Suspending my self-doubt and going into the deep end

Yesterday, I was revising my Master’s planning sheet, which I had started sometime last year.

Quick context, I am planning towards getting a scholarship so I can pursue postgrad in the UK, ideally next year. I am very scared of this goal because no one in my family nor my community has pursued postgrad before, so to even say I wanna do it, is already a big deal for me because I have no reference of success.

In convo with a saboteur

As I relooked at my initial plan, I noticed that it had altered slightly now and that I was considering newer and challenging courses in political and inequalities studies instead of my initial plan to go the media route, something I am very familiar with.

When researching universities that provide these newly considered courses in political science, big names keep jumping out like London School of Economics & Political Science, Kings College, Royal Holloway, University College London, Goldsmiths and more. As I inputted these courses into my Master’s excel sheet of potential courses, I found myself almost cringing in doubt.

‘Biar betul! How can I actually think that I can get into these places? These places are unreachable for someone like me. I am just a budak Kajang. I was lucky to even have gone to HELP to get a degree, yet now I angan-angan to go to London ke?’

‘How embarrassing of me to even strive to go to LSE or Goldsmiths. When I fail, it is going to be more shameful. It is way over my head.’

I caught myself in this mental beatdown and took a moment.

Deep vs Shallow

I thought about this 2-min audiocast I had listened to earlier this week by author and entrepreneur, Seth Godin which I thought to be relevant to the situation. I have transcribed it here for you:

I overheard a little kid ask his dad at the local pool, “How deep is the water?” The right answer is, “It is over your head.” If it is 7 feet deep or 20 feet deep, it doesn’t matter, it is still over your head. Once the water is over your head, the job is not to worry about where the bottom is, the job is to figure out how to swim well enough to keep your head above the water.

It is not more difficult when the water gets deeper. Too often because the voice in our head is afraid of change, opportunity or responsibility, we seek shallow waters, but the truth is that the shallower alternative is not necessarily safe, cause it is still, over our head.

So if you are gonna be swimming anyway, why not pick the body of water that is going to get you where you wanna go, one that is appropriately deep and not just as shallow as possible?

We have been cajoled and tricked into believing that low stakes work is safer than high stakes work, but it is not. The stakes are just a representation of our narratives of risks. The risks are the same, we fail or we don’t, we make it or we don’t.

Given that you will be in the deep water anyways, go find the deepest possible one, the water that is worth working your way through so it gets you where you seek to go. Now go make a ruckus.

Seth Godin, from 2 Minutes with Seth Godin via Blinkist.

Shifting the mindset

After this breather, I looked at the academic qualifications for these universities and noted that I fulfilled it. I reflected on my past 4 years of working experience, and I noted that I had the relevant pre-requisite experiences recommended for these courses.

‘Yes, I am a budak Kajang – but that is just one part of me and does not make me any less of a person. There is nothing stopping me from applying to these places, cause I do fulfill their criteria and more! Me attempting to do Master’s is already a big deal, so why not go all the way and knock on all the big door anyways?’

I was reminded of Seth’s metaphor – I am attempting to venture into the deep end of the pool – and so I got scared of this big opportunity. Even the act of considering these big university options was such a scary thought because I was embarrassed at the idea that I will fail before even trying.

But if I am going to swim anyways, I might as well go all the way into the deep end, cause all options are over my head already.

The prerogative for me right now – is to prepare myself accordingly to show that I am a great candidate instead of backing away completely.

I thought the song from A Star is Born was super apt for this sentiment,

“I’m off the deep end, watch as I dive in
I’ll never meet the ground
Crash through the surface, where they can’t hurt us
We’re far from the shallow now.”

And so, I carried on with my research, this time with a bit more assurance and a reminder to myself that I am not too small for any opportunities.

Question to you: Have you caught yourself limiting yourself in terms of what you believe you can strive for? What was it, and why did you think that?

I hope that in whatever you are currently undertaking, you are also considering swimming into the deep end – as scary as it may be.

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