Writing papers and essays has always been an easy task for me, especially during the four years spent in undergraduate school. I like being able to organize my thoughts in such a way that when others read it, it flows as if we were having a regular conversation. The writing process had never given me a problem until it was ready for me to apply to graduate school. One of the requirements for the application was to write a personal statement, which states your interest in the program and why you would make a good addition to the school. As clear-cut as the instructions seemed I had a very difficult time in organizing my words onto paper.
One day as I sat in front of my computer my mother, along with a few of my aunts and uncles came inside and asked me what I was doing. I contemplated on if I should put on a front as if I had the paper under control or if I should ask them for help. Both of my aunts have their Masters degree, one in human relations and the other in child education. I decided to put my pride aside an asked for help.
I started out by telling them how anxious I was about the program at Hunter and I didn’t know what to write. I also explained how I didn’t think my writing skills were up to par for a Masters program and didn’t want to come across inadequate. After getting all of my feelings out I sat there prepared for their responses.
They all took turns reassuring me that it was natural to be anxious seeing as I would be taking such a big step, but I should use those feelings to push myself. My aunt told me the story of her grad school experience and how she could understand my feelings of inadequacy. She told me that was also a natural feeling but added that because I was coming from my undergraduate education the reason for me applying to my masters program was to learn more. She explained that no one expected me to know everything or be the best writer, I would acquire those skills once I began my classes. After everyone was finished talking I showed them my outline and they helped me go through it.
To my surprise they were all satisfied with what I had written and told me there was no reason for me to be so anxious. They helped me with certain grammatical errors and wording but felt that my paper was pretty much sufficient. The amount of support I felt was overwhelming because I really thought I had done a bad job but seeing that people that had acquired their masters believed in me and my work made me feel as if I had accomplished something. The fact that they didn’t use their power of already obtaining a master’s make me feel less adequate made me comfortable enough to continue receiving help from them. The stories they provided me with also made me feel as if they really understood where I was coming from and was just trying to make me feel better.
Three things that I learned from this period in my life were: first, never to underestimate my abilities. I tend to knock myself even before I do something because I’m scared of the outcome, but going through this made me realize that I need to give myself more credit. By understanding my abilities I can possibly help others in my position because I can reassure them that having self-doubt is normal but it becomes detrimental when you let the self-doubt limit your success. Also going into situations with a positive view leaves more space for individuals to accept some level of defeat but understand that they can overcome and in turn end up on top. Second, I learned it is not a bad thing to reach out and ask for help because there are people that are willing to help me with no judgment. The fear of being judged can be a huge factor in asking people for their assistance because of previous experiences. There is a wall that is in place because of the fear of rejection or damage to an individual’s pride or self-esteem. For some, asking a family member or friend for help may be way easier than a stranger because people fear rejection from those that don’t understand or know them personally. For others it is the opposite, they fear rejection more from the people that know them personally. Along with the benefits of reaching out for help, it can help expand knowledge and connect with people and learn things that would have never been learned. Everyone has a different level of knowledge and different perspective on issues. If you consult with others it can broaden your knowledge base and expose you to things you may have never found out or learned. Third, I learned that having power and privilege over someone could be a good thing if used in a good way. My family used their superior knowledge in a way to assist me in the direction where I could acquire the same knowledge that they have. Instead of making me feel bad or less then them they simply explained to me that they were once in my position and I too can over come this anxiety and prosper. The understanding that many individuals are asking someone for help because they feel that person may have more experience or a higher knowledge base can already be a sign that they may be expecting the person to act like a “know it all”. They should be proven wrong and should be reassured that even though you may have a higher knowledge base on a particular topic, everyone at some points needs help in something and that they are no less because they asked for help.
In regards to my experience I believe if I was put in the same situation as a practitioner I would model many of the same things my family did to help me. Everyone needs support when going through a rough time or preparing for new experiences. Although many things can be handled alone social support can make a difference. According to Compton (2004) “related to role clarification and preparation for new experiences, social support and social networks are central concepts in social work” (p 32).