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Dr. Skip Downing, the writer of the book On Course, is a world-famous international consultant focusing on the subject of faculty development and student success strategies, each as an academic instructor and a guide in the utility of principles learned. In the second chapter on accepting personal responsibility, Downing truly analyzes the causal factors of negative outcomes in an individual’s life. After that, he elucidates methods and principles to be adopted in ensuring a turnaround. The chapter acts as a guide in the technique of transformation from being a victim to being a creator. Downing uses the term sufferer to refer to a type of mindset that is self-defeating, keeping one from seeing and acting on choices that could help them. He also defines a creator as a person with a mindset that can enable them see multiple options out of an undesirable situation. Inner critic refers to an internal voice that judges us as inadequate. The Inner defender judges others and blames our problems on sources that seem beyond our control. According to Downing (38), the inner guide refers to the wise, impartial inner voice that tells the truth as best as it can. In understanding and application of the principles therein, I realize that during my education in high school and college, I have oscillated between being a victim and a creator in dealing with various situations and circumstances pertaining to my education as highlighted in this essay.
There are some instances when I have played a victim through my self-criticism. To begin with, I never liked school. I had no motivation to learn, and when I got to school, I dropped out at the age of sixteen and secured a job, employed full time. I later became a mother at the age of eighteen. In retrospect, I now realize that the reason was that I had a victim mindset. The inner critic in me always led me to think that I was not smart enough, that I was inadequate. I always told myself that no matter how much effort I put in I would never perform well. I would look at some of my classmates who often led in class, and I would say to myself, “There is no way you could ever perform better than so and so.” When asked why I failed to complete my assignments, I would say they were difficult and that I was not expected to get a perfect score anyway. Unknowingly, through my self-criticism, I was playing a victim.
Besides my negative self-criticism, I also blamed other external factors for my incompetence. From Downing’s description, this is another manifestation of being a victim. I always blamed my mother for always being at work since she was a single mother with three daughters. I told myself that she had no time to listen to me and advise me on how to go about with my school work, so whenever I got a bad score after an exam, I would say that “I get no parental advice and guidance anyway; my mother is too busy even to check my progress.” As a result, I remained lethargic, and my performance became poorer with time. I also blamed her for having to buy for myself everything I needed. Whether it was a phone or a car, I had to work for it. As a result, I even became truant and would skip some classes to go and seek some menial jobs to get money for buying items I needed. By not attending class, I wouldn’t realize even when some assignments were given, and so I wouldn’t do them. My performance deteriorated further. Downing (40) describes victims as individuals who waste their energy and remain stagnant, especially the times they are blaming, complaining or excusing. How true his words were in my case!
My victim mindset followed me to college still, for upon getting my high school diploma later, I decided to join college. However, I would later drop out within three months, again complaining of difficulty in juggling between child cares and attending my night classes, many of which I missed anyway. Besides, my child’s father was unsupportive. Eventually, our relationship failed. Fast forward ten years later - I believe that I am now more of a creator. So here I am, twenty-nine years old, married to a wonderful and supportive man, now with two children and at the same time a college student. I shunned the inner critic language and embraced my inner guide. In applying the principle of making wise decisions, I relied on my inner guide to objectively evaluate my situation. I accepted responsibility for creating my outcomes at the time and developed a plan. I developed a study plan to enable me seek more solutions to my issues in line to Downing’s (33) principle that encourages individuals to use their own energy to improve their lives. I now participate actively in class, giving contributions regularly. Instead of making excuses that my work at the clinic is demanding, I utilize my breaks when at work to complete my assignments. I have also engaged my colleagues at work who have been very supportive, sometimes even taking my shifts when having exams for example. My husband has also been very supportive, taking up some of my chores leaving me much time to study. As a result of these effort, I am not only enjoying my study in college but also my academic performance has improved. I am more motivated to take up challenging assignments because when I get stuck, instead of quitting as I used to do as a victim, I look for resources to help me despite there being a tug of war between the victim and creator parts in me, I indeed have chosen to learn more towards being a creator.
In conclusion, a good comprehension of the principles of accepting personal responsibility has enabled me to understand my life better. Working in a medical setting pushes me to want more, and in order to succeed, I will want to remain a creator and further weed out the victim tendencies. I believe that with this understanding I will be able to make and follow through with wise decisions consciously.
Downing, Skip. On course. Cengage Learning, 2013.
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