I gained confidence. When you have to do everything for yourself, when you can't get any reflective feedback from anyone, you have to trust yourself. Well, I guess you don't have to, but the other option is too dismal for me to even consider. I learned long ago that if I sit afraid and waited, no one would save me. I'm the kind of princess who rescues herself; too impatient for princes. My prince may be too impatient for that kind of princess, too. ;)
When I came back, I was afraid of losing this great sense of self. I had always been afraid in the past of not being humble. Humility is one of those values that I learned about early in life, and while I had been pretty confident growing up about certain things, I was a pretty weak, scared individual deep inside. It's easy to doubt oneself, isn't it? I kept thinking, "If I'm doing the right things, then why does bad stuff keep happening to me?" Some of it was my fault (not letting go of friends who were horrible to me while ignoring the ones who needed me more; sorry about that! I was young and stupid!), and some of it was beyond my control. My negotiation and conflict course helped me to see that, and it was like a weight was lifted off of my shoulders. I can't blame myself for everything that goes wrong, and I am doing my best. But, I didn't know that for so long.
I was so afraid of being full of pride and becoming arrogant that the need to be humble became a sickening low self-esteem problem. I couldn't let myself feel good because if I did, I was being too arrogant. "No one is that good," I'd tell myself, or I'd explain that the situation made me great, not me myself. There is a fine line between humility and self-depreciation, and I didn't get that. Now I do.
And, thank goodness, too! I'm just getting into my second week of class and I dropped one of them yesterday. The me from a year ago would have been too scared to. I would have told myself that the professor must be right, because he's the professor. I would have taken the fact that he wasn't listening to me (or anyone else in the class) and made it out to be somehow my own fault. Even though there was tons of evidence that, despite great credentials and knowledge, he was a bad teacher, I would have talked myself out of standing up for myself. Finally, I would have told myself that no one would believe it was that bad, that they would tell me I'm being immature and complaining, that this is accepted behavior for a professional.
The me that just got back from Japan has realized her own self-worth. Not only did I stand up for myself in the class and to the Dean, but I posted in the discussion boards and stood up for the rest of the students, too. It was strangely fulfilling, to acknowledge that I'm smart (not a genius, but I know when I've done the work I was told to do and you change the rules halfway through the assignment; you can't make me believe that I'm ignorant after I read and reread the boards three or four times!), that my money toward the class has meaning to me, and that we all deserve better.
I didn't even realize how stressed out with the class I was until today. The immense relief of knowing that I wouldn't have to try and convince some guy out there that I was someone worthy is incredible. I had been so irritable, so unhappy! I feel glad for the students that I helped, and I feel sorry for the students who haven't realized that they deserve better. Sure, the teacher could have been worse, but that doesn't mean that we should deal with a mostly-bad situation anyway. And, the humility is still there. I admit that I don't know why he did what he did, what the circumstances were, and I even feel a little sorry for him. Perhaps he had been given the wrong impression about the course and how it was supposed to go. I really don't know. Feeling that little tinge of guilt/sorrow for him, even knowing that I did the right thing, is what reminds me that I haven't crossed the line into being arrogant. I know that I and my classmates were being hurt (all you had to do was read their many posts), so unfortunately his pride was his undoing.
I have to wonder . . . how many people suffer because of this? How many people have been abused and are afraid to stand up for themselves, not only because they think they may have done something to deserve it (the myth that there is a right answer to everything, so you must have just missed the que or done something wrong), but because they refuse to allow themselves to believe that they are good enough to get out of it? It's frightening! I want to run out into the street and shout, "Stop it! You don't have to put up with bad treatment!" . . . But, even when you try to support some people escaping bad treatment, you can't save them. In the end, we all have to save ourselves at least a little bit; no one else can save a person completely.
It also makes me think about rules in employment that make it difficult to fire someone when they're doing a horrible job and tormenting people while they're at it. Perhaps it isn't as bad as it seems and it's just that I've seen far too many HR departments who are scared of pulling the trigger too soon. Don't get me wrong; everyone deserves a fair chance. It's just . . . well, doesn't it seem like the good guys always give the bad guys way too many second chances to redeem themselves? Despite the prolonged torture and distrust it breeds?
Anyway, the last thing this made me think of is that illusion that I had when I was really young, one that seems common amongst many of my friends. I had this impression that the Adults knew everything. I thought, Someday, I'll be one of them, and I'll know everything, too! And then, as you get older, you start wondering what it will feel like to be "grown up," even though in a rebellious age, you may second-guess everything that they tell you. Those are just the bad Adults, right? ;) And yet, despite going through that, I still felt insecure around the Adults when I started working at every job that I've had. It didn't matter how I dazzled people with my computer know-how or the way I'd create new, innovative ways to solve problems; I felt insecure around them. It was as if I was waiting for someone to announce that I was one of them, an Adult. I think we're all waiting for that at some point in our lives, to be treated like an Adult so that we know that we are one.
I realized two things:
1.) Adults are not as smart as I thought. :} In fact, some of them are more immature than any of the children I grew up with! On a daily basis, I look at some of the people I work with or see in the news and go, "OMG, I don't get it! Why are you behaving that way?!" They're inefficient, lazy, and purposefully go out of their way to not learn anything. That's not to say that I don't know any other smart people, because I know plenty of folks who know things that I just can't get, but no one "Adult" knows it all. They're just like children, only bigger! I'll be learning until the day I die!! :} AHHH!
2.) No one is going to crown you an Adult and give you all the rights and priveledges that they seem to have. You have to take it, and then people think, "Oh, (your name here)
So, I've taken my title. I still think of myself as young and enjoy it, but to those who think they can trample all over me, I have my Adult badge on, and it scares more people than you'd think! I guess I'm talking about cheesy, self-empowerment here, but I think it's important that someone says it this way. Someone else may have already said it before and I just didn't get the memo, but this is huge to me. I think this is something my brother tried to teach me a long time ago, but it didn't sink in as well as I'd thought it had: Whatever it is that you're waiting to be, all you have to do is be it. Believe it, and do it.