I’m 37 years old and I’ve spent a lifetime of trying to drown out the “noise” that comes with life. We live in a world where others are always judging, always telling us we aren’t good enough, always critiquing others, always thinking they are better. It’s bullying that has only intensified over the years. Growing up, of course we didn’t have the social media or technology in our face. So the bullying was small and usually kept within the social circles we were surrounded in. There was no ridicule from droves of strangers like the cyber bullying and shaming of today’s society. In those years growing up, we all had that one jerk we met. From the playgrounds, to the “clubs” we were part of, to the circle of friends, to the work places, etc., we all met our share of jerks who were good at bullying others to make themselves feel better. But, our elders taught us to brush it off with sayings like,
“I know you are, but what am I?”….”Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me”….”I’m rubber, you’re glue, whatever you say, sticks back on you!
Those sayings never really worked, we all knew that. Some people were truly good at letting the words slide right off their backs. Other people pretended like it didn’t bother them, but deep down there was something seeded there and eventually grew with every jerk out there that added to the list of seeded hurtful words.
Seeds were sown
I grew up in a very supportive family. My family was my biggest cheerleaders and supporters with whatever activities I pursued. But we live in a fallen world where not every one is so kind and supportive of others. Over the years, my experiences with others were the things that I allowed to shape and mold my thoughts. If there was something someone didn’t like about me, I took it personal. If sometime told me I was stupid or dumb and didn’t know how to do something, I took it to heart. If someone called me names like “flat face, flat nose, chink ( a derogatory name for an Asian, which I am not Asian) or anything else that made me different from the normal Midwestern kids I was surrounded by, then it something I held in and allowed my thoughts to hold captive. These seeds was planted and unfortunately grew with each life experience.
Seeds of insecurities and self-doubt took deep roots
Some of those insecurities, fears, self-doubt really grew deep roots in my head when I got to college. I joined a dance team my Freshman year. The dance skills I had acquired over the years from my Jazz/Hip Hop Coach in eighth grade and my Modern Dance Teachers in High School. So joining a Dance team in college, I had no “formal” background in dance. When I tried out and was accepted on the team, there were a few former cheerleaders who thought themselves more skilled in dance. A few always thought they were better and were sure to let others know they were far better in comparison. I even remember being singled out a few times by one in particular. She was always quick to critique my dance routine in some way. I did not continue after that first year because I allowed my experience with others on this Dance Team to steal my joy of dancing.
I had a full ride scholarship for the North Carolina Teaching Fellows program. This scholarship required that upon receiving my Education degree, I was required to teach in a public school for four years as a way of paying back what I owe. Into my Sophomore year, I was working on the dreaded Praxis exam that all teachers are required to take and pass to receive their Teaching Licensure. It doesn’t prove whether you can teach or are qualified to teaching in a public school. It is a subject specific test that is timed and graded on a point system. You must pass within the time allotted as well as pass with the certain number specified by the state you were to teach in. Each state is different in its point system. The Praxis exam was also costly. It was about $120+ and continued to raise in cost each year. On my first attempt at the Praxis, I failed by a large margin. On the second attempt I failed by a few less. On the third attempt I missed by maybe 2-3 points. My Education professor and counselors I remember looked at me like I was purposely failing at this Praxis exam. The second semester of my Sophomore year, as part of the Teaching Fellows program, we were to spend the semester abroad, teaching in a public school in London, England. Because I was not passing the Praxis exams, the Dean of Education threatened to hold me back from the Study Abroad, claiming it was a privilege for Education students. I was called into discussions with the Professors and the Dean of Education and given a counseling. I can’t tell you how that made me feel as a student! I felt less than my peers and certainly not deserving enough to be allowed on this study abroad.
I was given a “pass” and allowed to go with my class for the semester, with the agreement that I would seek tutoring for this Praxis and signed up for the next available Praxis exam being given in the following year. So, upon returning from London in May 2000, that summer I signed up for my fourth attempt at the Praxis exam. I bought every book available and attempted every practice exam given. I saved up money and made sure I had an extra few hundred if I didn’t pass the exam and needed to take it again.
After returning from a semester abroad and failing yet another Praxis exam that following summer, I went into my Junior year, already doubting my abilities. I had self-doubt, felt inferior, and believed, to my core, that I was never going to be “good enough”. (I even surprise myself with this blog because I occasionally doubt my writing skills and whether its written well enough for anyone to even read. I am an English major and I know I am not grammatically correct in my writing.) Midway through my first semester, I was summoned into my Literature Professors offices after class. After another paper I wrote was returned dripping in red pen, my professor called me into her office with a look of worry. She proceeded to tell me she was concerned about my writing skills, appalled with my poor grammar, and advised that I rethink my major entirely! After looking over my transcripts, she knew I still hadn’t passed the Praxis II exam and as a student tracked to graduate with a Secondary Education Degree, she was convinced I would fail as an English teacher. So, just another seed of doubt and lack of self confidence grows deeper.
8 Failed Praxis and more doubt…
By the time I graduated in May 2000, I had failed the Praxis exam 4 times. I actually went on to take the Praxis exam for 3 more times, still failing at every attempt. I think by the time I finished teaching after 5 years, I had failed eight times, missing it by a few points each time. I was still offered a job my first year! But, I was a young twenty-two year old stepping into 11th and 12th grade classes. My first year was tough and to be honest, I cried every day I drove the 45 minutes home to my small 900 sq ft apartment! After that first year, I took a year off to rethink whether this was the path I was meant to travel. I still had a scholarship to pay off.
I worked for a year at Sylvan Learning Center and was eventually moved up to Program Manager. I dealt with a few unpleasant co-workers in that year as well. One in particular who was far younger than me and was above me in position. She had no education background or degree and yet was always quick to question my work. My other coworker was a disgruntled old man, who had spent most of his days hating his life and the children we taught. I was always critiqued and challenged with the little knowledge I would display. I somehow allowed more deep seeded self-doubt to fester inside because of things said to me by these co workers of mine. (*Now you are probably thinking, oh I am just being sensitive and I needed to “toughin’ up buttercup”. Maybe you’re right. Maybe there was some things I took too personally. But, the point was that, I had already had some deeply rooted doubt already growing that my foundation of my view of self was already small from the years of experience from college. It just intensified as I stepped out into the real world.)
As I grew into my career, there was always someone, who felt they were better. There was always someone who felt the need to critique my good with the bad. Some days I truly was “damned if I don’t, damned if I do.” There was always someone to make me feel less than I truly am. Life right?? And eventually you get to a point in your adult life when you have listened to the lies and the noise long enough and you believe some of them and even tell yourself lies!! I am a believer in Jesus Christ and I know God’s Word tells me otherwise. But, it is hard and a daily struggle to cancel out the high frequency noise you’ve heard for so long.
It’s a battle I have been struggling with for most of my adult life. As I grow a stronger relationship with my Lord and Savior, I have to relearn DAILY the truths that combat the lies people have told me over the years! I have to remember to ask myself “Who told you that?…Did God tell you that?…What is the lie? What is the truth?” And in the recent months, it still becomes a struggle to lift myself out of the self doubt, the insecurities and the lack of confidence.
Now into my own skincare business, I feel the need to go back and start with ME. My foundation (self confidence and trust in my own ability) is a shaky ground not strong enough to grow a business to the dreams and goals I have hopes it will become! I’m an upside down pyramid so to speak!
Practice what you preach
So, now that I am a mom to two girls. I am doing my best to raise them to have a strong relationship in God, to speak over them, tell them who they are and reassure them of their truths. They already know their family is their biggest encourager and supporters. I know their lives will come with challenges. They are now only five and eight years old. My oldest is already experiencing the naysayers out there and the jerks that are challenging her self-worth. And I know it is my job to teach them to speak against those seeds of doubt trying to take roots! As their mom, it is nature for me to want to protect my children from harm or from the evil out there spiritually and mentally.
My eight year old is already dealing with forms of bullying and encountering the kid-jerks out there. As hard as it is for me to battle these things, I am trying to make sure I advice my daughters better. On a recent occasion, my daughter had a Human Resource Day at school. The whole class had been practicing for weeks. They were to showcase good and services, community jobs and human resources. My daughter was grouped up with three of her other friends in her class and they were to showcase and represent different dances. One of the girls came dressed in her Mexican heritage dress to showcase some of the dances of her culture. The other girl in the group came dressed in her ballet leotard and performed some of her ballet skills. My daughter is currently learning Hula and wore her Hula skirt to show some of the Hawaiian Dance of Hula. After the day was done, I was very anxious to ask her how her day went. She said that many of the 3rd graders who came to her classroom were very receptive and praised the girls as well as the other students for a job well done. But there was one…there is always one…that watched the girls perform and already had a critique. After my daughter finished, the girls came up to her specifically and said, “I can dance better than you can!” My daughter said she did not give a response to the naysayer, but shrugged it off.
When she told me after school, I of course, wanted to say things about this 3rd grader that I know were unkind and not helpful in that situation. I had to muster as much restraint as Momma Bear and give the best advice I could give as her ” wise”mom. I advised my daughter to let the comment go quickly. Not to dismiss what was said, but to understand that that comment was said out of some feeling of jealousy. Most times when others don’t feel good about themselves, they do all they can to make others feel bad. It was a lesson I know she will learn over and over in her lifetime with people she will meet.
But, when a similar incident happened today during her gymnastics class, I was actually present to see my daughter’s face and disposition change in a matter of minutes by some ugly words said from another girl in her class! As I sat there watching my daughter go through her routine in a closed off disposition, I called her to the side to see what just happened. My daughter was just happy and smiling a few minutes before. My daughter told me that during one of their exercises on the trampoline, one of the little girls said,
“You are doing one jump instead of the two your sister is better than you!”
It was just enough words to make my daughter feel less than enough. I could tell she wanted to cry! Not only was this girl being “ugly”, but she being compared to her little sister! This little girl was pinning some comparison between sisters, while also making my daughter feel inferior! I reassured my kiddo that she was doing a great job and ignore the ignorance of this other child. But, it was just enough of a lie to bother her!! It bothered my daughter so much that when I saw her face change from happiness to sadness, I knew something stole her joy. I can’t protect her or my other daughter from everything, I know that. Removing her from that gymnastics class doesn’t solve anything. I know the true lesson is that we all need to find the strength within our own minds to brush off those things that are said against us. It’s just a FRIGGIN hard lesson to teach when, as their mom, I struggle just the same every other day!!!
I want my girls to be able to have a stronger foundation of self to be able to ignore the naysayers, the doubters, the people that tell them they are not enough. I want my girls to be able to know their strengths and weaknesses, but not let those weaknesses stop them or control them from believing they can do everything they set their minds to. I pray and will continue to speak life over my girls as they grow in this world of social media society and bullying. I just hope my girls will have a stronger sense of self at a younger age than I was and be able to cancel out the “noise” of what this world will throw at them.
At 37 (just two months shy of 38), my foundation isn’t as strong. I have doubts, fears, insecurities so deeply rooted over my lifetime, its hard to ignore!! I have read books, listened to God’s Truth’s against the lies I’ve heard or told myself and yet I still have daily challenges! Its a lot harder for me to brush off those doubts and the “not enough’s”…I have “do not compare yourself” quotes and scriptures laminated and taped to bathroom mirrors and dressers. I have books that advice me to focus on God’s Words and what His truths say about me. I have training videos and planners and word journals giving me all the things I need to keep me tracked on my goals and my desires.
But, when my daughter goes through a situation like today when someone tells her “You’re not good enough”, my advice to her is advice is hard for me to even practice at 37!
Life lessons we all still have yet to master.