A friend of mine recently told me how certain events in her life made her realize she should take herself seriously. The minute she said it, I was hit with an aha moment. Allow me to explain…
For someone who based her worth and validity on externalities- academia and intelligence, taking myself seriously is something that came easily but not necessarily in a good way. I would exert myself, striving over and above, trying to assert my intelligence through academic means to prove a point.
My transcript represented all my self-worth. If the numbers were high, I felt great about myself. If the numbers were low, you guessed it, I couldn’t look myself in the mirror. This carried on for the majority of my life until the moments of not looking at myself in the mirror became the norm. I struggled through my first degree and so, my self-worth faltered and limped along with me.
This led to me to not take myself seriously. This meant taking myself out of the game. Naturally, I concluded that because my transcript had low marks, it meant I myself was low.
Why read that book? I’m not smart enough to understand it. Why take that extra class when I’m already failing my prescribed ones? I found myself keeping silent in somewhat intellectual or academic conversations because I felt I had nothing to add that would be substantial. Why apply for that job? I wasn’t worth it.
This was further propagated by the constant rejections of job and fellowship opportunities. Until one day, an application I tried several times actually came back positively. This opportunity had me as 1 of 100 people in a professional development experience and not only that, I was assigned to a Fortune 500 company. This was a dream come true.
And if I have to be completely honest, it was a dream that I didn’t even know I had because I had taken myself out of the game.
Fast forward to my time during the program, I remember I sat in a meeting where a legal matter was discussed and I made a remark under my breath. Someone caught me and asked me to repeat myself louder. My voice quaked. I was the least qualified person in the room and felt that I had no right to comment. I was urged to repeat what I said again and when I did, the room looked at me stunned.
I thought I had made the most obvious and silliest remark, only to find that they felt like they learned something from it. I learned at that moment, they took me seriously. They counted me as worthy of being in that room. I was asked question after question and contributed to the conversation. I remember walking out of that room taking myself seriously. I walked out of that room feeling esteemed beyond what my transcripts had to say about me.
Several moments, during my time at Comcast, had me realizing my transcript was not the deciding factor of my worth and intelligence. My esteem strengthened. I was able to look in the mirror and genuinely believe I was worth it. This time, I didn’t use externalities.
I intentionally started to get acquainted with myself and invest in myself as if I were truly worth it. Something changed.
Neuroscientists propagate the notion that our brains are neuroplastic, meaning that our brains are ever changing. We can grow new thought patterns and increase our capabilities intentionally if we choose to. It can start by simply believing differently about yourself that will enable your brain to change its composition to assist you in that regard. For me, believing my intelligence wasn’t confined to a school grade was the beginning of my brain composition aiding me to think differently.
Intelligence means a lot to me, learning means a lot to me so this time instead of using the proverbial transcript I decided to just learn for the sake of learning. I found myself reading books at faster speeds because I no longer read to prove a point, I read because I was genuinely interested. I applied confidently for things. I took part in conversations and I said yes to opportunities even when at the back of my mind, I felt like I might not be worth it. So far so great.
I realized that what was holding me back from expanding was me. I was enslaved by numbers on a transcript that told me I only knew 54% of Calculus. I learned that stepping outside those numbers, I had other competencies that could be developed.
I speak well, I write well, I read and understand things faster than I thought and so much more. All this was not measured by numbers on a transcript. I can take myself seriously now. I make sure I read, learn the best and most I can because I can. So can you!
What is enslaving you from taking yourself seriously? What is holding you back from reaching for that dream?
As cliche as it sounds, I have to admit that I realized deep down inside, I was the problem. My warped perceptions of myself had me sitting on the bench of life and not playing.
What the fellowship taught me is that others esteemed me, even when I didn’t esteem myself and that is wrong. It should be the other way around. Esteem yourself, sit at the table, as Sheryl Sandberg says “lean in”, you can do it and not only that but you are worth it.
Here’s my message to you. That class? Take it, you are smart enough to work hard and smart to succeed. That conversation? Tell them what you read regarding the topic. That job offer? Apply, because you are qualified.
If you genuinely feel you aren’t up to par, do something about it, invest in yourself because you are worth the investment. Take yourself seriously, seriously esteem you, we all do.
Seno Namwandi is one of the pioneers of Intellectual Property (IP) in Namibia, with 3 years of experience; she currently serves as the youngest director on the board of the Business Intellectual Property Authority (BIPA), the national IP regulatory body. As a board member, she plays a critical role in ensuring BIPA fulfills its fiduciary duty to the government and citizens. Her oversight includes the review of policy, making strategic decisions and monitoring the financial status. Seno is also employed at the International University of Management (IUM) where she serves as the Director of Innovation and IP. Her role involves supporting research from a perspective of innovation and establishing and managing the IP generated.
Additionally, she consults for companies in drafting IP strategies. Seno has a Masters degree in IP from Africa University, Zimbabwe and other postgraduate certifications in IP. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology from Stellenbosch University, South Africa. Her unique combination of qualifications enables a broad understanding of technical fields such as science, commerce, and regulatory issues. Seno plans to return better equipped to contribute to governance and policy issues in Namibia, especially focusing on transparency, implementation, and accountability.