I recently started tutoring a Korean woman who wants to improve her English conversation skills. She understands almost everything and her writing is good, but she lacks speaking confidence and wants to practice in a safe environment. I like tutoring and I always find that when I teach others, I’m often learning as much as I’m teaching.
I started my first session with this woman trying to grasp her personality. She was excessively modest about her English skills and kept looking at the floor or at the books on my shelf whenever she spoke. I let her finish her self-introduction and then gradually started talking to her about self-confidence. She admitted that she lacked self-confidence and that this had been a life-long struggle. This was the offset for the long conversation that followed.
Too often we fail to believe in our true potential, and thereby we fail to be all that we can be. I’ve always been told that no one is to be tasked with anything that exceeds their abilities. True, but turning those words around, isn’t it our own individual responsibility to discover the limit of our abilities and keep pushing said limits? As we continue to learn and explore, the limits will naturally expand.
I’ve had many failures and successes in life, and when thinking about them, the successes were always the result of believing in myself combined with a determined stubbornness to push myself to the limit. I didn’t always do things the right way or the best way, but I have continuously challenged myself and kept pushing my limits, which indeed did prove to be a moving target. Of all the things I’ve learned, the most important lesson is probably “no matter if you think that you can, or you think that you can’t – you’ll always end up being right”. We tend to be our own worst critics, but with time I’ve come to never say things about myself that I didn’t wish were true. They just don’t help.
If you’re bad at spelling or being on time, don’t say “ah, I suck at spelling” or “I’m always late”. If it doesn’t matter, then say nothing at all and focus on what you’re good at. If it does matter, then stop whining about it and do something instead. Identify your frequent spelling mistakes and teach yourself the proper spelling. Set aside twice the time you usually use for writing and then spell check everything. With time, you’ll improve, and your problem disappears. If your problem is being late, actively take measures to make sure that you are 10 minutes early for your next appointment. You alone are in charge, and you alone can change yourself. So, if something bothers you about yourself, don’t broadcast it – change it. And remember Shakespeare who said: “Nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”. Thinking that you are an amazing person with unlimited potential is your key to succeeding in reaching your goals.
I’m a firm believer in constant self-development. Don’t just get older – get better. Always strive to be a better version of yourself today than you were yesterday. Feed your curiosity, develop your interests, read, read, read, and then read some more. Listen to podcasts that interest or inspire you, look at the habits and actions of those you admire and copy them. Always think to yourself: “If they can do it, so can I”.
Whether you’re learning a language, training for a marathon, completing a work project, starting a business, writing a book, trying to find a job, or just interested in your hobby; commit to building and developing your skills every day. Let go of the fear of failure. The biggest failure is never trying in the first place. If you don’t succeed in your first try, just learn from your mistakes and then power on!
Celebrate your small victories, and remember to tell yourself that after all, the big victories in life are simply the sum of the small ones. Tell yourself that you have infinite potential and make it a goal in life to learn the scope of that potential.
Don’t be shy about making mistakes but try to find the comedy and irony in all situations that intimidate you. Sometimes you may have to look harder than others, but trust me, humor surrounds us, and the more you train yourself to see life through the eyes of a comedian, the more you can laugh at yourself and let go of your fear.
Finally, start each day by being in control. Spend a few minutes each morning thinking about (or preferably writing down) the things that you are thankful for. This can be your family, your friends, your health, your morning coffee – nothing is too big and nothing is too small. Whatever makes you happy. We, humans, are blessed with a brain that can only think of one thing at a time. The more you make a habit of thinking about what makes you happy and thankful, the less time there’ll be for negative thoughts, self-doubt, and self-blame.
If you need a Korean kick in the butt to boost your self-esteem, allow me to introduce you to a catchy song called Pick me from the talent show Produce 101, which recently aired on Korean tv. Especially the chorus is amazing: “Tonight, I’m the star!” Think of yourself that way always. And enjoy!