I hate myself. I hate my life. I hate the stress that comes with a new situation. I hate how I never feel prepared enough no matter how little or how much I work. I hate how I don’t use my time as well as I thought I would. I hate how I feel that I’m not reaching my potential.
I’ve had this problem all my life, but it really became evident when I was in the 7th grade. I was lazy, disorganized, immature, and afraid. Bad work habits (no work habits) and disorganization brought me to a place of self-loathing as assignment after assignment piled up and my report card looked worse and worse. I was sure that I was stupid and that everyone else was better and smarter than me. I was terrified and miserable and the only things that would have fixed it were understanding the work I was supposed to do (math was especially hard) and doing my homework every day. But I didn’t know this. I also didn’t know I had ADHD.
Now I’m working with students who have some of the same problems. I work with a group of 7th and 8th graders who all admitted to me that the reason they are in the Credit Recovery class is for not doing their work. They are smart enough to not blame their teachers or anyone else. They take the responsibility. But they need to go further. They need to change what got them to me in the first place. So my job as a teacher is not to teach only about Charlemagne or the Holy Roman Empire or George Washington, but to teach students self-discipline and love for learning. I need to teach them that purposeful action is the key to self-love.
I also need to teach them (or maybe myself) to not be too hard on themselves. This self-hate is really just another form of self-sabotage that keeps us from doing our work. Also, that critical voice is never satisfied. It never says, “Okay, you’ve done enough. Good job.” It always says that you haven’t done enough or that that it could be better. Here’s the funny thing. It rarely is enough and it probably could be better. But that’s not the point. The point is I got started.
This is what I want to teach my students – to Get Started. So many things don’t get finished because they don’t even get started. The other thing I want to teach them is to Keep Going. That is the other reason things don’t get finished. People don’t Keep Going until something is done.
But when we finish something, even if it’s not perfect, (whatever that means) the self-hate disappears. At least mine does. I realize it was a lie, that I don’t hate myself, I’m just nervous. That’s when my Muse comes and whispers in my ear. “Good work. You did your best. Don’t compare yourself to others, no matter how much you admire them. When you read a book on how to get better in something, even a very good book, and the author seems perfect and disciplined and orderly, just remember that he or she is a writer just like you. He or she is also imperfect just like you. You only see the book, not the whole life. And he or she is growing and changing just like you.”
And when I feel disappointed in myself, my Muse adds, “I am not disappointed. I am so proud of you and everything that you are doing.” I love that encouragement. It’s the same encouragement I want to give to my students. I want to do for them what my Muse does for me – show them that they can Get Started and Keep Going.