Hey MindMappers, this week I’m bringing you something a little different – a poem. I wrote this in reflection of how my time in school impacted my self-esteem. It really impacted how I viewed myself.
The highs were high when I was performing academically but the lows were just as low when I wasn’t.
I’d say that I was an academic perfectionist.
I got lost in the grades at times and detached from who I was. My grades in school were the only definition I had of who I was and was going to go on to become in the future.
The phrase which I remember hearing most from teachers and mentors is “Ryan, you’re going places.”
What that meant to me was “You’re not ok as you are”. I internalised that positive intention as a negative message.
I like to think I’ve done a good job rewriting that since the age of about 17 (I’m 22, now and have just graduated uni). But it was nonetheless a formative experience between GCSEs and the end of 6th form when I felt lost as to what the purpose of education was for me.
This poem describes that feeling of disconnection; of how afraid I was to do less than my very best at all times.
School vs. Self-Esteem
Reflect through that rose-tinted glass.
Realising how much has come to pass.
Succeed in trying.
Or fail to try and succeed in hiding.
School succeeded in helping me
Push myself to the brink.
Dictated myself based on the marks, the grades,
the stress-induced pain.
How could it be worth it
if I failed?
I see now my vision clouded, then.
Risen above the stress – count to ten.
I could see myself. Long-lost self.
Content with failure, failure is me.
Self is me now and it was me then.
Losing, then. Got me to now.
You can get through yours
Even if you can’t see how.
Back your whole self
Not to win but just be.
Accept the present.
Know that we
Can get through these times
Through school, through Uni.
Detach from those grades
That hurt and that grind.
Accept where you are
Take a load off your mind.
What will be, will be.
Gift yourself permission
To be yourself naturally.
Congratulate how far you’ve come,
How far you’re yet to go
‘Cos the biggest lesson school taught me
Is you never know what’s tomorrow.
Thanks for reading. I hope that leant some context to my introduction.
When we reflect on our own experiences, traumas and really engage with our mental health, we must forgive ourselves if we cannot express it how we may like to.
In this instance, I preferred a poem to a blog or listicle and I hope that you all interpret it differently based on your own experiences. I want to pause here to highlight that your experience is your experience – nothing can change that.
There is a lot of pressure in a school and university environment to achieve academically. I was always bright and so I lent into my academic side because I was rewarded for it. But I also reflect and consider if I may have shunned other aspects of my youth in favour of running headfirst at getting the best grades I could. I probably did.
To bring this short piece to a close, I will leave you with a more practical focus of school and self-esteem for your consideration and application.
Ask ‘Why?’ and ‘What if…?’.
These are simple questions to ask as an introspective exercise. Ask why you’re doing what you’re doing and ask yourself ‘What if…?’ when you get caught in those negative thought cycles.
It may feel like the world’s going to end if a certain outcome happens, but the likelihood is that is just your internal story and it won’t be as bad as that. Use these questions to break the cycle.
Prioritise you; recognise and, when necessary, block out external voices.
This means everyone. Teachers, parents, peers, friends, family, the comment section. Personally filter the lot to your benefit. Claim back the personal power to choose what affects you.
If something is important to you then don’t devalue it because of comments from others. Be it an assignment and work-related or the opposite and a more personal conundrum. If you value it, it is valuable.
Stand by what you prioritise at each stage of your life and you’ll never regret your actions. There's freedom in that.
Take care out there MindMappers. Until the next time.