Many of us faced challenges in our formative years and we struggled with them. Some of those struggles might have changed who we are or how we later approached life. Marilyn Campbell is an overcomer. She wrestled with shyness in her young years. Before you read her essay, learn a little more about Marilyn’s background from an update she sent to me:
“I never did quite get the opportunity to thank you [for helping me develop my essay]. Regarding my college process:
I applied to three schools early action: Harvard University, Brown University, and Georgetown University; I applied to Tulane University as a backup school regular decision (it can be considered a backup for those people who reside in-state).
I am happy to say that I was accepted at Brown, at Georgetown (thank you very much!), and at Tulane; I was deferred from Harvard; I am not applying to any more schools.
If there’s something I learned about applying to colleges and watching my friends apply to them, I would recommend applying to as many early action schools as possible by the deadlines. This takes away the stress and work of doing several applications at a very busy time of the year (one is taking exams or they are hanging over our heads).
At the very least, if one applies to one school early action or early decision, s/he should not wait until they receive that school’s response to begin filling out all the other applications waiting in the wings. I know that it is very tempting to wait, but after seeing what this has done to several of my friends, I highly recommend getting an early start.
Finally, I suggest that students don’t blow off their freshman year. If that happens, one will spend the next three years trying to bring up those grades.
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When I was a young, awkward adolescent, I considered myself to be a shy person, especially around boys. Because of this, my experiences at a coed middle school intimidated me somewhat. So, for the past five years, I have attended an all-girls school, which has helped me to become a stronger person. I have overcome my shyness and insecurities and developed much more confidence.
Ironically, I believe that my shyness, something that I consider a communication barrier, has ultimately led me to focus on a field for my life’s work: communications. Despite my aversion to it early on in life, I now love speaking to and interacting with people, be it as a friend, teacher, or public speaker. I now have a passion for stimulating conversation, and that enthusiasm manifests itself in three different and important aspects of my life outside of the classroom: peer support, volunteer work, and music.
Peer support is a high school-sponsored program through which juniors and seniors are selected to work with eighth graders who attend Sacred Heart. It involves an intensive three-day workshop where student leaders learn how to listen effectively to and become mentors for the younger students. I love this work. Once a week, I get to speak to these impressionable boys and girls about anything that I feel is important. I enjoy learning about their lives and their issues and exploring possible solutions to their problems. We study today’s society and its impact on them. I see much of my old self in these young people and that memory has helped me to help them become more confident about their everyday lives.
My volunteer work centers on teaching, through a program called Summerbridge. After school, I go to a nearby public school and tutor learning-disadvantaged preteens. Instead of dealing with the students’ personal issues, as I do in peer support, the Summerbridge focus is more on communication through education. By working with these younger students, I have come to understand the importance of helping them comprehend and apply what they learn in the classroom. Their motivation, given their circumstances, is remarkable. We discuss in detail what they are learning so that I can keep them interested and motivated. Summerbridge is another example of how communication issues are very important to me.
Not surprisingly, music has emerged as another, perhaps indirect, avenue for me to communicate with others. Singing allows me to convey my deep and personal emotions with others. When I sing, I am transported to another realm. The mundane everyday world around me disappears, and I am enveloped in my own, new space, especially when I am performing onstage. When I act, I am transformed, feeling the happiness, sadness, impishness, or even confusion that my character feels. My performance taps into that part of me where those qualities dwell, and I love sharing it with my audience. Music is a very special form of communication for me.
Perhaps the person I am today is a compensation for who I was years ago. That awkward twelve-year old, however, is no more. Now I want to show the world what I can do. Communication has become my passion. It will be my future.
Life is full of challenges. Some people seem to meet every challenge with confidence, while others struggle to overcome them. Pittas especially get a sense of satisfaction from facing challenges head on—it brings a sense of accomplishment and can be very fulfilling. On some level, you actually seek challenges. Your highest self wants you to learn and grow, and life’s most effective tool toward growth is experience.
The problem is that all too often you might find yourself faced with the same challenges over and over again, and that’s when you start to lose motivation to face the issue and you lose sight of the potential lesson. At that point, challenges can become problems that can spiral you into despair and frustration.
As a co-creator of your own reality, you have the ability to overcome these challenges. It is with this sense of responsibility and awareness that you can begin your journey into a higher state of consciousness where challenges are no longer challenges, but opportunities to get a glimpse of your highest self.
Here are some ways to better accept and meet your personal challenges, whatever they may be.
Face the Challenge
In many cases this is the most important step, the most obvious step, yet it is also the most often missed. People spend time looking for a way around the issue, or wallowing in despair at the enormity of the challenge, instead of facing it. Even mundane things, like a pileup of laundry or work, get ignored. Putting a challenge off doesn’t make it go away. This is true of big challenges, as well as the small ones. The most important thing you can do is face what’s in front of you head on.
Do not underestimate the power of being present. If you make a practice of facing your challenges—even in failure—with full presence and awareness, you will find most challenges are not challenges at all. Instead life’s challenges become messages from the universe. Meditation can help you cultivate silent awareness and is a good tool to help bring that focus to yourself during difficult times.
You can ask yourself questions that help you better understand the problem and how it affects you.
- Why is this a challenge?
- Do I believe that I am capable of being successful at this challenge?
- What are the possible outcomes if I succeed?
- What is the outcome if I fail?
These questions are not meant to solve the problem, rather they are meant to help bring you into fuller awareness of the challenge itself and your emotional reaction to it.
Look to Your SELF for the Solution
Others can help you arrive at your own understanding, but no one ever solves your problems for you. Even in circumstances where someone else is acting as an authority or partner, only you can decide for yourself how you will process the situation. The longer you spend searching for guidance outside of yourself, the longer you spend ignoring the problem. Even those who appear to help are only acting as instruments in the greater process of love and grace that is the true nature of your relationship to the universe.
Stop looking for the easy way out or the wise words that will show you the way. Assess the situation, your resources, and your abilities, and then act. Your action may include enlisting help from others, but it will be your challenge to solve. The sooner you take up the challenge, the quicker it stops being a problem.
There is a reason why certain challenges seem hard to you while others breeze right through the same situations. There’s a reason why you put off a task for weeks that can be done several times a day by someone else. It’s not because they have anything over you or are better than you. And it has nothing to do with a particular skill set or know-how. It’s all about consciousness. Those who face challenging tasks have found a way to avoid seeing those activities as challenges.
Challenges are opportunities to grow. That growth takes place out of potentiality, your potentiality, which is infinite and highly active in every moment of life. Come to know yourself as that. You are pure potential experiencing life through what seems like limitation. Challenges are spikes in that imaginary limitation barrier that guide you to awareness.
You decide: Are you limited or are you an ever-expansive growth of consciousness and love? Choose the latter, and taking another look at that so-called challenge you’ve been facing. With your potential, you can turn a mountain of a challenge into a speck of dust—take that dreaded project and turn it into that thing you did before lunch today.
Detach From the Outcome
Stressing about the potential outcome is often what turns a molehill into a mountain. Once you shift your focus to the thing you’re actually doing, instead of the result, the most intimidating parts of the trial start to disappear.
When you attach emotions to the problem, it has power over you. If you simply perform the task at hand without worrying about the outcome, you have power over the situation.
Some challenges seem enormous and harsh, but if you remain centered and full of awareness, no challenge is too big to meet with power and grace.