I was 10 years old when I discovered I was dumb. .A teacher pulled me asidel She didn’t deliver it in a way that was mean or hurtful, but her words have stuck with me for the rest of my life. “I just can’t teach you in class, so I am sending you to someone who can.” She saw nothing wrong about saying a simple sentence like that to a student. However, my mind begins to wonder . . . “Why can’t she teach me? What did I do wrong.”
I was 16 years old when I started having body issues. A girl on my volleyball team let me borrow a pair of her spandex because I had forgotten mine at home. We were about the same size, but I put them on thinking they would fit fine. They were very tight. Once again, a comment that she thought wouldn’t hurt someone stuck with me for the rest of my life. “Dang, I thought you were skinnier than that. My bad: you should ask someone else.” That moment was the first time in my life that I believed I was fat. Does that girl know that her comment sent me into a mental obsession with my body? No, she probably doesn’t even remember the conversation. Once again, I was left with the thought of “Why can’t I be skinny?” I thought I was until then.
Self-concept means “a relatively stable set of perceptions you hold about yourself,” which can be formed through ourselves and others. Others see things you don’t; they may bring attention to characteristics you never knew existed. My body, for example: never once did I think I was overweight until my friend made that comment, but that became distorted feedback I have come to believe. I am not fat; I know that and I understand that, but I have not been able to untrain my mind, so I am constantly worrying about the food I eat, and the workouts I do, and it consumes me. I forget that God has blessed me with a beautiful body: I’m not obese, I’m not unhealthy, I’m not paralyzed or disfigured, but self-love is hard for me because of other people’s careless words.
Self-imposed prophecies come from other people, and they are a map to failure if you believe them. At age 9 I believed I was dumb, because someone told me I was. It’s unbelievable to me; my parents loved me, they never called me dumb; they talked to me like I was smart; my friends, at 9 years old, did not know dumb from smart: I was just another girl in the class. My deepest hurts come from people’s off-handed comments (thoughtless, stupid comments from people who don’t even know me), but being dumb became a part of who I was and I owned it. I knew I wouldn’t succeed on tests; I could see people wouldn’t listen to me in conversations now that I was in the special class, so I just took the D and I moved on. I used the Impression Management Strategy: “the ability to shift styles from setting to setting and culture to culture.” (Proctor,78)
I knew how to play each role, and I knew how to play it well. It wasn’t until my freshman year of college where I discovered I really wasn’t dumb. In my first year of college I got a higher GPA average than my four-year cumulative high school GPA. Here I was in a new place, without a history of being dumb or fat, and I won a victory. One small victory led to another; discipline and focus were actually now rewards. I got those grades by myself all on my own, and it started to erase my feelings of inadequacy.
Slowly and surely, I am learning the power of success, and, as I win, I can start taking ownership of the lies that have plagued me.