Championing Yourself

Sitting in the audience at Grasshopper Night this past weekend, I was reminded that everyone at Andover has something that makes them exceptional. Perhaps this sounds like an Admissions Office cliché, but it is one that I believe to be true. In addition to the skills showcased onstage, Andover students have a plethora of abilities that includes skills on the field and prowess in the classroom. Despite their diverse gifts, however, many Andover students believe that they are “not good enough” to be here and sell themselves short, which is detrimental to their sense of self. Andover students should learn to be less modest about their achievements and take pride in their own strengths.

Too often, we are unable to see our own achievements when we are surrounded by those of others. We cannot all be professional singers, athletes or mathematicians, and we should all take time to recognize our own unique and invaluable talents.

This could begin with something as simple as learning to accept compliments. Many students on campus respond to compliments by shrugging them off, downplaying them or arguing to the contrary. “You’re an amazing singer” is often met with “I suppose I’m okay” or “Oh please, I suck.” While these responses may seem humble, they actually contribute to a pervasive culture of negating self-worth. It seems as though no matter how well students perform in any field, we only focus on what the performance lacked. While there is always room for improvement, self-deprecation negatively impacts our self-esteem and, ultimately, our mental health. There are many ways to be proud of one’s achievements and skills without being vain or boastful. Instead of shamefully rejecting positivity, students should receive compliments with appreciation and acknowledgment of their successes.

Oftentimes it can be easy to neglect the negative effect of constant self-deprecation. It can seem perfectly reasonable to take the modest route and declare oneself unworthy of praise no matter its validity. The danger of the prevailing culture of exaggerated humility, however, is that students are left with lower self-esteem and self-confidence, making it even harder for them to succeed in an often stressful environment. Another danger is that the problem goes unnoticed — we become accustomed to hearing our peers and friends deflect compliments, or focus on their faults. Since we hear this self-deprecation so often, it seems normal to do the same to ourselves. We, nonetheless, should be just as able to see the value in ourselves as we do in others.

Success at Andover goes beyond grades, sports teams or musical skill. Fulfillment also entails maturing mentally and emotionally enough to be critical of ourselves without ignoring all the good and talent we possess. As a community we must become more aware of how the way we talk about ourselves affects our self-perception. Head of School John Palfrey often reminds the student body that our acceptance here was not a fluke and that we are all smart and talented. If we focus on why we are here or our potential rather than why we feel like we should not be, we can maximize the positive aspects of our Andover experience.

_Alex-Maree Roberts is a two-year Upper from Rouseau, Dominica._