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.