When I was fourteen years old, I cried in maths class. My sweet friend Savana, who usually sat by me and let me copy her work (God bless her soul) was at home, sick. Meaning there would be no one to whisper me the answer when our scarily stern Scottish teacher called on me to solve an equation. And despite sinking as low as physically possible into my chair that day, in the hope of becoming invisible, said stern Scottish teacher did call on me for the answer… And I did not know it *cue tears*.
Why did I not know it?
Because to put it simply… I am sh*t at maths.
I was then, I am now and I always will be. I know it to my core. I accepted this fact at a very early age, which is probably why I’m now 21 years old and still don’t know what 4×7 is. It was very clear to me from the get-go that maths was just not my thing. So, I just stopped trying. I “lost” my homework every week and flunked all my tests. Some people may consider this complete foolishness, perhaps suggesting I should have knuckled down, got a maths tutor, studied after school and recited my times tables for an hour before bed each night.
But hell nah.
Instead, I decided to give maths a big middle finger. For a similar reason, I also checked out of school at sixteen and never looked back. I knew I was never meant to be a mathematician. Nor a brain surgeon, a marine biologist, a lawyer or any kind of scholar. And while many of you reading this will think I’m a total idiot (and oh boy have I been told I’m an idiot), I actually believe that this knowledge will lead to solid success in other endeavours. Because in my opinion, the ultimate key to success is not x+y=z, but a little thing called “self-awareness“.
Self-Awareness (self-a·ware·ness) (n)
Conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires.
Self-Awareness is about knowing who you are, what you’re good at and what you’re not good at. It’s about refusing to waste time doing those things you suck at and instead, going all in on your strengths. I may have been sh*t at maths but I aced English. In fact, I was once graded an A+ Excellence on an essay about a book I had never even read. Don’t ask me how – I don’t know. For as long as I can remember, writing has just come naturally to me. If a friend is going through a rough time, I’ll spend half an hour penning a thoughtful 200-word text rather than attempting to give advice over the phone. Not because I’m a phone-shy, socially awkward Millenial… but because when I speak, I can stumble over my words and struggle to get my point across, yet writing comes easily. It’s just the best way for me to get my thoughts out most eloquently. Therefore, I have decided that writing is my thing. And speaking (as well as maths) is not.
I’m also completely aware that I swim like a brick, have a ridiculous fear of flying and as badly as I wish I could body roll and shake my bum like Jade Chynoweth… the sad reality is that it’s just not gonna happen for me. But that’s okay because I’ve accepted it. You best believe I’ll still be attempting to do the splits in 6″ stiletto knee-highs. I’ll just be doing it in my room alone or on a drunken Saturday night. Not as a career path. Nor will I be aiming to swim the English channel or become a flight attendant anytime soon. I know my strengths. I know my weaknesses.
“The process of forcing yourself to be self-aware requires drinking a sh*tload of humble Kool-Aid.” — Gary Vaynerchuk
A lack of self-awareness is the reason we see tone-deaf, caterwauling “singers” auditioning for the X-Factor. It’s the reason people will try and fail to be entrepreneurs, why businesses will crash and actors will never get their big break. Too many people are trying and inevitably failing at things because it’s just not in their DNA. And in the majority of cases, people are intimidated by self-awareness, avoiding it like the plague. Because self-awareness means actually having to acknowledge what you’re sh*t at… A.K.A. being extremely truthful with yourself. And we all know the truth often hurts.
As humans, naturally we fight this constant battle between being the person we WISH TO BE vs. the person WE REALLY ARE. Self-Awareness forces us to accept “what is” rather than “what should be.” Often we idolise people and either consciously or subconsciously try to imitate them, whether it’s writing like Hemingway, singing like Adele, starting a tech company like Jobs or becoming the next Pia Muehlenbeck on Instagram. While it’s fine to be inspired and motivated by those we admire, if we haven’t yet developed our self-awareness skills, we may find ourselves trying to be something or someone we’re just not.
Without taking the time to get introspective, we can also be oblivious to strengths and talents hidden inside, delaying how much we could really give and receive from life. Many of us have abilities not yet tapped into, ones we may not even be aware of! The best way to bring our natural strengths to light is to look within. To consider what it is we are regularly complimented on, to ponder the things which ignite a spark in our hearts and to discover what really makes us “tick”. It is our duty (and also our entitlement as human beings) to become self-aware, so we can further use what we have to help others and fulfil our purpose. The moment we decide to accept our shortcomings and bet entirely on our strengths, things will change dramatically.
If we KNOW WHO WE ARE, we can GROW WHO WE ARE.
I am not a maths genius. I am a creative with a passion for sharing my story via writing.
Who are you?