What might get in your way

Allison didn’t often make A’s. Yet she’d always loved school because she knew it was her best opportunity to grow and learn.

She knew that high school was a very limited (and limiting) experience, so she was beyond excited about her first day of community college. Such an adventure!

Her parents’ neighborhood was dull and lackluster, and going out on the town with friends had gotten old. The movies they went to see seemed like same old, same old, and so did the music they blasted themselves with. College — now that looked different. Teachers teaching things that would really help her, and not things she “had to” take. Other people her own age around her that she could relate to, people that cared about their lives.

At the door of her Geology class on the first day, she was full of anticipation. What did the earth’s layers of soil and rock mean for life? How did they get that way? Then she caught a glimpse of herself in the glass door of the classroom. In her image, she saw “that awkward girl.”

“That awkward girl” was the label that Julia, the cheerleader squad leader, had given Allison back in high school. “Here she comes again,” Julia had once said in a loud whisper to another girl when Allison walked into a classroom. “That awkward girl with the stringy hair and the eyes too close together, who thinks she’s such a good student when she just makes C’s.”

But Allison often made B’s and even a few A’s. The squad leader didn’t know her, and yet she had it in for her. Allison had no idea why. It didn’t matter, though. Julia was totally confident spewing her scorn, and she was popular and admired. So what she said about Allison must have been true.

Allison backed away from the classroom. She sat on a bench near the door while the other students filed in. She had no place in that class, no place in college. She was “that awkward girl.” She took out her phone and looked at a picture of herself for a long moment.

She heard the instructor’s voice; the class was starting, and she was summoning her courage. This is going to be embarrassing, she said to herself as she glanced at her watch. She walked into the class eight minutes late. The only seats left were way up front.

The instructor looked up at her. “You’re late. Your name?” he asked in a dry voice. 

“Ward,” she said. “Allison Ward. Actually, I’m going to become your favorite student.”

* * * * *

What might interfere with your attending classes, making great grades, and learning a lot? Two things stand out for many students: poor self-image and social programming.

I. Poor self-image
Too many college students are hampered with low self-esteem. Yet actually, low self-esteem is an artificial social construct. It’s never realistic or honest. It’s based on unrealistic ideas about yourself picked up from family, friends, media, etc.

No one is a “loser,” because every person has positive potential, and everyone has done good things, even great things already!
You may not be consistently positive yet, but think for a few minutes about the good things you’ve done, and give yourself acknowledgement: a pat on the back.

Criticizing yourself for mistakes may be a natural reaction. Yet as soon as you correct the mistakes, you must dump the self-criticism, because it can become a harmful pattern.

Thinking you’re a loser is much like other kinds of escapist fantasies, like thinking you can become king or a unicorn.
The sooner you realize this, the better: that inferior people do not exist, only people who think they’re inferior because they themselves, or someone else, said they were.

Get out of the trap of negative thinking about yourself! If you can’t do it alone, a counselor can help you.

Dear student, you must remember, whenever you have doubts, it’s to your benefit to feel your self-esteem. Although many people don’t understand this, it is natural to love yourself, and not as natural to criticize yourself. There are always useful ways to improve without criticizing yourself. Self-criticism is only for unusual occasions, and must be abandoned as soon as the situation is normalized.

II. Social programming
A mindful and meditative habit of self-help is the soundest protection from being conditioned and programmed by society.
Today, increasingly, we are frequently being driven apart from each other, divided, categorized, branded, evaluated and encouraged to compare ourselves to others.

Social media is a prime offender in degrading people’s views of themselves and making them compare themselves to others constantly. This is why so many self-aware students are deleting their social media and finding better ways to avoid being bored and to stay in touch with friends.

If we accept society’s campaign to drive us apart and reduce our self-esteem, we might find it extremely hard to maintain a good feeling while we’re striving for our goals. We might be tempted to give up and “drop out.”

If you create a vision of your best self and your positive future,
you are on your way to having a reference point that you can always rely on.

Return to your positive vision when you’re tempted to compare yourself with others, or to compete with them to make yourself feel superior. (Psychologists have shown that those who feel superior actually have inferiority complexes that make them constantly try to prove their superiority to themselves — often by criticizing others.)

Effective people tend not to feel superior, they just feel satisfied with their efforts and the excellence they’re attaining while striving for more.

You can lose a poor self-image by reminding yourself of the effort you made, successfully, to get into college. Remind yourself of your successful efforts to get to class on time and do the work. Most people don’t accomplish this much, so acknowledge yourself for getting as far as you have.

You can overcome social programming by remembering that you’re a unique individual who can’t be forced into a mold. Even if you’re in an organization requiring following orders and strict routines, even wearing a uniform, your essential self cannot be altered by these externals. Spend a few minutes a day in some form of reflection or meditation. Use this time to remember and actually FEEL your positive, independent core.

For even more well-being, keep a journal or diary to remind yourself of your accomplishments, even little ones.
You can be imaginative and keep a journal that’s not written – it can be in the form of a video log, or an audio log, or a sketchbook with artwork and collages and notes.

Research has shown that every star performer keeps a record of their challenges and achievements: a record that they review every few days or weeks to keep themselves on track. (See “Your Stardom” tab.)

Get in the habit of making a few notes about each course at the end of the day — not your class notes about the course content,  but notes on how you’re feeling in general about the course. Is your point of view changing and evolving? This kind of record keeping helps you manage your attitudes for the better.

Give yourself attention, and the gods and goddesses of great grades will give you their attention too.