Thursday, August 30, 2018

Living Up to Expectations

As I have worked with many students and people around the world, one common emotion I often see is the desperate desire to be valued and seen for whom they really are.

At times, students comment that they are trying to live up to the expectations of family and friends who live so far away, yet these people seem so unaware of the personal struggles these students face: homesickness, the challenge of learning a language at the pace their family might expect, cultural isolation, the overwhelming fear if they aren't able to progress fast enough to get into a university program.

As a result, these students may question their self-worth, as if that depended upon someone else to give that to them. (Seeking external approval and validation is a common response when you feel your self-worth hinges on the judgements of others.)

Some students deeply struggle in learning a language despite the fact that they spend countless hours studying, while others seem naturally wired to learn without effort. The fear that their parents will erroneously assume that they are lazy or not being serious can consume their thoughts and add to the unneeded burden of feeling that they aren’t enough.

My hope is that as teachers, friends, fellow students, and neighbors, we learn to understand these fears. Never dismiss them. A true friend is one that sits with you in your discomfort and listens, without the need or inclination to give you advice. People just want to be heard, and from that small act of listening, greater courage and self-compassion and self-worth can blossom, grow, and thrive.

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