It's Genesis. I think I may have sent you a letter before (scratch that, I know I sent you one, I just don't know what email or alias I may have used) and your response helped a lot. I'm glad to see you're still happy and healthy.
I come to you today with a bit of a vague question, but a question nonetheless. It deals with confidence, surprise, surprise. A furry? Not confident? Nonsense. This one's a little different though, I swear.
School season's in. I'm in all honors classes, passing them, but lately, school has been causing me a lot of trouble.
All of my friends appear to be getting straight A's, are going into IB (an even more rigorous course than honors), and it has begun to hurt my confidence. I'm in honors, yes, but I'm an A-B student (a lot more BS than I want), and I often slip up on tests.
So, I'm torn. I really don't like school. I hate the factory-line mentality, hate how I'm a sheep in a herd and I have to go through my day not questioning anything, but, on the other side of things, I feel like trying and devoting more time to school and getting those A's, therefore keeping up with my friends, would make me happier in the long run and improve my confidence.
Now, before you say that old “don't compare yourself to others” line, hear me out. I kinda have to compare myself. The education system is extremely competitive, I need to keep up with my peers or one little furry isn't getting into college.
I've always had confidence issues. I feel a constant need to prove myself. Lately, I hate when people call me smart, because I don't do anything smart, so I can't really agree with them on that. My intellect used to be the one thing I prided myself on. My appearance isn't that great, and indulging in hobbies that people often look down upon doesn't help. The one positive trait I assigned to myself was that I'm intelligent, so I cannot loose that trait. It may not seem like much, to doubt your intellect, but when it's all you have...
I know I would be without doubt if I did better in school. It would be an easy way to show I was, indeed, smart, but I just really don't want to put in the effort to something I see as minuscule in the grand scheme of things. I see it as wasted effort. Call me lazy, but...
Plus, if I did bump that up, would I really feel smart, or would I just find another thing to doubt myself on? (I might say something like, “I'm still only in Honors, if only I took IB like everyone else...”)
So, my question is, how do I regain confidence? Should I try harder in school? Is there something else I should do? Or should I just look for another positive trait to latch onto, since I don't feel smart anymore? Accepting the fact I'm not a bright bulb could help, if I can move on from that.
Thanks for reading my mess.
Your raven, Genesis (age 15)
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If I understand what you’re saying, you are not enjoying school because it is a machine for pumping out drones to enter the worker world. This is actually a brilliant observation and shows that you are actually smarter than your peers who are striving to do whatever they are told to make good grades, get into college, get a degree, and get some job as an attorney or accountant or doctor or some such thing.
Because you don’t enjoy the process, it makes it difficult for you to study (this isn’t being lazy, this is an intellectual conflict within you), and because you find it hard to study for an exercise in what you feel is futility, you don’t do a stellar job on tests. Understandable.
When Papabear was in college, he learned how to study for tests and get A’s and to write papers that also got A’s. You know what I remember from all that? Not very much. A teacher once told a class I was in that if, on her death bed, her students came up to her and could recite the basic principles of Existentialism, she would die content. Well, she probably won’t die content because of me.
Our formal education system, whether public or private, is designed to make us good American capitalist consumers—cogs in a huge wheel. History courses are the best examples of this. The text books are so full of half truths and downright lies that it is downright criminal (some states are worse than others, with Texas, for example, rewriting texts to say that slavery was not a reason for the Civil War and to include stuff from the Bible as if it were fact in science courses).
So, when you say you don’t feel “smart” because some of your peers make better grades, you need to realize that this is just one category of “smart.” You are measuring yourself based on a ruler designed to make you a materialistic conformist.
Let’s back up a bit and redefine “smart.”
There are three facets of the intellect:
The facet of intellect that is encouraged at schools is mostly knowledge (although problem-solving is sometimes also part of the lesson plan). I don’t believe I have ever heard an example coming from schools in which teachers tried to explain wisdom to their students, however. And they certainly don't teach young people to question authority or the American way of life.
You might get a bit of a self-esteem boost by recognizing that you have the wisdom to question how you are being educated rather than just going through the numbers to get the paper to get the job to make the money to pay the taxes and go into debt and become another wage slave.
I would suggest that you take a step back and reevaluate your goals in life. Perhaps you need to simply change your course of study to something you will enjoy more (my sister switched from business to biology and was much happier, for example). Perhaps you need to think much farther ahead and decide what you would like to do in life, realizing that if you are doing something you love you will never work a day in your life. And remember: money isn’t everything.
Did I avoid the “don’t compare yourself to others” cliché well enough for you? ;-)
The other thing you need to do is work on that self-esteem of yours. Why exactly are you so hard on yourself? Sounds like you are beating yourself up for qualities about yourself because they don’t fit the “norm.” Perhaps you are not “conventionally pretty” and perhaps your hobbies are likewise unconventional. This doesn’t make you inferior; it makes you unique. I’ve always found unique people a lot more interesting than the human drones who otherwise flood our population. Celebrate your individuality; don’t chastise yourself for it.
One more thing: you might also set yourself apart by practicing something rare in our world: kindness. There are many intelligent and knowledgeable and successful people in this world, but there are not very many kind ones.
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