1st Year Experience Academic Support Adjusting Help Identity One Life's Potential Project MyStory Self-Care

What Happens When You Let Other People Tell You Who You Are?

Image taken from: http://howigrewtoday.com/2013/10/how-i-grew-today-19/

I heard it, I felt it, and then I took ownership of it.
The label was my enemy, and my scapegoat.

When I was in fourth grade, I was called dumb for the first time by a classmate. I was called dumb because fourth grade was the first year I was put into a reading help class. I could not read as fast or as well as the other kids. I specifically remember sitting in class one day during reading time and looking over to see the girl next to me reading Harry Potter and then looking, shamefully, back down at my Junie B. Jones book. I could not even fathom trying to read a Harry Potter book. Harry Potter looked like a dictionary compared to the books I was reading. I know it should not have, but this set the tone for me for the rest of elementary school, and even followed me through my high school career. Because of that, I always felt behind everyone else. I was always struggling to keep up, even with the extra help classes.

As a child, I would get so frustrated trying to do homework. My mom would have to sit with me every single night for hours trying to help me get through my homework. The worst times were when I would be assigned to read entire books in English classes. From 7th grade, all the way up until my senior year of high school, every single book I was assigned to read in English class was read to me by my mother. Every single one. Every time I would try to read a book on my own, I would give up, about a quarter way through, because I was so slow and my comprehension was terrible. My mother (god bless her) basically went through high school all over again trying to help me get through it.

Even though I always tried, I had no confidence in my own abilities. I was convinced that my brain was broken. I could never just focus on a task –  That no matter how hard I tried, it just was never going to happen for me. I was never the person that anyone would come to for help. And I was too embarrassed to let my friends help me. I didn’t want to make it any more apparent that I was the “dumb one” in the group. And even though they would never call me that, it was how I felt compared to them.


I let the labels get into me too early. I heard it, I felt it, and then I took ownership of it. The label was my enemy, and my scapegoat. I justified giving up. I justified my mediocre grades. I justified not seeking more help.  When we let other people tell us who we are, we limit ourselves enormously. In college, when I finally got the help I needed for my focus issues, it was like a rebirth. I had become so used to the idea of who I thought I was, that I could not see what was there the whole time. We stand in our own way all the time. Whether it be because we listened to other people’s opinions or because we latch on to a label thrown at us in the fourth grade. It is up to you to see through the garbage. And sometimes the pile is so high you can’t see over it anymore…but that just means it’s time to start climbing.

Please Note: The views of our student bloggers do not necessarily reflect the views of the UAlbany Advisement Services Center. These are their stories  – their voices.
About the Author:

Heather Intro

Heather M.
Class of 2018
Major: Communication
Minor: Psychology
Blog Theme:
One Life’s Potential

Established in March 2015, Project MyStory is a community building effort to help students better acclimate to UAlbany and to work more effectively toward their goals. We began in UAlbany’s Academic Support Center (ASC), where you will see many of the posters featured above. We are now co-housed in ASC and in the Center for International Education and Global Strategy (CIEGS).

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