Imperfect Action. I Am Not Academic And Struggled At School.
Updated: Apr 27, 2021
These blogs are not polished off professional blogs that some people have, because they have the privilege to have an editor or copy writer read over them, or they are fantastic writers. Everything you see here, I write. It's authentic and from the heart. I will not apologise for my spelling mistakes because that does not define my ability to help people create a fulfilling, satisfying career/life.
If there is anything we can learn from my spelling mistakes it is that, if I can own my own business and write blogs and post online, than it's possible for anyone to do this too.
Growing up I thought I would never be good at school and I struggled to read or write until I was in year 7 and even after that I continued to struggle. My parents came here from Greece in the 1970's, they didn't finish school and my dad is illiterate. I am the youngest in a family of 5 children, so I am guessing this played a huge part in why I have struggled with the English language.
If you have been following me you would notice the many spelling and grammatical mistakes I make in my blogs. Four years ago I was tested for dyslexia and it came back negative. I personally believe that I was dyslexic growing up and as I got older I have improved because I learnt how to learn. I found ways to cope and ways to adapt. Such as, I memorised how to spell words rather than learning the techniques to sound them out. We all know we can learn new skills and the more we do something, the better we get regardless of what condition we may have.
The only time I felt okay at school was during PE (physical education). I thought the only thing I would be good at for a job was anything that was practical and had no academic skills required. This formed my belief system around what I could do for work and what was not possible for me due to my skills and academic ability.
When I was in year 10, I attempted to write an essay and it turns out it was so bad that the teachers thought it was a good idea to name and shame me in class. All I remember is that I had no clue where to start with it and the teachers never really knew how to encourage or help me either.
I remember this one teacher that was just cruel. Shaming students was her tool for controlling the class. One day she was so angry with our class and the lack of effort we put into our work, that she called the principal into our classroom to lecture us on how piss poor our effort was. Lucky me, I got a special mention, “Thelma this is the worst work I have seen …. A 3-year-old could do better…” To be completely honest I can’t remember the words that came out of her mouth because I was so triggered and felt so small that I wanted to run away. What I did remember was the wash of shame that came over me (not realising that’s what it was at the time). I made what she said personal and thought to myself, I am so dumb and now the teacher is sharing that with the class as punishment. It’s like my truth was being exposed and it hurt. I had been hiding this side of me for so long.
I didn’t try at school because I genuinely thought I would never learn how to thrive at school and that I could never get good marks. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy. It was not explained to me that it’s quite possible that I have a different way of learning. I wondered why I found school so hard and others nailed it. In that same class the teacher proceeded to tell us what our essay “should” have sounded like by reading out one of the students that got an A+. I can’t express how damaging that was for me as a student that was struggling. School is the breeding ground for comparison and competing against each other. The teachers had created a class system. There’s the smart, intelligent and gifted kids and the not so smart kids who would probably be good at sport or a hands on careers. I grew up with a deep seated belief that I would only be successful in a career that was physical and not academic. I also compared myself to the students who were thriving at school and getting A's. This was so far away from where I was that it made me feel even worse about myself.
The reason I felt shame was because I interpreted that situation as though I am stupid and my essays were bad because I was dumb. That is what shame is. Shame is when you believe you’re not good enough and you will never be good enough. It can also show up when you have not attained the outcome or results you wanted, "there is something wrong with me because I did not get that right."
We are shamed by teachers, care givers and parents and depending on how often we're shamed and how deeply it hits us, we can believe the people who shame us. I was told by a university lecturer that I would never find employment in the industry with my poor writing skills. I was told by teachers that my efforts were poor and that it's not good enough. Did I internalise this, yes, did I still have motivation and drive to prove them wrong yes. Looking back I got this from my parents. They couldn't read and write well but they were doing very well for themselves. They owned their own business and built our home and lifestyle from it.
Guilt is when you think you should have tried harder and you believe that your work is not a reflection of you and that you could do better. We feel guilty for not trying. It's different to shame because we believe if we tried harder we would get better results. Shame can stop us from even trying because we believe we're wrong, bad or unworthy.
“In order to deal with shame some of us move away by withdrawing, hiding, silencing ourselves, and keeping secrets. Some of us move towards by seeking to appease and please. And some of us move against by trying to gain power over others, by being aggressive, and by using shame to fight shame…all of these strategies move us away from connection.” - Brené Brown
I had low self-esteem and confidence at school and that was the base and frame from which I made my future educational and career decisions from. This lead me to be on a career path that was not suited to me. I made decisions based on seeking approval by people pleasing rather than on what I truly wanted to do in life.
Now I make decisions from a place of, "I will learn how and it is possibly for me as long as I put in the effort and energy." How did I get to this place? Proving to myself I can be academic, changing my beliefs through therapy, mentors, coaches, personal development courses and starting my own business.