Today’s blog is a little more serious than my previous ones. In fact, I debated long and hard with myself over my decision to post it. However, after an incredibly drawn out inner monologue (and I mean drawn out), I decided that although it is early on in my blogging days and I don’t want to get too deep too quickly, I also want to reflect how I’m feeling and my genuine thoughts here. (Also, the amazing Elm from Just Call Me Elm Or Something has written a similar post that gave me the confidence to put pen to paper (figuratively speaking) and write this all down – so thank you, Elm!).
If anyone can relate to this, please comment down below – it would be amazing to have someone who gets how I feel. ❤
I don’t really know how I’m gonna start this, tbh. Maybe it’s best that I start right back at square 1 – the place where everything (to the best of my knowledge) started…
Back when I was 12, I didn’t really enjoy school that much. On paper, everything should have been great for me – I quickly accumulated upwards of 10 friends (we’ve grown even more now as a group, and everyone is still so close!), I liked my tutor, all my teachers were nice and I was doing really well in all my classes. However, year 7 (and to some extent year 8) was pretty much hell for me, for reasons that I’m not going to go into now or we’d be here all day (essentially, I felt horribly sick all the time – it’s a long story). On top of this, despite having a large group of friends, I didn’t really have any close friends within my learning group (until the end of year 8), and a boy from my old school used to pick on me. But it didn’t really matter; I was okay.
I was always pretty quiet in class, shy and reserved (how times have changed!), not volunteering for anything – something which I think is quite common amongst the pupils in the younger years of the school. However, I would always know all the answers to the questions, so as the year went on my confidence grew and I started putting my hand up more (gaining my reputation as “the smart one”). Everything started to fall into place.
Then one day, in science at the start of year 8, I volunteered an answer to a tricky question.
“Is is [insert answer here], Sir?” The teacher smiled at me.
“I can see why you’d say that – but no, that’s not right.” I went back to thinking about the question, trying to get the right answer – but then everything sort of kicked off.
“Oh my gosh, Alice got a question wrong!”
“Alice got it wrong!”
“Come on Alice, you’re supposed to be smart!”
The teacher quickly silenced the rowdy boys, but it was too late – the damage was done. Immediately, I shrunk into myself. Embarrassment flooded through me, my face prickling with heat. Why did I say that? I’m so stupid. I wish I’d never put my hand up. More and more ashamed thoughts flitted through my head, entwining me in their deadly web of self-doubt, one thought repeating over and over: I never want to be in this situation again.
Maybe, if it had just been that one time, I would have been okay. But for the rest of the week, those boys continued to bring it up, the fact that I’d got one bloody question wrong when everyone else was too scared to even attempt to answer it. And the more things they said, the more they pricked at my self-confidence, their words like knives creating wound after wound, until eventually, I was bled dry.
To you as a person reading this, this probably sounds pathetic; to me, as a person writing it, it certainly does. But that moment had a real impact on me. I stopped volunteering answers, especially in science. I kept my head down, and avoided saying or doing anything that could put my image of intelligence that I held among my peers in jeopardy. I wouldn’t take risks, or push myself – especially not if other people were there to see the results. After all, what if I failed? Everyone would see how terrible I was, how stupid I was, how useless I was at everything. And to me, that seemed like the worst thing in the world.
If I’m completely honest, I still feel that way. Not to quite the same extent that I did back then – I volunteer answers in some of my subjects now (I put my hand up frequently in Spanish and dance, and sometimes in history and science), but those same destructive thoughts are a constant, lurking at the back of my mind. And sometimes, it gets a bit too much.
I don’t really know how best to start explaining this – so I’ll start with a statement.
All of my target grades for my GCSEs are A*s. Every. Single. Damn. One.
Now, I know that they’re just target grades. I know that it should be all about ‘my true potential’, not what an algorithm thinks I can achieve. So why can’t I help feeling like those little letters at the top of my learning record are standards that I have to achieve, and that anything less is a fail? Why do I get so stressed at the prospect of underperforming? It doesn’t make sense, even to me.
And, on top of this, I feel guilty for worrying about it. Oh no, a computer program thinks that I’m really clever and should do really well. Boo hoo. It really is an example of a first world problem. I should be happy that I’m predicted successes, and feel more confident about my studies as all my teachers believe I can achieve my target grades too (with the exception of computing – but that’s another story for another day). But I don’t. I’m conscious of how stuck up it must sound, me complaining about my target grades all being high, but I can’t help it. I would give anything just to have lower target grades, even if they were all only dropped to As – at least it would remove some of the mounting pressure that I’m feeling. Because that’s what’s happening. It seems like everyone is expecting me to be perfect, and to get perfect grades – and I can’t handle it any more.
I’ve decided to split this post into two parts, as it would be far too long as just one post. I’ll add the second part to my blog at the same time (8pm as always!) next week.
Sorry, if everyone just finds this boring, and doesn’t care, but I really needed to say this at the moment and I already feel lighter having only written just under a thousand words!
If anyone (having only read this first part) feels the same way, then please comment down below. ❤
See you all next week,