I’m in the process of studying data science for (crossing fingers) an upcoming career change. It requires that I learn a lot of coding and a lot of math.
It’s the latter that’s been my struggle. Every time I open a book or press play on a video, I hear my middle school math teacher’s voice:
“You’re a smart kid, but you’re just not very good at math.”
It’s been 30 years. I’ve taught math for almost 20 of those. I have exam scores, teaching awards and recognition from the school community to prove those words wrong.
But it’s still not enough to completely silence them.
Because those words came from a trusted and respected person at a pivotal time. I had not yet developed any narrative of my own around my math ability. It was an empty slot in my young brain and so those words easily slid in, like a cartridge in a tape deck. And once they were installed, they became a part of me.
We all have those pivotal encounters in our younger years that shape us and stay with us. Whether it’s your parent negatively comparing you to your sibling that leaves you feeling less than, a teacher that makes you question your ability, a pastor that leads you to wonder if you’re broken or a partner that makes you question if you’re lovable.
We’re vulnerable to those messages when we’re young and we haven’t fully settled into ourselves. So we look to those that we hold in esteem to help us figure out who we are.
Sometimes that goes well. I hope everyone can look back and remember that one person (or more) that lifted you up and acted as training wheels for your burgeoning confidence.
And sometimes it doesn’t go so well.
My ex-husband’s voice is still housed in my brain somewhere. I’ve mainly managed to silence it, but if I let my guard down, it likes to speak up.
“You’re impossible to live with, always negative.”
I try to throw counter-evidence at it to beat it into submission. But it’s resistant. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to completely evict it.