- April 21, 2022
One of the biggest challenges we all face is going against our initial impulses. That first thought that tells you sleeping in isn’t such a bad idea, that you actually deserve it. It’s what the yogis refer to as the monkey mind. The part of your brain that chatters on as long as there’s life in you. It’s how you clock your average 6,200 thoughts per day. Unfortunately, not getting lost in this tsunami of thoughts has proven to be elusive for most of us. We set goals and then talk ourselves into abandoning them. Most of us numb the voices in our heads by overindulging in trivial pleasures, hoping to extract every ounce of relief from habits that are eating into us. This, my friends, is how self-sabotage manifests itself in our lives.
Self-sabotage takes many, different forms. But the basic premise is that you’re the one standing in your own way. That you motivate yourself to be the best version of yourself, to wake up and kick ass like the baddie you are, only to open your eyes feeling worthless and defeated the next day. And the more this happens, the more you convince yourself that you were not really meant for whatever goal you want to pursue.
Negative self-talk is the devil that sits on your shoulder every day, whispering how everyone around you is better and more deserving than you, how everyone else is so self-disciplined, yet you aren’t sure whether you want to get out of bed or not. Being your own roadblock to your desired destination breaks you in ways you can’t articulate with words only. Every self-defeating behaviour you engage in withers a part of you and reinforces your feelings of worthlessness and incompetence. You learn not to trust yourself and in turn, anything that spells responsibility boils you from the inside out. This in part explains the extreme anxiety and conflict we experience right before engaging in meaningful activities that should be good for us.
I wouldn’t describe my upbringing as ‘strained’. Quite the opposite actually. Looking back, I’d dare say that I had things easy. Life seemed to know what to throw at me, so I never had to strive for anything. Not for my grades at school, nor for affection from my peers or parents. I lived in this bubble of privilege and didn’t even know it. Then I got to high school and things changed. ‘A’s weren’t appearing magically on my report form anymore. I realized I literally had to put in hours to even get close to what I was used to while in primary school. Needless to say, a part of me still wanted to hold onto the notion that I was ‘special’ enough to get what I wanted without putting in the work.
Of course I never mouthed these words, but that was the code my brain ran on. And the fact that I had successfully completed primary school effortlessly didn’t make things easier. Then I got comfortable failing. C’s and D’s on my report card no longer shocked me. My tolerance for failure grew stronger and I lost myself in all the numbness I was drowning in. I saw my parents bracing for any grade come my KCSE exams. Their bright, little boy was somehow not as intelligent anymore. But I knew things were as they were because I had thrown caution to the wind and abandoned myself to whatever cruel elements I encountered in my suicide mission. Then that small boy that was used to excellence spoke to me again. His voice was frail but I heard him alright. This self-dialogue was the salvation I needed if I was to salvage what was left of my secondary education. I realized putting in work and effort didn’t mean that I wasn’t smart. That I could listen to a teacher talk and actually enjoy it.
Once I broke these belief systems that I didn’t even know I had, school became tolerable and interesting. It wasn’t a bed of roses, but I was prepared to get my hands dirty this time. And oh, this ‘realisation’ happened after I scored a 7/80 in a chemistry exam, in form 3. That’s when you’re supposed to show how prepared you are for your final year in secondary school.
Instead, I was scoring the lowest I ever had since the day I set foot in a classroom. I was nicknamed Ronaldo for the entire term (he’s a footballer whose jersey no. is 7… I know, how humiliating!) and the fact that my real name is Ron didn’t help things at all. That small-scale humiliation acted as a pilot episode for what was yet to come if I were to fail my final exams. And shame really does a number on you once it hits you hard enough. I vowed to myself that I’d put in the work. And I did.
Fast forward to my last term in my final year, and I somehow earned myself a 2-day suspension a week to the KCSE exams. The reason, you ask? 72 of us felt we needed to go shopping that weekend, so we walked out of school and went to lounge at the closest town (in Kitui), which was some 4 kilometres away. But I had an air of confidence I had never had before. I somehow knew this small mishap wouldn’t undo all the sleepless nights I had put in. Long story short, the day I got my KCSE results was probably the happiest I’ve ever seen my parents. My mum wept and sang for a cool 30 minutes. My Dad left for a walk, he needed the breeze, he said. I had gotten an A- (minus), with straight A’s in Kiswahili, Mathematics, and Chemistry. And to top it all off, I later joined The University of Nairobi to pursue Economics, the first of my name to ever do it. Now I understand why my dad needed that walk.
I’m a writer now, and an Economist at heart, but that’s not the point. This is. I’m one of the many, you included, that have crawled out of pits they were meant to perish in. And maybe if we did, every human being can. And although giving our all to one cause seems insurmountable, such crucial events in our lives serve as evidence that we’ve survived hailstorms before, and that we will do it again if need be.
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