A woman peering out behind paper fans

During quarantine, I signed up for at least 10 courses and at least two to three virtual events every week. My calendar was packed with opportunities to learn something new or get certified in something new.

This wasn’t just a trend that happened during quarantine. I have always been someone who seeks more—more to learn, more to do and more to master. Throughout the years, what I’ve started to unpack about myself is that my addiction to learning may not be a good thing. 

Previously, when I was living in NYC, I could often be found at a workshop, networking event or wellness gathering. I usually chose professional and personal development opportunities over happy hours or brunches. I was also proud of my expert ability to source new people and places to learn from.

I’ve always loved to learn. As a kid, I was your typical Type A, perfectionist student who always looked for opportunities to master a new subject or explore a new idea. I enjoyed learning because I was good at it. Learning new things made me feel validated. I wasn’t that great in any sport. I couldn’t sing or dance (even though I tried), and my confidence in social situations took decades to develop.

Learning new things made me feel validated.

Back then, I would never raise my hand in class without sweating profusely and worrying about how my voice sounded out loud. I was soft-spoken, yet fiercely hardworking. If you gave me a homework assignment, project or essay to write, then I could do that. I could get the A and that made me feel valuable. 

In college, I was typically the person who would create the study notes in class and then share it with my friends. I led every group project I was a part of because I wanted to ensure and control that we presented the best possible result.

After graduating in 2013, I jumped into the corporate world. Again, I attended every learning opportunity I could find in and out of the workplace. I continued to read everything I could, and I always had endless tabs of articles and essays I bookmarked to dive into later. I consumed more content than I consumed water. I thought that as long as there was more to learn, there was more for me to do.

Years later, even after getting my yoga teaching certification, I continued down my “need to learn more” path. I got certified in three additional methodologies less than three months after my training. I needed more credibility. I needed another gold star.

I’ve come to understand, particularly during quarantine, that I keep signing up for courses and certifications and bookmarking endless articles because I don’t see my own value. I use the acquisition of knowledge and skills as a means to receive validation from others.

I’m looking at the rest of the world and saying, “Teach me because I’m not good enough yet.” I have a closet full of gold stars, but none of it has been enough. I’ve always had a problem with comparing myself to others; however, it wasn’t until now that I realized that comparison intertwined with my habit of educational consumption. On an unconscious level, I have believed that others are better than me. Therefore, I must learn from them before I do anything worthy. 

I have a closet full of gold stars, but none of it has been enough.

My endless desire to consume and learn is a cycle I’ve been a part of for my entire life. My consuming has been stopping me from doing so. There are so many dreams that I’ve tried to chase and stopped midway to learn something else because I wasn’t ready or someone out there had done it before me. Then, I get discouraged, distracted or veer off course.

Learning had always made me feel good about myself until the learning was over, and then, suddenly, I wasn’t good enough anymore because there was something else to learn. It became a never-ending cycle of seeking more affirmation. I wasn’t trying to convince the world that I was worthy. I was trying to convince myself—my inner child.

I wasn’t trying to convince the world that I was worthy. I was trying to convince myself.

At some point, we have to own what we know. We have to believe in ourselves. We have to show up in the world because reading one more article won’t prepare us for stepping into who we were born to be. If you’re like me and struggle with seeking validation through what you know, it’s time that we stop collecting gold stars and start seeing our intrinsic value. We each have something to teach, to build and to change in this world.

Is there a habit you’ve indulged during quarantine that might be a way you’re looking for validation? Is it a healthy habit, or something you’d like to consider leaving behind?

Image via John Michael Fulton, Darling Issue 12

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