Vague Clarity & Self-Discovery

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. – Joseph Goebbels

I love quotes. Peculiarly because I believe that someone else, before me, felt exactly what I’m feeling and expressed it concisely well. So, instead of writing it down myself, I’ll waste a few hours looking for the right quote. This isn’t only because I find comfort in knowing that others have been in my situation, but because I “know” that someone has done it better. This ‘self-critique’ is a proactive coping method of dealing with anticipated criticism, or simply a way of avoiding criticism. I don’t take criticism well. When I’m told that I don’t take criticism well, I don’t take that well either.

This is Why I don’t Write. It’s the fear of judgement. I recognise that it’s doing more harm than good, so I’m trying to figure out where it came from and how to overcome it… and that’s the first thing I’ve begun to learn in this class: To ask why and then let it go.

I wish I didn’t miss the first week of BCM311. I never had the chance to properly identify my 3 values. I recall impulsively whispering creativity, respect and authenticity in an attempt to catch up during wk2, however there wasn’t enough thought put into that. I’m still dabbling.

I originally fixated on authentic self-presentation as one of my core values and I proposed to look into how values in play with environmental factors, drive individuals to manage how they present themselves in the professional sphere. It wasn’t until I started writing this reflection that I realised that I completely missed the mark. This was just an overcast. I plethorically value validation and I’m struggling to see that as a beneficial value.

This assessment is the first that  has emotionally tormented me. You might be disappointed to hear that I’ve ruptured the purpose of this subject. I struggled to find clarity, because I came into BCM311 convinced that I had exactly that. Re-authoring my narrative wasn’t something I wanted to do or thought that I had to do. I am without clarity, but for the first time I’m at peace with it. My career aspirations remain unchanged however now I am finally less tense about the future.

My whole life has been an uphill gravel-road crawl out of refugee status. Each move forward has been strategic enough to avoid a possible graze. Initially, I was sheltered by my parents, however this is no longer the case. Strategic self-preservation has become a part of my nature.

I was shocked to hear how other members of this class  including K.B, value chaos and taking risks. I value stability, possibly because I’ve never had that – in more ways than one. It baffled me why this was a common value and I became worried that it could somehow disadvantage me in the workforce.

Quite often I’ve been irritated by this ‘uncertainty avoidance’ and I tried to find explanations for the way that I am. Through ELL210 (Communication Across Cultures) I found some clarity by depending on theories as justifications. Hofstade’s cultural dimensions were the first to subdue me with clarity, yet this wasn’t clarity; it was comfort, comfort that I wasn’t alone. I also became convinced that my cultural upbringing conditioned me to avoid risk. I wanted to take risks but couldn’t find the strength because I accepted cultural factors as an excuse for my reluctance.

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In regards to my proposal I looked into Duval & Wickund’s theory of objective self-awareness and Goffman’s impression management theory and related these to strategic self-presentation. Duval & Wicklund’s objective self-awareness theory “examines the cognitive, motivational, and affective consequences of focusing attention on the self” (Silva & Phillips 2013), where the consequences of self-focused attention lead to experiencing a subjective sense of self-consciousness or to a process of self-evaluation. Here self-evaluation “consists of comparing the self to a standard of correctness that specifies a state the self ought to have. (Silva & Phillips 2013)” Goffman’s theory discusses backstage and front stage behaviour where the backstage is kept private and refers to what the audience doesn’t see and front stage is a performance where individuals may emphasise some aspects of themselves.

Unfortunately I was unable to come across literature that already utilised the two theories in conjunction with each-other, and so, I constructed my own hypothesis.

Through narrative practice individuals engage in self-awareness and thus self-evaluation. This enables us to recognise which self we wish to put forth in social situations. Additionally this choice rests on the standard of correctness which is shaped by values; values that have been shaped by environmental factors, i.e. upbringing, culture…

Whilst conversing with N.V (Win employee), I couldn’t help but see myself in her shoes. I was drawn further into theoretical justifications. We both had a somewhat similar upbringing, we mirrored each other and whilst listening to her values I discovered mine were awfully similar. We were both somewhat ‘traditional’ with our values where we put establishing a family ahead of  furthering career development.

Two weeks later, I had a similar but shorter conversation with T.B who also works at Win. Dissimilarly, her aspirations are heavily career focused. T.B comes from a considerably successful business background and I would suggest that this is why her priorities are as they are. She heavily reflected on her parents and their status and achieving a similar goal is her requisite for a happy life.

After grading the interviewees’ genuinity by hunting for the absent but implicit, I noticed how both interviewees were compellingly communicating their story. Repetition revealed values which seemed to be linked with insecurities and in particular confidence. The fact that this stood out to me probably says something about me as well.

Discussing values through narrative practice during BCM311 has revealed a “flaw” which I did not recognise for quite some time. I always thought I was confident, but how can someone be confident when they are constantly fearing judgement? When we discussed grading as an opinion I felt a huge relief. I never looked at it in that way before. It has always been framed as a superior imposing the correct answer on top of all your efforts.

I can’t say that the decision to come to university was solely my own. It has always been expected of me. I am the first in my family to attend university, and I feel privileged. I come from a “formally uneducated” background that houses members that are possibly more knowledgable than many of the academics I’ve come across whilst at uni. This knowledgeability, however, is irrelevant and invaluable when there’s no certificate to prove its worth and a language barrier obstructing the certificates’ attainment.

I noticed that during my journey though university I always had to have some sort of concrete plan and vision for the future. People from my community couldn’t imagine easily what I could do/be with my degrees, and because of this they made me feel inadequate.

What if you start to believe the lie you tell others?

“I don’t know” was never an adequate answer, so I was forced to come up with flaky propositions. I’m still not sure if I was ever truly passionate about these propositions or if I simply forced myself to believe that I am. Other’s people opinions always came into play. Passions became oriented around the problems I was going through at the time. I wanted to fight injustice – be a lawyer. I wanted to slim down and get fit – be a nutritionist. Mental wellbeing – psychologist. etc…  I can still be these things but not in the professional world. I can be these things for myself – (luckily brain surgeon wasn’t on the list; knock on wood).

Just like C.C & Z.Z I identified myself as a multipotentialite. Whilst digging through my potentials, the common denominator surfaced, and it was the very thing I first mentioned in my first assessment. My dreams as a child revolved around Creativity and Art. These were the incorrupt and pure ones that weren’t completely shaped by society. They were mine alone. Luckily I also ‘fell forward” into marketing and advertising which ties in well with creativity.

I re-discovered myself by listening to others’ stories about what they have leant about themselves and relating it to my own personal experiences. I felt connected and whatever the opposite of alone is. During my conversation with N.V, I discovered how much I’ve distanced myself from my peers – once again uncertainty avoidance. N.V, however stressed the importance of building friendships at work or professional friendships.

Professionalism is something I’ve valued ever since I started school (in Serbia, age 7.), but I’ve never linked it with friendship. I have a very distinct memory of my neighbours (who were only a few years older than me) lecturing me about conduct and how to address those older than me and what is considered respectful. They frightened me, and it stuck. When I came here and started primary school in 2003 (age 9), I encountered a rude shock. Children were sitting on concrete during assembly, on carpet during class, and on concrete again during recess and lunch. They had to survive on slice-bread sandwiches and pies instead of real home cooked food. Everything was strangely informal. It was all wrong and my opinion never changed.

I carried this wrong mentality with me to UOW. I even went through high school with the wrong mentality. I was/am there/here to learn, and just “get through it.” Students weren’t friends, they were colleagues. I had friends outside of school and that was more than enough for me. The “friends” at school were an odd selection of people from various “cliques” that I got along with well, but I doubt that any of them knew me well. I wanted to keep my private and professional lives separate. Slightly an odd approach at age 13. Outside of school, I surrounded myself with those that were familiar. It’s about time I pushed myself out of the comfort zone.

BCM311 was welcoming. The environment made it easier for to open up and re-evaluate my stance. For too long I’ve ignored the fact that my values are so closely intertwined with fears. It’s not a good way to be, but the way I am is because of my journey, and the further I go the better it will be.

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