about how they didn’t really mean it. I’m going to be successful, and I am going to succeed.
Most importantly, I am not going to worry about what I think people’s expectations are of me because I know I always try my best. I know that I live up to those expectations.
I know I will still have moments where I will cry about how I am not good enough, but I am starting to pick myself up faster and faster. I’m starting to win more and more battles against what I think people expect of me. The next step is for me to win the war…