This post is all about achieving your academic goals through the process of developing self-awareness.
I want to share something with you that no one ever shared with me in academia, but it changed the way I navigated through this space.
Here it goes: Your academic success is ALWAYS directly proportional to your self-image and the process of you developing self-awareness.
Dealing with test anxiety
Throughout grade school, I struggled with exams and standardized tests. I would excel in classes and could have a full-blown conversation with you about class material, but as soon as you put a multiple-choice exam in front of me, my mind would go blank.
For YEARS I struggled with this particular issue. No matter how much I studied for an exam, the same thing would end up happening. If it was a timed exam, then I definitely did not stand a chance. I was doomed.
I was so afraid of failing that my mind would not allow me to think of anything else BUT failure, and that's ultimately what I got.
Recognize your worth
As I began applying for scholarships and really competitive graduate school programs, it dawned upon me that, if I did not have mentorship, someone telling me that I was good enough to be in the places I wished to be in, I would have allowed my poor self-image to stand in the way of my dreams.
But here’s the thing, you do not need someone else telling you that you are good enough.
It is great if you are fortunate enough to have people like that in your life, but you have to realize this Truth for yourself.
expect the best
Overcome fear-based thinking
I attended a seminar the other day. It was a 3-Day Coach Expo held by multi-millionaire coach and real estate investor, James Mel (one day I will tell the story of how my life was completely transformed by a James Mel FaceBook ad).
He and his team compiled some of the best coaches in the world to speak during this 3-day seminar. One of the speakers was my hero, Les Brown.
I highly recommend checking out Les Brown at the Georgia Dome on YouTube. I listened to this video for 30 days straight one time and it transformed my mind!
Les Brown said something during this 3-day challenge that resonated with me. The first thing he said was, “No one rises to low expectations.”
That quote hit me because I realized that it is often that we expect so little from ourselves. I know I did when I was considering not applying to Yale because of my low GRE scores. I was expecting to be rejected, and that fear almost cost me my dream.
Check your limiting beliefs!
Have you considered the low expectations you have of yourself?
No… What about the low expectations others have for you that you have internalized?
The second thing Les Brown said that stuck with me was, “You do not know what you can do, and they don’t either!” He said this statement with so much authority that I believed he was speaking directly to my heart. In fact, I know he was.
I discuss this in more detail in my bestselling book, Crystal Clear: A Journey of Self-Discovery (From Public Housing to Ivy League), but there have been several occasions when someone told me that my dreams were unrealistic. A high school guidance counselor, college professor, MYSELF!
There were so many times when I thought I wouldn’t be able to accomplish my goals. But there was always a small voice telling me that it was possible. And that is the voice I listened to.
I was always terrified to try because I didn’t want to fail, but I was more afraid of not trying and failing.
breaking psychological barriers
When Roger Bannister broke through the 4-minute mile barrier at 3 minutes 59.4 seconds on May 6, 1954, in Oxford, England, it taught us more about the limits of conventional thinking than anything else had previously. For decades, runners tried to break the 4-minute mark, but over and over again without success.
However, after it had been done by Roger, it took only forty-six days for an Australian runner, John Landy, to best it, at 3 minutes 58 seconds. John not only broke the 4-minute barrier, but he ran it over half a second faster than Roger.
So, what changed? I will tell you.
More than a physical barrier, it was a psychological barrier that broke. Sometimes all you need to see is one person do it so that you can realize it’s possible. That is, all we truly need to believe is that it’s possible.
When I had just gotten to The George Washington University in 2019, I had my first Black female professor.
Not only was she African American, but also, she had graduated from Yale and had been interviewed on several news programs about her ideas on health policy and management. The icing on the cake was that she had natural hair, just like me. The second I walked into her classroom, something shifted.
A barrier was broken because I had seen it was possible. If she did it, then I had a chance, too.
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Adult & Continuing Education
Biographies of Educators
Who you become is more important than the goal
I weave aspects of personal and self-awareness development into everything that I write and in every interview. The truth is, no one can ignore a self-actualized person.
There are so many people who came from disadvantaged backgrounds and still created a beautiful life for themselves. People like Les Brown, Lisa Nichols, Jim Rohn, Tony Robins, etc.! None of them were born rich. They have developed themselves over their life course and used their story to inspire others to take charge of their lives.
That is what I want to do for you! Being in college is no different than any other goal you will work to achieve in life. It isn’t about the goal itself. What really matters is WHO YOU BECOME while you are pursuing that goal. That is the key foundation of developing self-awareness.
It may take a while for that to sink in (it definitely is taking some time for me), but when it does, your entire college experience will transform.
Yes, students deal with A LOT! I always told my older sister that college itself wasn’t always difficult but the process of learning how to manage life outside of classes was tough.
The mental health of college students needs to be way more of a priority in the US than it currently is, but it starts with awareness.
The power of self-discovery
I spent the last nine years in college studying to become a behavioral scientist. The past three of those years were the only ones where I wasn’t completely depressed or didn’t have panic attacks.
The journey of self-discovery and practice of developing self-awareness saved me in college. I wouldn’t be such an advocate for it if it didn’t work for me and the many students that I have mentored.
If you want to improve your college experience, take the time to get to know who you are by developing self-awareness. Only then will everything around you improve, including your relationship with others.
"As self-awareness grows, you become more skilled in human relations. Everything brightens."
self-image book suggestion
P.S. One book that jumpstarted my journey of self-discovery was Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz. Don’t let the name fool you, it is a self-help book, and it is powerful! You can get the book on Amazon or listen to the free audiobook on YouTube.
Find me on Instagram @crystalharrell_ and let me know if this book was helpful for you and in what ways. Happy reading!
For more college advice, be sure to check out my previous blog posts, 5 Useful Tips For Succeeding in Graduate School and How To Get The Most Out Of Your Education: Advice From An Ivy League Student!