“You’re so bad at this. Why are you even here?”
“You’re not good enough to do this.”
These are some of the most common comments from our peers that make us feel uncomfortable and self-doubting. As students, we face criticism and shame from people on a daily basis. Consequently, many students attempt to either hide their true selves or ignore the criticism.
Brene Brown, who is a researcher and author, proposes the revolutionary claim that we need to accept our vulnerabilities and imperfections in order to connect with others and live wholeheartedly. In her widely acclaimed novel, Daring Greatly, Brown expounds the gifts that come with embracing vulnerability and building shame resilience, such as the three main parts to a wholehearted life: courage, compassion, and connection.
As the academic competition and expectation in South Korea remain consistently high, students are always under pressure to perform well at school. One notable way of measuring the competitiveness is shown in the annually increasing high school student suicide rates.
As a student who attends an international school in South Korea, I find that the problem with cultivating shame resilience and accepting our imperfections with students is the fear of the consequences of getting something wrong. For instance, if a Korean student gets less than 95% on an exam, this means that they are inferior to the friend who received a 96%, which leads one to conclude that the latter student will go to a better college than will the former student. Therefore, the former student’s self-esteem will diminish in response to the misconception.
I have seen my peers often act artificially in front of teachers in order to maintain their status, just to hide that they are imperfect. These acts no doubt portray how determined and eager students are to work hard. However, I have realised that these acts are in fact making the community disconnected, as author Brown states. If we want to connect and learn from one another, we need to reveal ourselves authentically and vulnerably.
This is not to say that we should all not aim to be as perfect as we can be; rather, it is to advocate that sometimes we need to be vulnerable. If students start to embrace their imperfections, they will begin to understand who they are and what they need to work on. Brene Brown’s numerous books have inspired me to reflect upon myself and recognize my strengths and weaknesses. So, students, start showing yourselves—be vulnerable and proud.