How to stop 'whelming' and live your best life

Reflections of a recovering Whelmer


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

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In one of my favourite 90s rom coms, 10 Things I Hate About You, the question was asked if anyone could just be 'whelmed' -not overwhelmed, or 'underwhelmed' - just 'whelmed'. 

Somewhere between 'overwhelming' and 'underwhelming' is what Gabrielle Union's character, Chastity, described as the state of merely being 'whelming'. And quite honestly if I were to describe my academic journey (and by extension, a lot of other things about my life) to date since finishing grade six I would say it's been pretty 'whelming'. Not so great, not so bad, more or less so-so.

At my small prep school I was just like I was at home - chatty, comfortable and irritatingly clever. I did debate, I did quiz, I did speech competitions, and just about any kind of competition that wasn't athletic. Then somewhere along the line I got lazy, lost some of the childlike exuberance that had previously kept me buoyant in the face of challenge, and I started listening to critics. Where 10 year-old me would've balked at being anything but number one, and 11 year-old me couldn't imagine not being able to be distinguished from her peers, 13 year old me was happy to fit in and do the absolute least at all times.

Now, this isn't an indictment on the kids and the adults that like to tell others "Yuh too nuff!" or "Is wah mek you suh extra?" - even though it probably should be. What this is, is a chronic 'whelmer' talking to herself, and to anyone who cares to read, about the absolute importance of self-determination, positive self-talk and having a healthy perspective of oneself. At 15, 16 or 17 it can feel as though everything important, exciting and life-defining is happening all at once, and that you're not in control of, or up to speed on any of it.

It can be nauseating or headache-inducing, especially when one starts to think that whoever they are at that exact point in life is exactly who they will have to be always.

But we don't actually have to be whoever we were last year or last month or yesterday; as cliché as it sounds, every day is a chance to be a different, better, newer you. We don't even have to wait for the next New Year's celebration to declare the newest version of ourselves. And when we forget who we are, or mistakenly get comfortable being something we aren't, we can always return to our old selves. We should never, ever underestimate our abilities as human beings to lie to ourselves, shrink ourselves and get comfortable playing the part of someone else. But more importantly, we have to be real with ourselves and others when we catch ourselves slipping. In this era of 'living our best lives', we must recognise that truly living our best lives starts now and that there are lots of practical ways to get started on it today.

For one, think of who you are when you aren't consumed by worry, and who you would be or could be if irrational fears and doubt never came into the picture in the first place. Then be that person. Secondly, think back to the times when you were happiest and examine whether there is a relationship between what you did or didn't do and that happiness you experienced. Thirdly, do some things that scare you or are at least a little bit outside of your comfort zone sometimes; comfort doesn't always mean genuine happiness or living your best life. And lastly, silence the critics (both external and internal).

Even though the world has a rather unfortunate habit of shushing and shaming the world's "nuff" children and TEENs, it's often that same zing and nuff-ness that makes the world's most extraordinary adults - remember that.

It's not too late to be you or to determine just who you are. Nelson Mandela once said, "May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears."


--Signed, someone who doesn't 'whelm' anymore

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