It all starts when you're young and SUDDENLY well aware of your public perception.
My parents are scientists. Their success brought me immeasurable pride but also intense self-comparison. These subjects did not come naturally to me and I compared my 8th grade comprehension to their multiple graduate degrees. They were smart and I perceived myself as… athletic?
Our dinner conversations growing up wavered somewhere between ‘how was soccer practice’, the latest lesson in my Mom’s MS Chemistry program or microscope in my Microbiologist step-father’s lab at the USDA. I sat amazed at their intelligence and span of knowledge touching on subjects so intangible to me. I thought myself into intimidation.
It wasn't until college that I realized that the stories I created about myself were negatively impacted my experience.
In college, I struggled through Chem 101. I completed the courses in high school but my desired career course required me to excel at the collegiate level. I retreated to the Carnegie Public Library each afternoon to review the day’s lesson and attempt to translate the information in a manner that I could understand.
To no avail.
It was the last week of classes before the final exam and I fell asleep. My professor lectured in front of a 300 person class, my lavender wellies squeaked across the linoleum floor as I made my way to the back half of the room.
Within ten minutes, I was asleep. Within .5 seconds I was screaming. A quick millisecond of a cat nap quickly transpired into a milli-nightmare. 299 peers turned to look at me. From then on it was confirmed, chemistry = fear, nightmares. Science, my enemy.
Fast forward 5 years and I’m a personal trainer and online health coach dodging the thoughts telling me to pursue more, be more, learn more…
I dipped my toe in the waters, completing physiological and nutrition certifications… but I could never commit to the mountain before me that started with prerequisite science courses, GRES and finished with a peak: MS in Nutrition.
Until the other day. I sat on a porch overlooking Lake James in Nebo, NC. I evacuated to the mountains to escape Hurricane Florence. With time on my hands, I sat down and completed the continued education course I registered for, Prenatal Nutrition. Each word or phrasing that escaped my comprehension I quickly researched and one word, L-methylfolate,pushed me to call my mother for help.
The excitement in her voice palpable, she felt NEEDED. She could connect with me on a subject she dedicated her career to: CHEMISTRY.
I felt encouraged, intrigued and ultimately curious about the subject. If i focused hard enough on understanding and solving each question like an equation, there wasn’t room for me to question my intelligence or feel intimidated.
Two hours later I contacted the Program Director for a MS in Nutrition program. I registered as a resident of North Carolina with our local community college. I planned out my Winter, Spring and Summer. If I complete these four classes- I can apply for the Fall 2020 program.
You can't begin to change those stories through avoidance. You must slowly thwack at it with intention and fortitude.
I challenged the story I created about myself: easily intimidated by intelligence because I feel Without. I used the momentum I gained from a conversation with my mother, inspired by a science course, to take action on a dream I too easily pacify: too learn, grow, become more.
Some questions I ask myself while STILL working to repair this damaging self image of less than:
Can I pinpoint a specific moment or memory that this story took root?
How do I continue to fuel this “wolf” of an idea about myself? Do I engage in self-deprecating conversations when the subject comes up *JUST* so I don’t seem like a failure??
In what other ways am I shorting my potential because I’m afraid to struggle through something?
What story are you telling yourself? How are you killing your dreams before the world even gets a chance to challenge you? Take the tiniest, most microscopic step forward and allow that momentum to push you forward before you can second guess yourself.