“Anxiety and self-doubt are the key ingredients in the recipe for underachievement.”*
-*Adapted from a quote by Leon Seltzer, PhD.
“I don’t think I can do it this time,” Cara*, my former student, said to me with tears in her eyes. “I don’t think I can get As this semester. It will be a stretch for me.”
Cara was approaching semester finals. For context this young lady was brilliant. She had gotten straight As her entire academic career, including during the prior semester. She was at the top of her class and a leader in STEM among her peers. She had received national recognition for her intellect. But for some reason she didn’t think she could do it this time.
“Why?” I probed.
She didn’t have an answer. “I don’t know why I feel this way,” she lamented. I did. Let’s survey the evidence.
The evidence demonstrated that she was highly capable and probably one of the highest performing students at her school. The evidence demonstrated that she could perform at elite levels in both local and national forums.
So why in the face of all of this evidence, would she believe that she was not capable of doing something that she’d done many times before? Why would she believe the proposition that she could not do it in the face of countless examples that she could?
The answer was clear. This wasn’t about ability or talent. This was about an internal war raging inside of her. She was being internally pummeled and brow beaten by the lies of self-doubt and anxiety. Lies that, if believed, threatened to paralyze her and prevent her from performing at the level at which she was capable, and ultimately, keep her from achieving the greatness for which she was destined.
When we become paralyzed by our fears, doubts and insecurities, we are neutralized. The gifts, talents and unique attributes that have been bestowed upon us by our Creator will never see the light of day. As a result, suffering and deprivation ensue. Not just our own internal suffering as we cope with the regret we experience after giving up and allowing our gifts to go unrealized, but the world suffers a loss as well in that it has been deprived of the enrichment those gifts would offer.
Each of us, no matter at what point in time and space we find ourselves, are at that moment for a reason. Shaped by our past experiences, we arrive prepared to each moment we encounter, especially the challenging ones.
No matter how scary it may feel, we must embrace these moments. We must choose faith over fear. If we refuse to take that next step and choose to believe the lies that we can’t do it, we will have squandered our gifts.
I let Cara in on my assessment.
“Cara, you were made for this moment and every moment like this that you will encounter in the future,” I said. “You are more than capable of mastering this material. You have done this before. You will do it again. Do your part. Run the race to win and believe.”
I say the same to you, dear reader. Whatever you are facing, do not give up. The world is waiting with bated breath to see what you will accomplish once you cross your finish line.
*Name has been changed to protect the student’s privacy