At a young age, we respond to the question, ‘what do you wanna be or do when you get older?’ with confidence and enthusasim, an attitude like you can conquer the world and anything contained within in.
And then when you do get older, you’re told no. No, you can’t get be a politician. No, you’re not good enough to play football. No, boys can’t be ballerinas. No, you just can’t. We’re told no.
Sometimes, those “No”s come from yourself. I always told myself that I couldn’t work in science because I wasn’t smart enough and it wasn’t a low self esteem kind of thing, I just accepted and believed that was a border I couldn’t go past.
I’ve seen this advert by Samsung, several times, which inspired me to write this post. It’s really inspiring and it’s about people being told what they can’t and shouldn’t do, etc. It’s a great advert but I still refuse to ever get a Samsung phone.
I was told that I couldn’t get higher than a grade 4 in maths GCSE, by my teachers. I was at a level 3 at the time and instead of conforming to their No’s, I said yes. And I ended up going up three grades to a level 6 (equivalent to a B).
My psychology teacher told me I could probably get a D/C and should be ‘realistic’ with my goals for my grades. I got an A.
And here’s the little cherry on top with whipped cream.
I requested my teacher to mark my chemistry mock paper in front of me, believing I’d be strong and brave enough to pull through and also thinking her judgmental and harsh criticism about my mistakes would scar me enough to force me not to make the same mistakes again. Pretty good logic, right?
As I stood beside her, awkwardly, while my two friends sat a few meters away at a lab table, she began flicking through the pages, shaking her head and scribbling down with her red pen. She kept writing little comments like “really?” next to my answers and scattered a ton of question marks everywhere. Everywhere.
I just stood there, using all my strength to restrain the freaking river about to pour out my eyeballs, popping with veins. I mean, I didn’t even know what was going on when I was doing the test, how am I supposed to suddenly realise what my thought processes were and answer those goddamn red question marks.
This younger boy (I think year 9/10) came in at one point and asked my teacher what he got in his test and she started discussing with him his grade. I zoned out at this point but I remember the end of their conversation where he pursed his lips and asked “so I got the highest in the class.” My teacher puckered her lips and said “yes.” They locked eyes and I’m pretty sure they were having a moment. I just looked back and forth at both of them.
I swear to god if that boy had longer hair, he would have strutted away whipping it to the side. I could have gagged.
Anyways, at the end of her marking, she looked at me and said, “Shay (well, my full first name), most students are bad at a few topics and good at others.” She paused. “You’re bad at everything.”
I was speechless. How the hell am I supposed to respond to that. 😂
In a one to one in the sun, the next day, she explained to me that “I need to stop going out.” Stop going out? What is out?
She even drew out a graph for me, on the front of my paper, comparing my over-achieving-goody-goody-A-student progress in. year. SEVEN to my progress now, in year TWELVE. I don’t think it takes rocket science to figure out that A levels are just a tad, just a smidge, JUST A TEEENY WEEENY bit harder than year seven. You have to remember words like squamous epithelium and nucleophile. She even told me I was going to pass chemistry but I was going to be disappointed.
At the end of marking my paper, I asked her what my grade was. She thought for a while, flicking through the paper, “not a good grade.”
Cool, I thought, “but what grade?”
“An E, maybe a D.”
I found out that my grade was actually a high C, which is actually really not bad at A levels. I mean, I wouldn’t want a final C for my AS grade but the way she made my mock grade out to be made it seem like I’d have to resort to working in the world’s oldest profession…if you know what I mean.
Those are small examples about school and grades and I know most people reading will be doing exams and are currently at school (whether that be high school, University, etc) so I feel like those experiences may be relatable to you and also motivating. You may feel limited and people may tell you that you are limited but that isn’t necessarily true and I hope my experiences can prove that to you. I’m not the highest achieving student at school. I’d say I’m about average, nothing extraordinary, but I could still get to where I wanted to be so trust me, you can too.
Other examples, besides school experiences, include times where I have been asked to be quiet because I’m “too opinionated”. I’ve been told, indirectly, that I can’t be funny because I’m a girl. I’ve been told I’m small and weak. I’ve been told a lot of things and a lot of “can’t”s and “no”s.
Use those “No”s as a way to motivate yourself, prove them wrong because trust me, it feels so good! It’s kind of like revenge but more morally right? 😂 And it feels really good to do things people say you can’t do. Even if that person is yourself.
It takes hard work to prove people wrong but in the long-term it’ll be worth it. It’s a few months of work and a little bit of pain and a hell of a lot of stress for achieving the things you want. And it’s true, some people have to work harder than others. People in developing countries have to work very hard to even get the chance to be at a point of achieving the ability to go on to do secondary education. We get that for free. In fact, we have to go through with it.
Whether it be a marathon you’ve been told you can’t do, a test you’ve been told you can’t pass, whether it’s a condition you’ve been told you won’t be able to cope or manage or get past, do what they say you can’t do.
Work and push hard, prove people wrong and make yourself happy. Sometimes it’s not even about doing things to change the now, it’s about proving to people you can deal with whatever is happening or comes your way and nothing will crush you. You know yourself better than anyone, you know what you’re capable of. Others don’t. Be strong.
Say “No” to “No”s.