I encountered a quote that I just fell in love with:
Don’t underestimate the power of being underestimated.
For almost my entire life, I cared about what people thought of me. More than anything I cared about whether or not others thought I was capable of something… anything really, but mostly when it came to school. Because of that, I felt like I had to hold up to this expectation to do well in every quiz, every test, and every class. So I did.
Then I went to Berkeley and suddenly I was at the bottom. I couldn’t do as well as I did back in high school. I failed one or two of my midterms. Okay, I didn’t actually fail… I just got really low scores, but pretty damn close to failing.
Just like that I became the underdog in my discussions, which consisted of 20-40 people from the lecture. This was especially true in my math and computer science classes. Most of the students in the latter had some kind of experience with programming but it was all new to me so I wasn’t on the same level as everyone else. I had to learn concepts that came naturally to them so I could rarely discuss anything.
Not only that but I was (am) an introvert with social anxiety. I never felt comfortable discussing my thoughts with a group of 40 people! Even if I knew the answer and I knew it was correct, I wouldn’t say it out loud.
By the way everyone spoke to and treated me, it was pretty obvious that they thought I was some kind of incapable idiot. No one wanted to work with me on partner projects so I always had to work on them by myself. It was extremely disheartening and because I let all the negativity get to me, I basically gave up. This was also around the time I was bordering on depression and already felt like I was useless.
It took just one more person patronizing me to change my outlook. It struck a nerve and I realized that no one had the right to judge whether or not I can achieve something. The only thing that truly mattered was what I thought of myself because I’m the only person who knows what I can and can’t do. And in the case of my computer science class, I knew I could do well in the class. I wasn’t the incompetent person everyone believed me to be.
Long story short, I had a few handfuls of sleepless nights and ended up getting a solid B for the entire semester, which I thought was a miracle because my quiz scores in the beginning were absolutely horrid. And I actually mean that; my average was around 30%. But in universities, the only thing that truly counts is the final exam which in that case makes up about 80% of our grade so I guess I was pretty lucky then.
It only mattered that I proved to myself that I could do it, but it still felt so great to prove everyone else was wrong about me. That’s just my pride talking because, you know, I actually have some now. I didn’t actually announce to everyone that I passed the class despite their disbeliefs. It wasn’t their business to know. As long as I knew they were all wrong about me, I was happy.
The moral of this little story is that instead of using others’ negativity to push you down, use it to your advantage. Use it to fuel your success. If no one seems to believe in you, then it just means that you have to believe in yourself even more. I’m one of those people who trust that anyone can do whatever they want as long as they truly believe in themselves.
I guess I just started thinking about all of this because I’m going back to school soon and, truth be told, I’m absolutely terrified that I’ll somehow end up behind everyone else. It’s been almost two years since I’ve been in school and there’s no doubt I’m a little rusty with most of the subjects. I had to remind myself this story to calm myself down and I thought that maybe others will take a little something from it too.
So in short…
Don’t stop believing in yourself just because others do, and don’t ever be afraid of being the underdog.
You’ll find that it’s quite advantageous.