My self-worth? It’s on me

The other day, I had a dream with MariCarmen, my old boss at Universidad Metropolitana. It made me smile to think of her, of how much she esteemed me and valued my opinion. She not only believed in me and my potential as an academic, a professional, a professor and a researcher, she admired me for my work ethics and who I was then, at that point in my life. It made me smile to remember how loved and valued I was.

Of course, if I compare it to now I see the incredible differences. Here I do not feel valued at all. Here I am foreigner, no one really knows me or has taken the time to get to know me, and to them I’m just a student who knows nothing and who they need to teach and train. They see my flaws, my shortcomings, they don’t see my value and I sometimes doubt they even see my potential. TC has taken a real toll on my self-esteem and how I see myself professionally. It has made me doubt myself, doubt what I am capable of and even doubt if I truly have what it takes to make it here.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while now. And yesterday something happened which made me realize how much indeed my TC experience had changed the way I even present myself now. As I came out from yoga class a woman approached me and asked how long had I been practicing yoga. I said, “well, for some time now, on and off”, which is actually close to 12 years now. And she said “you are so good, I was watching you during class to see what I was doing wrong and to see what the correct pose actually looked like.” She said this with a big smile and admiration in her eyes and I felt a bit shocked, yet happy, with the recognition. But immediately dismissed it saying: “But you’re not supposed to do that. You should be focusing on your body and taking it as far as it can go, without comparing yourself to others; you need to focus on you.” At that time, another woman comes by and says “Actually, it’s always good to know what we’re aiming for, so it’s a good thing she can see you and know that’s what she’s trying to do.” I smiled, said that was true, but still thought one should be careful with one’s body and not push it just because we see someone else capable of doing something we still can’t.

I know why I did this. I have a tendency to protect other people’s self-esteem, and sometimes even say things which are not at all true, or put me in a very negative light, just so they don’t feel bad or think less of themselves. I can’t stand someone kicking themselves or being down in the dumps and not doing something about it. But, there was another thing that hit me with this encounter. She was admiring something in me, something I actually did right, something she could aspire to, she could emulate. Wow. This had not happened to me in a long time. The sad thing is that I look back and this use to be common ground for me. I was always the good student everyone envied because of my grades and my intelligence, or the pretty girl all guys feel for, or the spoiled daddy’s girl who always had everything she wanted. Looking back I could see how people who weren’t satisfied with what they had could envy me. I’ve never been an envious person. I aspire to things and accomplishments, but I tend to compare myself to me, and feel bummed when I know I could have done better but didn’t. And tend to be overly critical of myself, and always see room for improvement in my actions and even thoughts.

Yet these past 5 years have been a whole different story. I don’t feel like the intelligent, pretty, have it all girl I used to be. I feel less than, insecure of what I can do, and looked down upon. My experience in the doctoral program has shaken me to the core and I know it, I have been noticing it all along. First it attempted to change the way I think and the things I value, it attempted to get me to abandon beliefs and solid foundations, I truly believe I was both born into and born with. I think I have a more solid grasp on my beliefs and values now because of this constant pull to rethink, reconceptualize and poststructuralize myself, and for that I guess I should be grateful. But along the way of that push and pull I think I lost my self-confidence a bit and my self-worth, and for that I am a bit bitter and resentful.

I am always looking out for other’s emotional well-being and I think TC failed me in doing so for me. I can take critiques, but when all you get is that, you start thinking that’s all there is. I’m fed up with being critiqued, compared, analyzed and put in little tight boxes with labels. It makes me sad to think what it has done to me, an otherwise secure, accomplished, happy and successful person. It makes me mad that this happens in academia, in education, my chosen field of profession. It concerns me that these people are teaching, training and forming teachers. And it leaves me feeling a bit cheated out of the belief of what a ‘good’ educational setting should be. Aren’t they supposed to be the best of the best? I think they think they are great, but let their egos drive, and the result is that the people they serve get short changed, get cheated, like I did.

Of course, I got myself into this situation. I decided to come here to study. I left home, my comfort zone, a place filled with people who knew me, cared about me and made me feel great about what I was doing. It was my decision and the consequences are all on me. Also, the fact that I have let these people’s perception of myself get to me, is on me as well. “No one can make you feel what you do not want.” And I am no exception. If they got to me, to my self-esteem, to my self-worth, it’s because I let them. So, I know I need to pull myself together and out of this. I need to recover what I once had. And hopefully I will. For now, I guess I’m just reflecting upon dreams, encounters, where I am now and what I need to do next. But one thing I am sure of, I will try my darnedest to never be like these people.

4 responses to “My self-worth? It’s on me

  1. I have a feeling "the system" does that to a lot of us – squeeze as much life out of our bones as possible until we're dry, and THEN handing us the certificate. There is so much red tape, especially at a PhD program…… if you want my honest observation Jen you have done a pretty good job, and you DO still have humanness with you. It happens in the corporate ranks, and probably in any other endeavor. I think maybe it's the age or stage we are at. If you can make it through this phase, get the certificate and stay in one piece, and still remain a person who you can look at and admire as a human…. that's a REAL accomplishment!Again I think you are doing it maybe more than you may give yourself credit….."The Other" Jason

  2. Jason Wisdom – Thank you so much for your encouragement 🙂

  3. We should be judged by our abilities, not our titles… I know you have worked hard, but they should look at the person harder…

  4. buffalodick – I agree, they should.

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