As far back as I can remember, I have always been classed a ‘patient’ person. I was proud of this title and, understandably, as an impressionable first grader yearning for praise, I practically beamed with pride whenever it was mentioned. What I soon noticed, however, was that the term came with all sorts of restrictions: I was always the last person allowed to go to the restroom; always the last person to get to choose my secret santa gift; always the last person in show-and-tell. As soon as I noticed the double-edged sword I did my best to overcome it - I signed up to events first, I volunteered to share my ideas first and I really, really tried to put myself out there. Soon, I had two titles: ‘enthusiastic’ and ‘patient’.
This was possible only because of the pre-existing social attitudes to go-getters and those who were well-mannered; they’re not considered to be juxtaposing adjectives - not even close. It is a much bigger challenge to apply the same to ‘strength’ and ‘weakness’. Lately, everyone is talking about how we all have different definitions of strength and while that may be true, we come no closer to accepting ‘weakness’.
I’m a bit of a crier. Always was, probably always will be. I cry when I’m angry, overwhelmed, disappointed or disheartened in short bursts of fat, ugly tears. (Funnily enough, anger is usually my go-to response when something makes me upset but that’s a topic for another article.)
Crying is pretty much advertised as the universal sign for a weakness but I don’t think we see the whole picture. For me, crying gives me a sense of clarity. In a weird way, my frequent moments of ‘weakness’ give me strength to face what’s coming. I think that weakness is from where we derive our strength, two sides of the same coin. I don’t cry in front of most people - only those I care about most. The people who care enough to probe, the people who make a difference in my life, those are the people I disclose my burdens to. I don’t (usually) need advice. I don’t need attention. I don’t need anything from them at all. Sometimes though, it's useful to have people validate your worries - convince you that you’re not actually just paranoid and sometimes it’s a useful way to be more mindful of each others’ feelings and make sure you haven’t gone too far down the rabbit hole that you’re no longer aware (or make a conscious effort) to accommodate each others’ feelings. A little support goes a long way.
To be honest, I actually prefer just curling up in my blanket and having a good cry to myself. Even when nothing’s ‘wrong’ or ‘stressful’ or ‘upsetting’. Sometimes I’m just so excited about the future or agitated that my dreams aren’t coming towards me fast enough. Some feelings can’t be conjured into words and written away and in the absence of my usual outlets I revert back to the easiest way I know how. Emotions aren’t meant to be tucked away or controlled or hidden, they’re meant to be expressed. And if there’s one person who understands you best of all - it’s yourself.
You don’t have to be a strong person to get through life. Just a hopeful one. It’s okay not to be a strong person as long as you know how to pick yourself up after you fall - some of us stumble more than most but the people who keep going are the people who are able to recognise that not every situation has to be crippling and can let things go. It doesn’t really matter how hard you fall as long as you are able to bounce back, ready to give things another shot. Strength, to me, is the ability to accept weakness and the determination to continue your pursuit - whether that be academic or personal.
In the end, people will only see how far you’ve come - not how many times you stumbled. Don’t give up. I’ll be striving with you!
Why should others believe in you?
This is a question you need to ask yourself at the beginning every single day - and come back to with an answer. Most people take it for granted that their harshest critic is themselves but this is often an excuse - a veil - to hide low self-esteem and self-confidence. It is important to realise your own value and, often, the best way to start is by analysing why the people who support you believe you have the potential to achieve your dreams.
It’s better to convince yourself of your strengths than to convince others. Now, I know this is hard to understand but bear with me. The world is built on a meritocratic system, constantly evaluating and assigning values to every action, thought, and feeling, and it’s easy to fall prey to the need for constant validation. What people fail to realise, however, is that only you know how much of your effort you are putting into a task - be it in terms of time, spirit, or research. Most assume that you are working at full capacity. They feel they are inclined to judge your potential based on this but, we all know that that’s never quite true. What other people deem to be within our grasp is but a conservative option but we find it is easy to downgrade our dreams, especially when we talk about it as an impossible reach.
I’m in 11th grade now and at that crucial juncture in life where everyone seems to be asking the ‘important’ questions and offering unsolicited advice. Now, more than ever, I have had to rely on myself to push past the external limitations that school and relatives constantly try to impose upon me. If you are having to deal with similar issues, don’t worry, I’ll try my best to guide you through it.
This is most useful when you simultaneously break down the decisions you are struggling with. For example, if you are choosing between majors, look at the careers they lead to and break them out into the tasks they comprise of, the qualities required, and the importance placed on certain skills, and compare them with your own list. Nothing will be 100% compatible and you can always develop your skills but it is a good guideline to follow.
It seems like a daunting task at first but you will get there. Sometimes the world is against you; sometimes it’s you, but out of the two it’s always better to be on your own side even if no one else seems to be. A little bit of self-belief goes a long way. I hope this helps you in taking your first steps towards self-growth!