One of the difficulties to accomplish rising above others’ low expectations of you is that you miss out on several fronts:

  1. you are left “out of the loop” when decisions are going on
  2. you are denied the experience of developing the desired skill set
  3. you do not have a mentor to guide you for how things work, what is happening behind the scenes, and the most effective strategies to move forward to get out of your “failure” role
  4. your anxiety level is through the roof when you finally have a chance to prove (or defend) yourself, diminishing your performance level reinforcing the image of an unreliable incompetent.

No doubt, you can think of other ways to express this.

J.K. Rowling in her Harry Potter series expressed it very well with the character Ronald Weasley.

The youngest boy from a large family, Ron has self-confidence issues stemming from comparing himself to his successful brothers who have favorably impressed people at home, school and in their community.

Fred and George, Ron’s twin brothers ahead of him in school, succeeded very well in the school sporting team and were not lazy in their successful entreprenurial efforts. One of the things we can learn from the Weasley twins is that they did not let their weaknesses in class grades bother their self-esteem or see class performance as a status in itself to brag about.

Ron did better than Harry in class– Harry admitted as much to himself when Ron received the prefect badge. He never gave his grades much thought in terms of enhancing his sense of self-worth. After all, Ron had his other friend Hermiony who received top grades to compare himself with. Like all the years gone before, fearful that he will be unable to measure up to the high standards set by siblings, Ron responded to his environment in predictable ways.

Ron’s big break occurred when his brothers and Harry were kicked off the house sports team. Ron and his little sister Ginny were accepted after try-outs in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Ginny is also an interesting character. Left “out of the loop” when her brothers practiced the sport at home, Ginny would break into the shed to practice when nobody else was around. Some people might call her character as having spunk. She certainly had initiative and didn’t take her brothers’ words and exclusion personally or seriously.

Ron, on the other hand, faced directly the jokes about his inability to meet his twin brothers’ standards as a part of their gag routine. It would be a helpful coping strategy to say they never thought he would take it so personally. Indeed, they laughed any insult or admonition off that was directed at themselves. However, they carried the “gag” about Ron too far:

” ‘There’s been a mistake,” said Fred, snatching the letter out of Ron’s grasp and holding it up to the light as though checking for a watermark. ‘No one in their right mind would make Ron a prefect.’ ” p. 147.

Ron’s temperament was different from his brothers’ and the jabs had an opposite effect to how they would respond. The effect was clear when he worked extremely hard to improve on the team:

“His greatest weakness was a tendency to lose confidence after he’d made a blunder; if he let in one goal he became flustered and was therefore likely to miss more.” p. 355.

The taunts, sneers, intimidations from the Slytherins drove Ron to distraction:

“Ron’s ears glowed red and his hands shook so badly that he was likely to drop whatever he was holding at the time, too.”, p. 355.

But he didn’t quit. He wanted to quit, but he had a support system in place that was backing him. He was also faced with team mates who were much worse than he was. It was a time to press on and press through. “Press on and press through” after his twin brothers left the school was exactly what he did. He became a very good player, bringing the team to success.

When you find that support system, do not take it for granted. By affirming one another, and encouraging one another, sharing your stories and skills everyone is better for it. Walk beside one another and you redeem the time for great expectations.