OVERWHELMED

OVERWHELMED

'take it one step at a time'

an everyday moment:

Transitioning into university the past week has brought up feelings overwhelm and stress. I’m taking a subject where the people in my cohort range from having loads of prerequisite knowledge to zero prerequisite knowledge. Lucky me - I’m on the end with less prerequisite knowledge. It’s a fully online subject and the first week, I studied the first online module from morning into the evening - and literally from the pages of my diary, I felt so scared and incapable. After studying the module for hours on end, I felt so out of depth and unable to keep up with others who had greater background knowledge. Witnessing others talk about the topic with the familiarity of someone speaking their native language triggered a lot of insecurity and I felt defeated before the course had really started.


a reflection:

The thing is - this kind of situation is not isolated to this past week, there has been countless times where I have felt the pressure of needing to be fully ‘perfect’ and prepared with the knowing that I have mastery before doing something. Whether that is a dance, a speech, a performance - the need for 100% certainty that not only will I be okay but I will excel can feel really daunting. In my head, my safety and lovability was dependent on the condition that I will be the most excellent in the future task and receive praise - if not, attempting the task with less certainty of my capability was equivalent to opening myself up to criticism, rejection and disapproval. While it’s absolutely necessary and admirable to aim for excellence, I’ve put this pressure of excellence and confidence in areas where I am yet to learn - essentially expecting a baby to walk. The baby will walk at some point and will master walking, but we would never pressure them to start walking as soon as they are out of the womb and teach them that if they are not confident in their walking abilities at 1 month old, then that means they are doomed to never being able to walk.

But that is essentially the self-talk that was going on in my head, and if this happens in my head, it probably happens in others too. It sounds so absurd in the above analogy - so why do I do it? I think this fear/anxiety that I won’t be high performing is what I habitually used to challenge myself and grow. This insecurity drove an intense desperation to be over-prepared and be hyper-vigilant around what I need to do to be certain that I will secure ‘success’. But using fear and anxiety as the main motivator to be excellent is not sustainable - it leads to burnout and it prevents me from following my dreams. Dreams which require me to start from ground zero and requires experience and stumbles in order for confidence to grow. In these areas, such as blogs, social media, content creation - I can’t have full certainty that I will succeed, otherwise I will simply never be able to start.

In this way, life is ironic. To be ‘smart’ or to have a high level of mastery in a topic, you need to be ‘dumb’ and have low mastery of knowledge in a topic. What’s more, you can’t just be ‘dumb’ and pretend to be ‘smart’ to feel secure - to actually improve your level of mastery, you need to embrace your ‘dumb’ness and acknowledge your lack of understanding so that you can improve it. Mastery requires a level of not knowing. Same with basically everything else in life - to be confident, you need to know what it feels like to not be confident and you need to embrace and be okay in the moments where you are not confident - like being confident in your lack of confidence. Overwhelm is not necessarily a ‘bad’ feeling we should avoid, it’s a sign that there is a huge learning experience available in front of you. And it’s also a sign that you need to communicate whatever you feel you lack in, whether that’s knowledge or otherwise. People are here FOR your learning. The first step to competency is acknowledging your incompetence and patiently, kindly building from there - just like you would do for a friend.


magic in the mundane:

Taken from pages of my diary:

I studied a lot for this subject. I may not be dominating the class and feeling super confident in my knowledge of genetics but with my discipline I have faith that I can do well. I don’t need certainty. The only way of gaining certainty is by being uncertain first and then gaining certainty in the areas of uncertainty. I can see that since childhood the certainty that I will be the best made me feel safe, which explains the anxiety and desperation to feel fully prepared before attempting any task - which if I need to have this certainty 24/7, of I’m exhausted and overwhelmed. I give myself permission to be uncertain and feel safe, because I learn the most in this position. I felt like crying because I felt so intellectually behind - but WHY am I beating myself up. I have gotten so much further in building knowledge in the topic than where I had been at the start of the day - let studying be a reason to celebrate not to exhaust myself. Striving for academic validation is fruitless, if I study with my own intention and discipline to be excellent, validation becomes a byproduct and not a requirement. I saw this mantra somewhere saying that when you do things for your own satisfaction, you won’t need others validation (and ironically, you tend to get it anyway) but when you do things for validation, you will never feel satisfied until you get their validation. From the future Victoria, who's studying the same subject a week later - I find it laughable how much I felt I was struggling because my lack of knowledge felt so dramatic to the current reality where I’m starting to adapt and get the hang of studying for this subject.


fromtheheart mantras:

  • I do not have to have 100% certainty that I will be performing highly in future to feel safe. I can have zero certainty in my standard of performance in future, feel safe, trust my aim for excellence will hold true and be open to learning.

 

  • Overwhelm is not necessarily a ‘bad’ feeling we should avoid, it’s a sign that there is a huge learning experience available in front of you.

 

  • Mastery requires a level of not knowing.

 

  • Use opportunities where you are not the expert to be inspired by others and to demonstrate perseverance and resilience - where challenges are used to refine your skills rather than compromise your satisfaction and joy.

 

  • When you do things for your own satisfaction, you won’t need others validation (and ironically, you tend to get it anyway) but when you do things for validation, you will never feel satisfied until you get external validation

 

  • We are masterpieces and works in progress at the same time

 

  • Turn ‘I don’t have time’ into - 'I make time for this'.

 

from, the heart <3


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