The impact of harsh comments: My confession of buying into bullshit and why you should do the opposite!
A few weeks ago I found myself sitting in my study reviewing information I had learnt in my first semester of my Master Degree in Human Nutrition. It was taking me quite some time to wrap my head around it, and I sat there thinking how much easier it would have been if I had completed Chemistry and Biology in my later years of high school. I always knew I wanted to study Nutrition and I knew at the time I would need these subjects to do so, yet I didn’t take them on. Why would I do something that would ultimately make it harder for me to study long term? It comes down to two simple things: lack of self-belief and buying into other people’s bullshit.
These two things can be linked in many cases, particularly when you are being told you cannot do something. As the case often is, you are more than capable of doing these things but being told you cannot do them hinders your progress to achieve or even attempt these things in the first place.
In my case I remember a distinct moment that lead me to such misbeliefs. When I was a teenager, I was doing relatively well in school and amongst that was in advanced science class. About midway through year 10 I began dating someone in the grade above me. He was the typical class clown that acted up a lot in class. My science teacher happened to teach both him and myself. I got the vibe she wasn’t impressed by his antics in class, as when we were on our lunch breaks she didn’t speak to him very kindly. This attitude towards him soon turned towards me and I noticed a change in the way she treated me. One thing she said I never forgot. I had mentioned my future career prospects and her words were “You aren’t smart enough to do Chemistry or Biology”. Pretty harsh words to hear from my teacher, and I completely took them to heart. I figured there was no point even trying to get into those classes and I put university in the too hard basket. I am not going to say that one comment was the reason I didn’t apply for university after Year 12 but it definitely contributed. For a long time, I believed I wasn’t smart and threw myself into hospitality work for the next three years following high school. You would think that an adult throwing such hurtful comments around would be a one off, yet unfortunately it wasn’t. After a few years of not really having a clear career path and working in hospitality I had one manager tell me another thing I would never forget. His exact words were “All you will ever amount to is being a housewife”. I am not sure if that was the turning point or if it was my complete dissatisfaction with doing something I didn’t enjoy, but this time cruel comments hit differently, I realized I didn’t have to listen to other people’s hurtful words. I remember speaking to my partner, saying I wish I had tried something else, that I wish I had applied for university. He simply replied “Well why don’t you?” Studying at university seemed way beyond me and I honestly didn’t believe I was smart enough to even get in, yet that year with his encouragement, I began to put steps in place to apply for university and left that job.
Three years later I graduated Bachelor of Health Promotion with a Distinction. I have to say it sure wasn’t easy and there was a lot of doubt, and hard work but the more I threw myself into it, the more I realised that those terrible comments that were made were simply that, comments. They were extremely hurtful and did hinder my growth initially but that was only because I let them hinder it.
I think it is easy to get caught up in what others say but I truly believe that in order to grow we need to rely on ourselves and not allow the words of others to guide us in the wrong direction. There are many people that want to support us and see us succeed, and they are the keepers. It is really important to understand some people are cruel simply because they are unhappy.
But how do you create better trust in yourself?
Back yourself! It can be really hard initially but simply questioning the harsh comments people make can be a great first step. Are they actually true? Probably not, and hey if they are it doesn’t mean you can’t make changes.
Surround yourself with people who support you rather than bring you down. You’ll find the more you surround yourself with people who support you, the more you’ll find you can trust and believe in yourself.
Give yourself a break and give yourself time. Whether you are working towards a goal, trying to break a habit or working towards creating a greater sense of belief and love in yourself, it will take time. Focus on the present and appreciate the small wins. For example, a small win for me initially was starting to believe that I wasn’t bound to working in a job I disliked. Yes, there were many steps before even getting into university the first time. I had to take a risk and look past my self-doubt, I had to sit an exam and write a 7-page essay on myself and why I was a good candidate for university but I am so glad I did.
Just because something didn’t work in the past doesn’t mean it cannot now.
So, this is my challenge to you: Try something new, whether it is a class you’ve always wanted to try, a different route home, a new food, just try something different this week. Scared of looking silly, getting lost, or not knowing what you are doing? Embrace it, laugh it off. At the end of the day what is worse than failure? The regret of never trying.