Best Advice If You Want To Be No. 1 All The Time
Teh Healinghart Centre Clinical Psychologist, Ms. Doreen Teh shares this insightful story.
In our Asian society, it is common for us to be told, ‘Work hard. Be No. 1’
Our first role-models, that is our parents, teachers, elders will usually point out all the people they know who were No. 1s
Gradually, we begin to feel ‘less of’ or even as ‘failures’ because we will never be No.1
Good and obedient children feel disappointed as they are unable to please or make their parents proud of them.
A few years ago, Mr. T brought his daughter to see me. She was in Form 4 and often cries before her exams. He had already made an appointment for his daughter to see a psychiatrist earlier but when he found out about my clinic, he decided to bring her over for an appointment.
Miss T was very polite, somewhat shy and lacked confidence. She equated her self-worth to her academic performance and achievements.
She had always worked hard and was self-motivated, highly ambitious and she wanted to break out of the cycle of poverty. Her parents were lowly educated and they worked hard to give their children the best.
Miss T’s classmates are from middle to higher income families. Her friends are accustomed to having maids and holidays aboard. Miss T was ashamed of her family background and became determined to change her fate!
BEING NO. 2
Unfortunately, despite working so hard, she always ended up No. 2
In addition, she had teachers who would look at her in disbelief or shamed her in front of others when her marks exceeded other supposedly more intelligent or ‘higher valued’ students. Once, the teacher even said aloud, ‘There must be a mistake. You cannot have the highest mark.’
Poor girl!! Imagine her disgrace. The humiliation, insult, disrespect, discrimination scared her. Her self-confidence further declined. She began to doubt herself and started to believe that she is less worthy and less capable because of her family background.
EMPOWERING MISS T.
In working with Miss T, I helped her identify her strengths. It was important for her to recall all her accomplishments and give herself credit for her hard work, positive traits, skills, and abilities.
She needed to recognize her ‘gifts’ and empower herself.
We also worked on relaxation techniques so she can learn to de-stress. It was important for Miss T to lead a more balanced life. School is not only about studying and doing well in exams. It is the time to build upon many essential life skills through participation in extra-curricular activities, exploring things we like or dislike, discovering our strengths vs. areas to work on, friendships, community service, and others.
After a few sessions, Miss T was happier. She has learned to accept, embrace and like herself. Miss T learned to engage in various activities she was interested and excelled in creative arts, community service.
She was able to manage her time better as she continued to study hard but also enjoyed watching TV or going out with friends. Most importantly, she was no longer so stressed out or feels guilty when she was having fun.
As she began to relax and not try so hard, and put so much pressure on herself from being ‘beaten down’ by others, she became No. 1!!