If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are.
This has been a constant, important reminder for me since my mum told me about it last year. At first, I didn't really get it, especially the 'praise' part: why shouldn't you let praise bolster your self-confidence? I'm realizing that there's a difference between self-esteem that's grounded in a very personal, internal discipline, and self-esteem that's pegged to what others think of you.
This week the Oxbridge applicant list came out; it's a HP tradition that's always terrifying, when the tutors come up with a list of those applying (with prior approval from the tutors, of course) and tack it to the board in the room. Last year, when I saw the seniors' names, I assumed that "all our seniors [were] applying", until my friends pointed out that 20+ out of 50+ is hardly everyone. This narrowing down, and of course the physical act of tacking it up (almost like a ballerina's casting list!), makes it terrifying.
It's both the praise of being thought well of, and the potential disgrace of having your name taken off if you don't maintain consistent results. And I keep trying to remind myself that I can't keep thinking of myself only in relation to what the tutors (and others) think of me: because, as it's only too easy to see when you're in the dumps, what everyone thinks of you is always only a minute measure of who you are as a person. And an uncertain one at that: because a little like the adage that says a student only understands half of what he learns, and remembers half of what he understands, others only see what you let them, and they only understand a little of what they see.
So I'm trying very hard to maintain a grounded self-esteem: the strength to believe in myself, no matter what, and to believe in the credibility of my goals without ever slipping into feeling that I am entitled to them.
That said, I am also trying very hard to learn from others, and study hard. I need to always remember what it felt like to fail an exam, and how deeply the conviction to work harder resonated within me then.
Chase your dreams but always know the road/
That’ll lead you home again
-My Little Girl, Tim McGraw