A toast and a roast

Reflecting on the good and the bad

What is good and what is bad about yourself? Such a black and white question can never be answered in a similar black and white manner. Classifying yourself into two such rudimental categories is rather unfair in some ways. Regardless of whether it’s naming the good or the bad about yourself, it is always hard to talk about because it makes us self-conscious. Yet there will be many a time (e.g., job interviews) when we have to talk about ourselves. Therefore, I want to do exactly that.

I will make a toast to myself and praise the good, and then follow with a roast and focus on the bad.

So what do I like about myself? What do I label as my “good” qualities? This of course is a very subjective question, so it lies on me to be as objective as possible. I try to do this by putting myself in the shoes of a total stranger or someone who could be able to give an accurate first impression of me. Perhaps simply by seeing me walk down the street, they notice I keep my chin up and try not to lose myself in scrolling through my phone. Maybe they see I try to make eye contact and smile at people, an indication of a friendly and outgoing attitude.

After having just one conversation with me, I like to think that I convey how sincere I am. Maybe the person noticed I give my full attention to the speaker and don’t try to speak until the person is done. Hopefully he or she can tell I listen, understand and reply in the most empathetic way possible. I hope they see someone who is light-hearted, likes to make people laugh and, better yet, can laugh at herself for all the embarrassing things she has done.

This university has one of the best dressed student bodies I have ever seen. However, this quality has not rubbed off on me yet. It was most apparent I was lacking in the clothing department when one day, I showed up to an interview wearing a sweatshirt and leggings I’d worn twice already. On top of that, I had just finished chalking all over Central Grounds. Chalk dust layered the knees of my leggings and chalky hand-prints covered the sides from when I’d dusted my hands off. Yet I chose to walk into the room with a (rather false) sense of confidence. I apologized dearly for my lack of business casual attire and joked about my appearance to persuade the interviewers to sympathize with me.

To my professors and friends, I believe they see someone who is reliable and honest. To them, I am a person who is present and is aware of myself and my surroundings. I believe I am considerate and thoughtful, and, most of all, non-judgmental. To my friends in particular, I really think I am someone who is approachable and will listen to anything and everything they have to say with patience and respect.

Sometimes I have to take things as they come and I can adjust myself to any situation in the present. This is one of my most valuable “good” qualities because it in turn affects so many other traits. For example, if I refused to adjust to sharing a bathroom with 20 other girls, that would be misplacing energy and emotions. Knowing what is more important to think about saves a lot of trouble and in turn, gives me peace of mind. By being adaptable, I don’t sweat the small stuff.

Right here is a perfect time to do a complete 180 about myself. I have given myself a toast, but now, it is time for a roast.

Most of the bad and ugly about myself has a lot to do with my personal attitude towards my own problems. To many people, I appear to be a perfectionist. This sounds like a positive quality at first, but it is just a sugary term for “over-thinker.” I have the wonderful ability to stress myself out, as well as other people around me. Despite being adaptable to the current situation at hand, I come to drastic conclusions about the big picture quickly and I don’t give my brain the chance to catch up and smooth the issue out. The minute one thing goes wrong, it’s the equivalent to jumping off a mental cliff for me. Even worse, I sit on these emotions until they come spewing out in an anxiety-riddled meltdown.

Finals season is the prime time for this “vice” of mine to shine through. As an aspiring medical student, grades certainly matter. The pressure of striving for A’s combined with the constant reminder that getting accepted to a medical school is no joking matter is a recipe for disaster for my overthinking brain. Within minutes, I can think of worst-case scenarios in which I project myself 10 years into the future — a sad scene where I am left with no job, no love life, no snazzy apartment in the middle of downtown Chicago and zero motivation.

Following that, I have an irrepressible need to say “yes” to everyone and everything. This results in being a slight push-over. Many times I have been afraid that I wouldn’t be able to stand up for myself or for other people out of fearing that no one would take me seriously.

Finally there are the worst traits of all — a lack of confidence and excessive self-deprecation. For me, one stems from the other, as self-deprecation comes from a lack of self-confidence. Many of the times, it starts out with me trying be modest. However, there is a fine line between modesty and self-deprecation. The majority of the time, I manage to catapult myself far into the realm of self-deprecation, completely bypassing modesty. It becomes irritating for my family to hear this constant stream of self-criticism. I don’t even blame them because hypocritically, it irks me hearing it from someone else.

Writing these two sides out has served as a wonderful way to organize myself — literally and figuratively. That is not to say this is all there is to me. As I mentioned before, no one can be so cleanly split into good and bad. There is a little gray in all of us, but the most we can do is be aware of our strengths and weaknesses. To be able to articulate them concisely is a skill in itself.

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