Friday, 6 November 2015

Not so bad after all

Sometimes I find it hard to remember the good things. To hold in my mind the things that I've achieved. The times that I've succeeded. The occasions when I've been genuinely good at something. For the most part, when I look back at my life, as well as remembering with vivid, painful clarity every mistake, every embarrassment, every misjudgement, I see a background of mediocrity. I see someone that I perceive to be very ordinary. And then, just occasionally, something happens that jolts me out of that perception, and I have a pause of wondered puzzlement and think to myself that actually, I'm not so bad after all.

I know that a there are people who would look at my life, at the things I've done, the places I've been, the accolades I've received and think I must be deranged not to perceive myself as a success. And that when I say, "I'm no good at anything" I must just be fishing for compliments. I had an ex-boyfriend like that, who rather cuttingly said to me, "I'm not here just to bolster your ego" when I was feeling particularly down. I think he genuinely couldn't imagine that the way I saw myself was so divergent from the way the rest of the world appears to see me. So I ask you to know this: I am not fishing for compliments; I am not looking for praise or validation; when I say that I feel mediocre, it doesn't matter what you see. What you see is not what I feel.

Back to my recent jolt. There were two of them actually. Firstly, one of my lovely cousins referred to me as "brilliant". OK, so she called me "flawed and brilliant", but since I know I can't argue with the first adjective, I'll gaze in wonderment at the second one. The second jolt was seeing someone I studied at University with presenting the weather on Al Jazeera English. This prompted me to Google her (obviously) and I found her Wikipedia entry, which claims "she was awarded an MA in Physics, gaining the University's top marks for the final year presentation project". And I instantly thought to myself, "she certainly didn't get the top marks". Why do I think that? Well, the final year presentation project was a joint project, and I was in the same group of 4 people as weather lady. And all four of us received the same mark. Since I know I can't have got the top mark, she can't have done either.

Except... hold on... I don't actually remember what mark I got in that project. I do know that I was awarded very high marks in all my other projects. In fact, I know that overall my project work alone was classed as a starred first, which was enough to salvage my abysmal performance in exams and get me an upper second at the end of the year. So, it's not completely implausible that weather lady and I did get alphas in the presentation. And, now I come to think of it, I was awarded a prize for my project work. How did I forget that? How is it possible to spend so much of my time thinking I'm not good enough that I forget I was awarded a prize during the final year of a Cambridge degree? How is it that my immediate reaction on seeing a statement that implies I was good at something is to assume the statement is a lie?

So, here I am, wondering if it's too late to change the way I see myself, the way I view my past, the memories that are strongest. But also having a moment of thinking to myself that actually, sometimes, I'm not so bad after all. And maybe that's a start.

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