Last week, I had a policy brief due for one of my classes. Earlier in the semester, we were asked to find a piece of legislation introduced within the last year, something relevant to the field of social work (whether it benefits or goes against the nature of), and to plan on using that for the class’s assignments. We started off with a lit review which, in hindsight, was a HUGE blessing (in deep disguise, as I was up til 6am writing it) because it provided most of the research relevant to the legislation and our argument for or against it.
So, the policy brief was essentially something written to offer up a summary of the main issues surrounding the policy, provide statistics and other relevant information, and then ultimately give some recommendations, either to strengthen or change the policy, or to offer up wholesale approval (or condemnation). I probably gave my topic away with one of my previous posts on here.
Anyway, the point of all that is to say: At some point while I was digging through reports and statistics and research and writing and editing and crafting the brief, I sat back for a minute and thought, “Whoa! I feel… smart. Huh.”
It was notable for two reasons. One, I almost for a second or two started thinking I *might* be interested in politics enough to warrant future policy briefs and engagement at the macro level. That would have never, ever occurred to me before, and I’m not entirely sure it’s accurate, but it was there, regardless. And two, it just drove home to me how out of touch I am with my abilities and talents and whatever else I possess. Like, I always knew my sister and brother were smart and competent people; their achievements are out there for all to see, and it’s obvious they’re no dummies. But then, they did well in school growing up, did well in college and graduate studies or whatever, they have really good jobs that require you to be really damn smart… they’re achievers.
I, on the other hand, prided myself on failing through high school as hard as humanly possible, and never challenged myself at all in that respect. I think I just gave up at some point, and felt like I could never measure up to my siblings, so why bother trying? Instead, I went the “creative” route through life, and it’s only now that I’m even beginning to really tap into what I’m capable of.
And yet, even when I do well, I just assume that I’m doing as well as everyone else, or that the teacher is an easy grader and I can’t trust their opinions because if I’m getting 100’s then everyone else must be, too, and it can’t REALLY be this easy (which usually means I then assume I failed an assignment or did it completely wrong until I get the grade back), and and and… yeah. What a crummy way to think of yourself. I mean, I think it’s good to have some kind of sense of what you’re capable of and what you’re good at and especially what you enjoy doing regardless of whether you’re good at it or not, but to have an underlying messaging system of “you’re not that smart and you’re probably messing it up and there’s no way you’re earning these grades or the reputation of being smart and people are just being polite when they say you’re smart or funny or a good writer or ________” – it’s messed up.
More importantly, it’s incorrect.
So I’m glad, in a way, to be so caught off guard by feelings of competence and smarts, because that means I need (and want) to do more to challenge myself, both academically and also emotionally. I may never get completely rid of that pre-programmed internal naysayer commentary, but I can certainly tell it where to go, and then drown it out with the positive messaging I get from EVERYWHERE ELSE.