I am a high-achieving student.
I am aiming for Dux of the school. I get really disappointed with a A. I like talking to teachers more than I like talking to people my own age. I answer questions in class. I participate in competitions, and I try to win.
Do you hate me yet?
I ask you this question, because I have too often been confronted with the situation where my ambition becomes a weakness of mine. When people who only know me by my reputation judge me by what I have achieved, and not who I actually am.
Why do you hate people like me?
When I was 13, I was told not to “hold my head up so high” because it was annoying to everyone else. For two years, I walked looking at my toes.
When I was 15, people would ask me for help in class, and if I didn’t know the answer, I’d get told, “What’s the point of you then?”
I am 17, and I get told that I don’t have anything to complain about, because my life is “perfect”.
Why is that the kids who do well at school, who do debating, who are in Student Council, who achieve anything in life, seen as other?
From my point of view, I don’t do what I do to get praise. I do it because I love it. Even if my ATAR was irrelevant and inconsequential, I would try hard in class. Even if no one made awards for debaters, I would still debate.
(It’s also worth noting that some people are high achievers purely because they like achieving things. And it’s also worth noting that this is perfectly okay.)
However, I should not be made to feel like I should resent the praise I do get. Everyone should be praised for doing the things they love, and doing it well. There is literally no difference in the effort required in knowing hundreds of fun facts about Harry Potter, and knowing hundreds of fun facts about Biology. The only difference is that one gets recognition academically, and one socially (maybe). But the academic high achievers are not to blame for this.
The next time you hear about someone who’s seemingly the most perfect person in the world, don’t let that feeling of inferiority make you impulsively say “God, I hate them.” You don’t know them. And when you say that, you discourage others from trying to do well at whatever it is they want to do.
I am sick of feeling like I have to aim for less in order to be hated less. You could tell me, “Haters gonna hate”, but I’m gonna ask you, “Why you gotta hate?” There is enough cruelty going around in the world, we don’t need anymore in our schools. Especially not to people who are just trying to make the best of what they’ve got.