A promise I made to myself as a kid

Sep 04 2018 Published by under life in the office, personal posts

This is one of those posts where I would be fine if nobody reads it because it's scary to hit publish on this one.

I was teased in school.

Or maybe a more accurate sentence is: I was bullied in school.

And when I was being bullied, my coping strategy was to vow to myself that I would become awesome, so the kids that bullied me would see me on TV for example. And when they realized how awesome I had become, they would feel bad about having bullied me.

I only recently realized that this promised I made to myself as a kid is still a promise I wish to keep. This realization came when I reacted really strongly (ie. ugly cried) when talking about my career and the struggle to find a path that fits me after leaving academia. It shocked me a bit to find out that part of what drives me is to please myself as a kid and keep my promise. The kid-version of me doesn't exist anymore, so how much sense does it make to try and keep a promise to someone who doesn't exist...?

5 responses so far

  • eeke says:

    My 2 cents. As a kid, maybe you thought being famous would show the bullies that you're happy with what you're doing and that you're good at it. Those two things are still true - you're good at what you do, and your job is awesome. You kept your promise, you win! And yes, that kid doesn't exist anymore, but if you could talk to her now, I'm sure you'd tell her that the fame part isn't what's important.

  • ImDrB says:

    I attended a tiny 1-12 grade school and by, oh say, 5th grade or so, I actively hated it. Hated the people in it, hated that I was stuck there, the whole bit. They weren't anything like me, and I wasn't anything like them, and the bullying and name-calling and rumor-spreading sucked the joy out of life. I made much the same vow, that as soon as I could, I would get the heck out of there and be so awesome that they couldn't possibly do that to me any more.

    I got out of there, and after a roundabout road, got my PhD and job I adore. I realized a couple of years ago, when I was just about to turn 40 and was moving into a house that I love, that I had done what I promised 11-year old me I would do... have more education than any of 'them', have a job I love doing nerdy work, and have my own house in a different town where I never have to interact with any of 'them' ever again. Sure, the details and how I got there were different than I'd imagined as a kid, but I still got there.

    And you know what? I felt a contentment in myself that I'd never really felt before. I didn't know that I wasn't feeling it until something clicked and I had that wide-eyed moment of "oh!"

    I think that at least the memories of the feelings that kid experienced are still there inside all of us. So, even now, we can tell our kid self, "You did it. You won. Life may be hard, but it is good because you worked hard and made it what you wanted."

    At least that's what I tell my inner pigtailed redhead 🙂

  • babyattachmode says:

    Thanks for your sweet comments 😊

  • Socal dendrite says:

    I had similar although less explicit thoughts. I'm currently also in the struggle to figure out my professional self after leaving academia and sometimes feel... lacking. But then I try and make myself step back and see myself through the eyes of former classmates: "She ended up studying the brain for 10 years on the other side of the world - wow!" (at least, that's what I tell myself they would say; more likely they wouldn't care less, lol). I may not be doing it any more and I may not have achieved fame and fortune but I did Do That for a good portion of my working life, which is Pretty Cool. I don't know your particular area of research or current position, but it sounds like similar thoughts may apply. Tl;dr: you *are* awesome!!

  • Zuska says:

    Ah, you know..."the past isn't over. It isn't even past."
    You aren't a kid anymore but all you suffered as a kid is still with you.
    Acknowledging it is the best thing you can do for yourself.
    In my experience, those childhood bullies, when confronted with evidence of successful present-day you, either have developed convenient amnesia about their treatment of you & are neutral or happy for you...
    OR they are still moved by inarticulate jealousies and insecurities, and so will find your success an example of liberal elitism, uppityness, fake news, etc. that just feeds their enragement...
    OR their lives will be so full of tragedy & misery they don't have time or energy to spare a thought for you.
    In any of these cases: validation is not forthcoming from their perception of you. You do not "win" by winning them over. Truly the best revenge is living well but it has taken me a long time to see that this means, at least for me, living in a way that matters to and for me, and not as a constant struggle to impress my tormentors. One has only to look at 45 to see that's not a healthy strategy for self or others.

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