Our Math teacher was very excited when she stepped into our classroom. It was the moment of truth. We knew we were going to get our marks for our first ever 50 marks exam. To create some suspense, she started saying, “Only one student among all the three sections has scored full marks in Maths. Who here thinks they could be that student?”
My 10-year-old self looked around sheepishly, while more than half the hands shot up in the air, but mine. Our teacher then called upon me and asked me if I thought I were that person. I just simply shook my head and said, “No teacher, I think I have made one mistake.” She could not hide her disbelief, and just said, “Smruti! It is you!”
To this day, when someone says to me, “Congratulations, you did a great job”, my first thought is, “What? Me? Really?” Then, I consciously set aside that thought, fill myself with self-confidence and positive thoughts and accept the compliment with a smile.
If only someone had told that little girl, “You did a great job, and as you can see, you are so great at Math! You must believe in yourself. Only when you believe, will the world believe in you.” And, it makes sense, to believe in your abilities as opposed to constantly doubting them, right? I can now resonate with this quote that I came across recently:
“Why would I think about missing a shot that I haven’t taken yet?”
– Michael Jordon
However, this little girl thought that she had no reason to believe in herself when ideally, she had no reason not to! Her journey was just getting started.
Gradually, she started finding reasons that should have made her more confident – her grades, her talents, her faith, her teachers and her parents who believed in her, but she still had a hard time believing!
“Got good marks in an exam? Well, that’s no big deal.”
“Performed classical dance for 2 hours in front of a huge audience after 7 years of training? Well, anyone can do that.”
“Did well on an olympiad and made it to the top 1%? Please, that was by accident.”
Finally, she achieved her dream of getting into the top university of the country, IIT Bombay. And she still thought that this was nothing special. She still did not believe!
Now, she wonders, “Well, if I did all of that without believing in myself, what could I have not done, had I believed?”
So, what did she do right?
Well, this little girl always did things out of her own interest, and not for any accolades, not for grades, or awards. Neither did she understand the mad race for these things and she still does not!
This little girl was always curious to know more, learn more. She could not let go of a question that she had, and would find the answer by any means necessary.
When things got difficult, at first, she avoided them. But, eventually, she almost always went back to something she was not good at and mastered it. As a matter of fact, writing or speaking was never her forte. But, when she realized that she had something important to say, she honed these skills.
She was so engrossed in whatever she studied. As a result, even after 10 years of ‘cracking’ JEE, she still remembers Physics topics that she had appreciated, understood and learned conceptually.
She had a lot of inspiration and support along the way, too, from like-minded peers, her teachers and her parents.
Now, that she is a big girl, she knows that whoever she is, whatever she has achieved, is a result of the right support system, curiosity, intrinsic motivation, a growth mindset, grit, and of course, privilege.
She learned a lot along the way in this journey, made mistakes and learned from those as well. Today, it only makes sense to her to go out there and tell young children, to believe.
So, today, when almost everyone asks her, “So, you are from IIT Bombay, and you run a non-profit organization?” At that moment, I give one of my many responses, but what I really want to say is, “I am doing this for myself! I am doing this to reassure that little girl, to challenge this present young woman, and to ensure that my 95-year old self looks back on her life as a peaceful and meaningful journey. If thousands or millions of individuals are inspired on the way, then that is the cherry on the cake!”
Current times of the COVID pandemic, more than ever, remind us that it takes more than good academic abilities to thrive in the real world. CounSEL was born with that vision to sensitize educators and parents to appreciate the whole child and nourish them with not one, but all of these ingredients. Now, as CounSEL turns one, I pledge to myself, to believe and keep going on this path.