Reality Check: Overcoming a longstanding upset

If you seek out self-development resources for inspiration, then you already know that gurus, teachers, and coaches suggest that it’s helpful to have a positive outlook. But what if that positivity eludes you?

Tashia “knows” that anyone she meets is going to think badly of her. She’s self-conscious about everything: her weight, her posture, her work, her apartment, even her intelligence. And it’s all because of an incident that she’ll never forget.

One day when Tashia was in junior high, the teacher called on her to read aloud. As Tashia stumbled through the unfamiliar words, her teacher belittled her, commenting on her performance as “below average.” Tashia heard the whole class laughing at her; a humiliating moment that’s burned into her memory.

Over a decade later, Tashia still resents what that teacher did to her that day. She sees herself as still bearing the scars: she’s afraid to speak up, she has little self-confidence, and feels that she’s been permanently cheated out of a proper education.

In her mind, the “below average” label has stuck. Tashia is convinced that everyone she meets sees her defined by that label—a person who can’t even pronounce words correctly.

Tashia thinks that the incident should have never happened. That’s probably correct. Even if the incident wasn’t quite as cruel and mean-spirited as her perception reflects, it still doesn’t sound like she was in a very supportive learning environment.

However, the question today becomes…now what?

Tashia has gone over and over this incident in her mind for years, revisiting and reliving the humiliation. She has allowed it to act as an excuse that still holds her back from trying to make positive changes in her life. She feels weighed down by her burden, unable to go after the education she feels was denied to her, too frightened to seek out support, even too intimidated to try to make friends.  If only that teacher hadn’t been so cruel.

Excuses serve a purpose, and the purpose for Tashia’s excuse may be to protect what little self-esteem she has. If she doesn’t try anything new, she’ll never be exposed to ridicule again. No one will get the chance to think worse of her than she already thinks of herself.

When Tashia decides that she wants to make a change, it’ll be helpful if she can realize that the only power that teacher, and that incident, still has over her is embedded in her own mind. Then she can start looking at what she can do differently today.

What are some options for Tashia? Choosing a small activity where she will have a good chance of success would be a great place to start. My favourite recommendation is an activity related to learning, whether it’s a hobby or more formal “school.” Signing up for a class or group where there’s a supportive environment could be a great way for Tashia to develop confidence and meet new friends.

What options would you suggest that Tashia try?

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