“Did you hear anything about Cords, yet?”
The question was asked innocently, a friend casually wondering if I had received any notification about the Cords of Distinction awards. He did not have any idea of the way those words would hurt. He did not realize I had not even been nominated.
The week that I figured out I had not been nominated for Cords of Distinction was rough; I was dealing with disappointments and rejections in other areas of my life, both academically and personally. So maybe it is understandable that I walked around for a while with an attitude of frustration and blame. It was as if I needed to convince myself that I still was a good student, still a valuable member of the community.
The voice in my head was on a repeating loop, listing my accomplishments: volunteering at a local preschool. Participation in Royals Society. Six completed semester hours of independent biology research. Teacher’s Assistant for the incoming Honors class. Four semesters of volunteered copy editing at the Weather Vane. Involvement in my local church.
The thing is, though, that while getting stuck in these endless loops of insecurities and frustration may be understandable, it is not helpful. And it is not healthy.
An easy response is to do what I did: blame the system for overlooking people, walk around with a chip on your shoulder, feel slighted and (oddly) both insecure and entitled.
It is harder to respond with maturity and grace, and yet this is the necessary path.
When I think about the ways I have grown since my first year on campus, from a shy eighteen-year-old kid who would not talk in her classes to a twenty-two-year-old woman who won the C. Henry Smith Oratorical contest, I feel just as worthy of validation as any winner of the Cords, which leads me to the following question: why did I feel so bad about myself when I was not nominated? I think the answer is that I had internalized the message that someone else needs to validate me for my work to matter.
The truth of the matter is that everyone is overlooked at one point or another. If we are dependent on someone else to tell us we are worthwhile, we will eventually be disappointed. We will eventually fall into cycles of insecurity, all the while blaming others.
If, however, we can cultivate a sense of our own self-worth that is built on honest reflections about the ways we have grown, we will be less dependent on outside sources to make us feel good about ourselves.
The best thing about this way of responding is that it frees us from resentment, which enables us to truly celebrate others’ accomplishments.
-Emily Harnish, Copy Editor