My mean reds

It was the last day of first grade at Incarnate Word Academy, a small Catholic K-8 school in Brownsville, Texas. It was also the day of the end-of-the-year awards ceremony, where the top students of each grade were conferred a certificate and (I believe) a medal (or some other form of tangible recognition).

All of my friends and I were so curious as to who would receive first, second and third place. My best friend at the time said she was definitely getting second place. Everyone in the class, if not the school, knew who was going away with the top prize–a really annoyingly pedantic kid called Andrew. And third place was reserved for this other boy, Jorge.

Then there was me. I remember discussing all of this over giggles and whispers with the other students, and thinking to myself, “I’m not getting anything,” even though I knew I had above average grades. I think I even told my parents (who were there for the occasion) not to get their hopes up because the rankings were already hypothesized and established among us 6-year-olds.

We lined up and marched to the gymnasium. We sat down and waited for the ceremony to start. All this time, my tiny self had made up its even tinier mind. There was just no possible way I was going to get anything. My brother, who was in the 5th grade at the time, was a genius. I just had to admit to myself, and my family, that I was not him nor would I ever be. I was the black Mexican sheep of the family.

The names were about to be called out. I held on to my seat (partly because I didn’t want to fall given the fact that my feet didn’t touch the ground). I waited for the first letter to be made audible so I could quickly assess whether it could be me. There was still some minute ray of hope left in me.

I cannot tell you (because I’m not sure) who won third place, and as predicted, Andrew was the first place winner, but I can tell you that the writer of this post was bestowed the second place award for the first grade that year.

The purpose of this anecdote is to help you understand the type of person I am.

I’m a defeatist.

When it comes to others and things unrelated to me, my outlook remains positive. When it comes to me, I will automatically assume that I am not worthy of anything. It is something I’ve yet to come to terms with, but I’ve managed to deal with it over the course of my life.

It sounds so harmless–and sometimes I pretend that it is as I mysteriously gain a bit of confidence in myself. But it’s not. This attitude has hindered so many of my aspirations, so many of my dreams and goals.

Don’t pity me because I already pity myself. I look at myself from the outside and I think, “Liz, you are really just ridiculous.” My parents, friends and boyfriend have all told me this in a more gentle way, because they know and have had to deal with this attitude of mine. They dislike the fact that most of the time I don’t believe in myself or in my abilities because, according to them, it just doesn’t make sense.

I know it doesn’t make sense. I laugh at myself all the time because it doesn’t make sense. The problem is I never feel as if I’ve done something correctly or that I’ve met others’ standards or expectations. This sometimes leads to me seeking constant positive reinforcement from those who are holding me accountable to these expectations (professors, bosses, parents, or friends), which helps sometimes. Still, it doesn’t allow for peace of mind because, no matter what, you have this perpetual feeling of inadequacy, which kind of came back to haunt me today, prompting me to write about it.

So there. I hope I didn’t scare you.


From Breakfast at Tiffany’s:

Paul Varjak: The mean reds, you mean like the blues?Holly Golightly: No. The blues are because you’re getting fat and maybe it’s been raining too long, you’re just sad that’s all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you’re afraid and you don’t know what you’re afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling?

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