It doesn’t feel good to receive praise for something that you didn’t try very hard at. I am  “good” at conventional-education’s favourite things, apparently. Most of the time I wouldn’t try very hard, and then I would receive much praise and delight from my elders.

But my classmates, some trying so hard, putting everything they had in, desperate for those “good” grades, because they’ve been told that’s what makes them worthy. And this never seemed fair to me. It’s not. We’re all good at different things. We all like different things. Why were they not rewarded for their effort?

Why was I rewarded for my non-effort?

I followed this external validation down the path of pleasing others to jobs where I dreaded Monday morning, peeked out of my cubicle to try to catch a glimpse of the sky, and then put in a minimal amount of effort. I was met again with admiration, which I don’t deserve.

Not for those reasons anyway. I deserve a lot of things. We all do, inherently. We don’t need to be good at whatever our supervisors/professors/parents/friends are asking of us. We deserve everything for just being ourselves. I deserve admiration for when I try.

On the flip side of this, I once, in my early adulthood explorations of my creativity, submitted a recorded song for an assignment. I found the sheet music to a song online, practiced for hours in the music room of my residence, and, in a feat of bravery, recorded the vocals. I have never thought I was a good singer. But I was moved by the music and this expression. I got a dismal grade. I never had the courage to ask my professor (yes, this was in university.. it was during an alternative semester, so some creativity was encouraged) why.

That was 7 years ago.

I put my creative aspirations away (again). I had put them away, out of sight, before. Mostly, I think, because the validation I received was for other things. Even though I had been accepted to a performing arts school, I decided not to go. I stopped thinking of myself as creative.

I felt the need to define myself as either creative and “artsy” or good at math and science. Another fabricated binary. As I pull back the layers of myself and allow myself to be, I see that I am everything.

I discovered that I’m bi – right in the middle of the gay/straight binary – even though I had never considered this as a possibility because people told me bi wasn’t real.

It doesn’t feel good to be praised when you aren’t really trying, when you’re not being a full expression of yourself.

And now, I accept it: I am amazing and awful, I am brilliant and dull, I am everything and nothing, I am special and mundane.

I am a constant contradiction.


One thought on “Contradictions

  1. Isn’t “trying hard” yet another convention born from a society obsessed with binary concepts and undue judging? The question “why is she better when I am working very hard” doesn’t have the answer “she doesn’t deserve it because she is not trying as hard” but rather “because she is different and her mind works in a different way”. Of course, the first answer also has accusation and judgement. The validity of our efforts is decided over how much time we spend trying instead of the actual results. Anything that won’t make people feel inferior and threatened.

    Perhaps it’s the failure of the educational system. It puts too much importance on grades and reaching educational institutions, instead of appreciating knowledge for the beautiful job of widening one’s mind while helping the children to learn how to accept each other. Acceptance that is lost inside an extremely competitive environment, especially for the people who have to try “too hard”.

    This same educational system is trying “very hard” to place objective values on subjective states, like how good a song recording is. Something entirely subjective and ultimately something that one can learn to do with the proper encouragement and tuition, should one feel inclined to.

    Perhaps we are all contradictions, but I think this is yet another way of seeing everything in a binary way, much like the gender and the sexuality. We are all very different and unique. And between each extreme in a binary system, there are infinite possibilities. We just need to train our minds to see them.


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