Even if They’re Good, Some People Aren’t Confident

Today, I let onto my English class that I don’t feel at all confident in my work. At the time, I felt like sobbing but now? I realise that it’s taught me something.

English has always been my favourite subject. I know that I’m at least good at it, because of my GCSE results and the fact that I get alright marks in the stuff I’ve done so far. Because of that, both my class and I didn’t understand why I was so… Down about the work.

We had to write an essay on how marriage was presented in Chapter 2 of the Great Gatsby. I did it for homework, putting effort in but not making it concise or linked enough: I got a B.

For my first essay for that teacher, I KNOW that’s good. At A-Level, at the start, you aren’t expected to get good marks – I got a C in my last english essay because I didn’t round it off enough, and the only reason I got an A in my history essay was because I spent so long on it (longer than you have in the exam) and because the grade boundaries are low.

Still, I know it was good: I know, though, that I could have improved. Listening to the flawless (or it seemed so) paragraphs of some of my classmates, the points they produced effortlessly, made it seem cheap. Shit. We had to go round the class and read out a particular passage that we were proud of, and I was last to do it.

Now, that was a bit of anissue for me. I was all set to read my introduction, but as other people started reading, I began to compare myself. “GOD, you could have written that more concisely,” or “Toooo many quotations, read that instead – your points aren’t linked enough!” It was ridiculous, but I couldn’t help it.

Then, it got to me, and I felt myself freeze. All the rest of the class had had similar issues: they complained, saying that there work wasn’t good enough, and one girl (who had an amazing essay) @refused to read it herself. I understood. And then it got to me.

“Miss,” I said, as the class went silent. I KNEW what I was about to do, that I would take this to the extreme and show my emotions on my face. “Miss, it feels like it’s at GCSE level. It’s just so… Basic, not what you want at A-Level.”

“Oh, I’m sure it’s fine!”

No, I thought. It might be fine for you, for the class, but it’s not fine for me. I wanted to do more, stretch myself, reach for those amazing points and truly achieve what I KNOW I’m capable of doing. I CAN improve, I WILL improve, but making me face up to what I haven’t done in front of everyone makes me feel terrible.

The comments I got from the rest of the people around me were actually not very helpful, which makes me sad. Then again, I would have been in their position too – assuring them that I KNOW their essay would be great. How can I be upset with them when I know that they WERE trying to help?

“It’s like what I’d write at GCSE – there’s no development to it. It’s just not good enough,” I said in a bitter tone, feeling like my embarrassment was choking me because I’m not used to airing my problems with so many people who don’t understand me.

A girl to my right muttered, “Yeah, like what at GCSE with your A star…” in a not quite scathing tone. She didn’t mean it nastily, but I felt my eyes watering, my face flaming.

The teacher: “… Yet you still got a B.”

“That’s not the point!” I wanted to scream. Yes, I’m happy with a B and I know that at the moment, that’s a really good mark to get. What made me the most sad was the fact that I felt as if my feelings were being undermined, JUST because I’d done well at GCSE. I did well today, but it still doesn’t stop me from feeling a bit inadequate, and no one should make you feel like you can’t talk about it.

“Aww, Elm, you look so disgusted!” said a girl across the classroom that really, didn’t know me. I murmurred “Well I am,” so that only my friend Swan who sat next to me could hear. All of it – people who didn’t believe me when I said I couldn’t stand my work, the teacher who couldn’t understand the fact that my self-confidence was shit, and the boy who ALSO didn’t get why a lot of people find it so hard to say good things about themselves – built up to a roar inside my mind.

That boy was the last straw. He was confident in what he wrote (and it was good); I’m glad he was because I Suppose that gave people more confidence to read theirs. What I didn’t like was how he didn’t seem to take in that other people DO NOT find it easy, and maybe they didn’t voice it so much, but me and the other girl did. I did, to a point where I’m most likely viewed as the girl who hates her work.

It IS difficult to tell people why you like what you wrote, to pick it apart and not criticise it, and I failed at that today. I failed at reining in my pure loathing for my work, because as much as I don’t think it’s an awful piece of writing, the fact that people wouldn’t take in that I thought I could have done better really hurt. It’s not their fault, because everyone gets unconfident when they have to read things out to the class, but I just wish I didn’t present that side to the class because it’s something I don’t want them seeing.

Something like feeling inadequate is a private thing. For me, it’s not how I want people seeing me – there’s more to me than that. Even I don’t understand why sometimes, I tell people that my work is awful when realistically, it’s the best I could have done. My old English teacher would have sat me down, explained to me what I did wrong, but then said: “Look. You WON’t be expected to get an A now, Elm. You have to work up to it, and you’ve already got a good foundation.” He knows how my mind works, how I can be so hard on myself.

I learned today that you should never try and dismiss someone’s feelings, just because YOU think they’ve done well. To them, they’ll be comparing themselves and beating themselves up: supporting them is good, but think a bit before you make a judgement of them. Sometimes, you being in the same situation can help because they need to know they’re not alone, but if it gets to the point where you can see disgust at themselves on their face, stop. I hope I’m not being patronising: I’ve done what people today did too, so I get it.

I love my English class; the people there are amazing. However, today made me think that maybe, it’s ME that has to get confidence in myself.

Just because someone’s ‘good’ at a subject, it doesn’t mean they’re proud if they read something out. It just means they’re human, with human flaws and insecurities. I’ll try and remember that, next time I hear in someone’s voice that they’re in the same situation as I was.

From Elm πŸ™‚

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32 thoughts on “Even if They’re Good, Some People Aren’t Confident

  1. It completely blows my mind every time I read something you’ve written. You are one of the smartest, most eloquent people I know. Don’t let anyone else tell you that you shouldn’t hold yourself up to a high standard, or make you feel like you’re silly not being happy with anything less than. That being said it is important to realise that sometimes, some of the work you do just isn’t going to be spectacular. No one expects you to constantly come out with brilliant work that deserve top marks, and you shouldn’t either. It’s important to do good, but it’s also important to do bad, because without doing something badly you’ll never learn new things and how to improve. I hope this helps. Just know that you are brilliant in more ways than one. It is hard to show your feelings towards yourself publicly, especially if they’re negative, but just remember everyone feels like that sometimes. Some more often than others, but everyone understands not being happy with yourself, be it academically, physically, emotionally, mentally, or any other number of categories.
    Love, Rhea, xx.

    • Yeah, exactly! Thank you so much for all your encouragement; I’ve missed you a lot πŸ™‚ you’re right though – I think I just need to give myself a break. But I’m really glad you like my writing!

  2. I know exactly how you feel, Elm! English is my best subject, and I got A*s all last year and a mix of As and A*s the year before. But I can’t help but feel that my work isn’t good enough… Everyone keeps telling me that it is, but all I can see is the bad parts. There’s so much pressure, and no one in my class seems to care about how worried I am about English (stupidly, out of all my exams at the end of this year my English ones are the ones that I’m the most nervous about!). At the moment, it’s all getting too much – I can’t think properly, nothing is flowing, and I’m beginning to dread my English lessons. I had my first panic attack in a long time in English the other day – luckily it was small enough for me to conceal (or so I thought) but my teacher noticed and asked if I was okay at the end of the lesson – and then told my tutor and house mentor (which, despite it being slightly embarrassing, is really lovely of her – it’s nice to know that she’s looking out for me!).

    I know that was very long winded (sorry, I just really needed to get it off my chest but I don’t really want to say anything to my friends!), but my point was that I know exactly how you feel – so if you ever need to talk to someone I’m here! ❀
    (Plus, I know it will get better for the both of us – it's all about trying to stay positive and see the good parts of things!)

  3. I feel like this a lot and it’s nice to know I’m not alone, but a shame that you feel like this. I know that you are a great writer but, often, even if loads of people tell you, you still can’t believe it. I get that. It’s just about trying to accept your own writing, I guess, as hard as that is.

    • It is hard, but I know I will slowly start to manage it πŸ™‚ thanks so much for your support; knowing that you understand means so much to me!

  4. I know what you mean Elm. It’s the same for me when I’m doing a test in Italian which obviously isn’t my 1st language. Even if I know it’s right, I know it’s good, I don’t always have the courage to say something, or speak up. I wish your teacher could see your blog to see how amazing and complex your writing is!

  5. I can relate to this so much! Everybody expects me to do amazingly in my subjects this year because of my results last year, but that isn’t the case at all. From nat 5 to higher is such a huge step and I’m sure its the same with GCSE and A level. Good luck!

    • Thanks so much, and good luck to you too! I think will be okay πŸ™‚ all we need to do is keep positive, and things should fall into place. Just because we did well last year doesn’t mean we will do this year, but we can at least try

  6. I know how you feel. All I can say is that it was really brave to say that you weren’t confident with your work. Everyone can always improve something and if that takes time, so be it.
    -Dani

  7. Firstly, I HAVE to commend you on being able to get up in front of the whole class and explain how you’re feeling. That in itself, is an achievement.
    This kind of mentality, the kind that you experienced when you spoke in class is what closes the mind and closes the door to improvement. Yeah, so you did super well, but that doesn’t mean you cannot do BETTER. There’s always room for improvement and personal growth. Your confidence levels have become better so I know that they can only keep going up πŸ™‚ You’ll get there one day, I just know it.

    • You know what, by that comment, you’ve encouraged me! Thanks so much πŸ™‚ I just need to remember that I will get there, even if it takes time. I’m trying my best, but sometimes my best can be better – all I need to do is keep as positive as possible.

  8. Oh hon, this happens a lot to everyone and I hate it. You just have to learn and move on, and be confident because there’s a reason you’re in A-level class (it’s called that right?) You’re good enough to be there and you’re there to learn and be better. The first step to being amazing at something is not being that great on it once in the beginning. I promise, a while more and your classmates will be praising your work *hugs*

  9. you and i are seriously having like the exact same school struggles this year, what even? but yeah english has always been my best subject as well and this year i’m taking it at an AP level and i’ve gotten B’s on every essay i’ve written so far (2 or so). thinking of you from where i’m at, WE CAN GET THROUGH THIS πŸ™‚

  10. Oh my god I can relate so much to this Elm! I got an A* at GCSE and yet my first 2-3 essays have been given a B or A/B at best and I feel like crying when I see it… but other people who didn’t do so well sense that I’m unhappy with it and get kinda resentful and it makes me feel sooo upset and guilty. You should never be afraid to be honest though πŸ™‚

    • Oh my goodness thank you, I’m so glad I’m not alone! It’s the almost to resent that gets me, because It feels like I’m doing my best but that’s not good enough

  11. You know, Elm you’re both right. Really. They’re right because really, you did amazing! That’s so great! But you’re right because they don’t get to decide what’s acceptable for you. I know I’m still beating myself up because I missed a problem on a test the other day because I wrote the answer to a simple division problem wrong. Yes, you could have maybe done better, but you still did really well, and you should absolutely celebrate that! (Not that I’m condoning their behavior. That’s rude.)
    -Amy

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