By Christie Li
Born and raised in Hong Kong, I live in a culture that immerses competition. Despite sounding stereotyping for a typical Asian, I was indeed indoctrinated with the concept of competing with others, both academically and non-academically.
It took me 19 years to finally realize how important it is to be proud of myself.
The competitions throughout life
Since small, I was taught to try my best to be the best in everything — Going to tutorials after school to achieve the highest grade in every subject, learn an instrument to pass the exams for the highest level, be excellent in badminton to get into the junior sports team.
I was told to start doing great since primary (elementary) school. Build up your profile so you can compete with others to get into a good secondary (high) school. Do well in high school, so you are better than others to get into great universities.
Though I don’t have a clear memory of my elementary school life, I do remember my schedule for that period. Afterschool was packed: music lessons two days a week, badminton sessions every other day usually 2–3 hours each, sketching lessons once a week. On top of that, I had an average of 4 music competitions and a few badminton ones a year. So I was mostly practicing and training throughout the week.
When I got into high school, I started focusing on the academic game. Study hard to get into a prestigious high school diploma, and study even harder to get into a good university for my desired degree.
As a result, 1 or 2 marks in school assessments mattered hugely to me. I became upset in myself every time I failed to meet the grade boundaries because of those small marks. Gradually, I pulled my own standards as high as the university entry requirements in order to compete.
Then, after getting into university, I started focusing on aspects outside of the academics — my career development. I began to notice how people are simultaneously building up their CVs with fabulous job experiences and achieving well in their education.
I felt like I was losing the race at this point. The fact that I got into a great university and was in a demanding course was just not enough.
I began to look for part-time jobs, brainstorm possible second career plans, and sign up for freelancing jobs online. Yet, things are either going slowly or not successful at all. I am frustrated at myself for the fact that I am not progressing — whether it is the rejection I received for my writing on Medium or the plummeting stocks that I have invested in.
I started to think of myself useless. For months, I have been feeling this way about myself, to a point where I lost confidence in everything, including my academics.
In the midst of numerous mental breakdowns where I poured my heart out to my parents and my boyfriend, I realized something that I’ve neglected throughout my entire life — I have never been proud of myself at all, regardless of the achievements I had in the past.
I have always seen the goals I set for myself as the natural courses of things. When I achieve them, I take them for granted. When I fail, I become super disappointed in myself for not being able to accomplish the simplest things in the world.
Things are not supposed to work this way.
While it is important to set goals and try to achieve them to be productive, what is equally important is to appreciate our own capability and our achievements.
During the difficult periods where I couldn’t cope with my own emotions and my balance life out, I started to take things slowly. I stepped outside of myself and looked at my past achievements and where I position myself currently in life.
I realize how seldom I appreciate myself and how often I overlook my accomplishments.
Being proud of yourself doesn’t have to be on huge things. It can be as small and simple as being able to maintain a consistent workout routine throughout the month. It can be starting a new hobby like writing on Medium, whether rejected or accepted by a publication. It can be building a better relationship with your family.
It can be anything done routinely or daily. For the fact that you have done something towards your goal, you have already progressed, regardless of the results.
There is a fine line between just being cocky and being proud of yourself. Don’t think that appreciating yourself for these simple matters means you’re cocky.
Being proud of yourself for the tiniest achievements you made will surely give you the chance to love and value yourself more.
What’s never hugely emphasized in schools is that having a good sense of self-worth is the same as having self-respect.
Be proud of yourself not because you can show off, but because it is a key to a healthier, happier, and fulfilling life.