IMG_8335Photo: Katie Appleyard

Isn’t it funny how we let another’s opinion about us change how we feel about ourselves. We let another’s truth become our truth. The traditional school system can be very damaging in this respect. If we didn’t excel at something early on, we set up a belief that we were no good at it. We were taught to respect the opinion of those older than us. But sometimes that opinion was wrong. I am a living example…

I failed six form certificate photography. I was never any good at following the brief. I wanted to take photos of people and my teacher wanted me to photograph architectural lines. So I just stopped handing in work. However, I still spent those classes working on my technical skills and I would waste hours in the darkroom, developing pretty photos of my friends to give to them as gifts. I loved that you could capture a person in a moment that they would never otherwise have been able to see. People are their most beautiful when they don’t think anyone is watching. In that moment you capture soul, not ego.

After failing, I put down the camera for a long time – 10 years actually. Now, I have two DSLRs, an old Pentax film camera and a Polaroid camera – and not a day goes by that I don’t take a picture. Photography is one of my greatest joys in life.

After deciding that art and creativity mustn’t be my thing, I refocused my attention on science and it was during this time that I fell in love with the amazing human body. The most magnificent and complex machine in existence. To begin with, I really struggled with chemistry. During a parent-teacher meeting, my chemistry teacher at the time told my parents “Katie isn’t cut out to be a chemist.”

Once I hit university chemistry, I studied intercalating drugs used to treat cancer – a compound that is able to insert itself into your DNA…now that was bad ass. I just needed a practical application for chemistry in terms of human health to spark my interest. I now have a bachelor degree in science with a double major in both chemistry and biology….

Fast forward a few years and I was a student yet again, this time studying postgrad neuroscience. I had never studied the brain in any great detail during my undergraduate degree. I was informed by one of my lecturers that I may want to switch courses, as it was going to be too tough. I rang my Mum that night in tears.

“What have I done?! Why did I think I could do this?!”

I now have a postgraduate diploma in neuroscience, awarded with distinction and was granted entry straight into a PhD, bypassing a masters.

Time after time, I was told I couldn’t do things. And I’m embarrassed to say that each time I believed them. Don’t go thinking I was the girl who always knew she would defy the odds. Oh no, I believed them. But I think my desire to do those things outweighed the possible failure. Something made me press on, even when I wanted to hide in a safe place.

My point is this – just because someone told you that you were no good at something, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. Just because someone says something about you, doesn’t mean that it is true. Just because something seems impossible, doesn’t mean it is. Life is magical like that. My favourite philosopher Alan Watts once said that life offers you 100 opportunities a day to get to the same desired outcome. Our job is just to notice the open doors. All too often we are busy obsessing about those that have closed.

Appreciate these moments of external doubt as gifts. When someone tells you you can’t have something, your internal reaction is a great indicator of how much you really want it and how hard you are willing to work for it. Do not let anybody’s opinion stop you from doing what you love. Even if you think you are no good at it, you will be eventually. And anyway, not all things in this life should be done for achievement. The motivation should always be how much joy it offers.

When I was 9 years old, my primary school teacher told Mum and Dad – “Katie will never be a leader” – so I guess I have one last person to prove wrong.

“People are just as wonderful as sunsets if you let them be. When I look at a sunset, I don’t find myself saying soften the orange a bit on the right hand corner. I don’t try to control a sunset. I watch in awe as it unfolds.” – Carl Rogers

Much love XX

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Hi, I’m Katie. I am a kiwi neuroscientist with a love for consuming and creating content. This site is where I share my personal thoughts and the thoughts of incredible minds from around the world. PhD in Neuroscience, University of Otago.

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