Ego Death – Complete destruction of all you perceive to be “you”. Recognizing that all or a significant factor of “yourself” is false. Reevaluating “your” self or life or progress.
Inspired by Aun Aqui’s “My Sweet, Stupid Car“.
“Burning paper plane crashing” — Image by © C.J. Burton/Corbis
I must be an idiot. So fucking stupid!
Wha..? How am I sucking so BAD?!!
But I studied all night!!! How did I….FUUUUUCK!!!
To be fair, these were only some of many thoughts that circled my brain during my first semester of my master’s degree. Other thoughts included foraging for food, fighting to the death for a computer in the lab, and praying for more time to sleep.
“Oh my, you are so smart!”
I was a straight-A student for much of my life. While I’ve always been developing and growing throughout my entire life, this “smartness” always held true. I wasn’t the “hot girl”, I was the smart girl. I wasn’t the “party girl”, I was the stay-at-home-and-study girl. I wasn’t the “fun girl”, I was the “let’s-copy-off-the-smart” girl.
I’ve always been told I’m smart. That’s how I’ve made friends, that’s how I found “my place”. Mind power, intelligence, connection -all possible with smarts. It’s a certain “elitism” when you’re at the top of the class, staring down at all the other “struggling mortals” and feeling that sense of -god forbid- superiority (okay this wasn’t ever me, I wasn’t a genius, and I certainly didn’t have the esteem for superiority).
I always felt that even if I was alone, I was fine. I’d get a good job, get my PhD and it wouldn’t matter if I was alone, or never made real friends. Because my brain was more valuable, it would secure my future, and I could make friends later.
I remember thinking, I don’t need to date anyone, I need to pass my classes! I don’t need boy troubles and romance drama to derail my academic career. I can do all of that later. That’s the smart thing to do.
*Pregnant Pause… You’re an IDIOT!
Ever watched House M.D. ? Those scenes when Hugh Laurie (acting in the character of Dr. Gregory House) would gaze up to the far right, frown, and tilt his head down and to the left in order to face the camera to deliver his condemning line “You’re an IDIOT!” *chuckle.
Flash-forward to my masters degree. NOTHING LIKE UNDERGRAD.
After being a straight A student my entire life, I had complete and utter breakdown when I started getting low grades in my classes.
And I fell into the trap of thinking –I must be STUPID.
- Stupid, because no one else seemed to struggle with the material.
- Stupid, because no one else seemed fazed by the strange exams.
- Because I was the only one who didn’t seem to “get” it.
Because I kept failing, by grade standards and my own standards.
That sort of shit really mind-fucked me.
If I wasn’t smart, who was I? An idiot? Nothing? Shit….
Figuratively, I walked around with a “Behold the Dunce” cap/aura until the end of the first year when I realized some important factors I had failed to take into consideration before drawing such hasty conclusions.
- I’m NOT Stupid – I just learn differently.
- I’m in a top tier university renown for their tough testing standards -for good reason.
- Academic integrity became a hot topic after several high scoring individuals were caught cheating. Turns out, a lot of people were.
- I am majoring in applied statistics, a subject that I’ve NEVER studied before in my life. How radical is that? How many people go into a masters for a topic that they’ve never even taken a high school class on? Plus, it’s not like I was going for English, history or art; statistics is a tough subject that takes more analytical strength and quantitative creativity than anything I’ve studied before. Including computer programming.
- I could have been better about utilizing resources available – like tutoring, better study processes, and other aspects that would have been super useful for boosting my learning curve. Not that I didn’t study or didn’t utilize peers/professors, but that I could have been smarter about how I went about the process (study smart, not hard).
- This degree won’t last forever (I finished one semester later).
- This letter/number is not a reflection of my skills, abilities, or who I am.
- I need better self evaluation standards…
also… I am Not my grades.
Ego Death can be a good thing. Nothing like a shocking loss of identity value to force reevaluation of oneself at the basest, deepest levels.
Don’t let numbers, letters, rankings or standards tell you how smart you are or whether you’re “good enough”. They can’t figure that out from a test or exam, and you shouldn’t base yourself on such. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t study or do your best, but it does mean that if it doesn’t work out, or if you face disappointment, don’t let that translate into self-hate or self-blame.
Embrace the opportunity.
What doesn’t kill makes you stronger. Maximize life opportunities and don’t look back. My motto is, if you find yourself at a wall, carve out a door and stick a handle in it. Walls are doors in disguise.