Stifled Confidence

“Mom, I really want to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Music”, I said as I handed her the letter from the Dean of the University of the Philippines’ (U.P.) conservatory of music. “There is really no money in music” was her quick reply.

I was quite saddened by this pronouncement of my mom. Who would not be? When many years back during my elementary years, from between seven to twelve years old, every summer would we sternly pushed to have keyboard lessons from our cousin. “Go to your uncle’s house that you may have organ lessons”. Organ was an electric keyboard used in church music accompaniment at that time. “Your cousin, your uncle’s daughter who plays the organ will teach you”. My uncle’s family, the younger brother of my mother had all his children play in his family music band. It was my uncle’s passion to have all their children take part of it as it was quite a great pride that time to have the entire family play in a music band. My uncle must have been inspired by the story of the Von Trapp family singers popularized by the famous Oscar-winning movie, “The Sound of Music”. Besides, my uncle run a restaurant located beside the Cagayan de Oro river with entertainment where their family band would play the famous “Hotel California” by the world renowned rock band, the Eagles, among many others. Oh, how I longed to perform like my cousins who sung great songs of world renowned performers.

I was at a dead end. I did not know what to pursue anymore. The very thing that I wanted to do was being discouraged for me. Earlier, before I presented that letter to my mother, I was thinking of the contents of the letter from the Dean of U.P. In that letter, I was given four complicated piano pieces for audition requirements and I had presented it to my piano teacher at that time, and she said, “Well, Julius, we will work on these music pieces.” There was Bach’s, Beethoven’s, Mozart’s and Lizt’s. I was very excited about it and to hear my own mother discouraging me this time was really one great blow. I did not have any idea that time that it had such a great negative effect in my life for such a great length of time. All I felt was devastation inside of me. I felt that everything I wanted for my life was not going to happen. I was already eighteen or nineteen. I was left with no other choice but to pursue my second option out of submission because my mom did not want me to pursue music. I believe that explains why it took me seven years to finish that four year degree course – B.S. Psychology. Was I to blame? After all, it was not really my choice.

I envied other young lads that time because they get the support from their parents about what career they wanted to pursue. I did not know for what exact reason my mother had to discourage me in my pursuit for music. It was not, for sure, for the wrong notion that music is only for girls because great musicians were all men – Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, etc. And besides, my musician cousins were mixed with males and females. I could not understand it at that time which was why I felt resentments towards her then. But later, I began to understand that it was because of financial reasons.

We are eleven in the family. And some of my elder siblings that time were at Law school in the same university where I pursued B.S. Psychology – Xavier University, Ateneo de Cagayan. And sending all of us to school with just my mother principally working to earn a living was indeed very tough for her. My dad who belonged to a big and quite landed family had settled on the entitlement mentality, and being married to my mom who was completely resigned to her belief that money is the root of all evil and did not in any way pushed my dad to work again as he might get back to womanizing, as he was inclined to do when he was still in high position in a government agency in our city; paved the way to a struggling confidence in myself that I could amount to anybody in the future.

Such a great blow to my personal general perception of my being. I can remember that I was always feeling angry about something I could not pinpoint. I wanted to pursue something that I knew coming from the inside of me – music must have been really running in my veins. I could spend hours and hours practicing on the piano more than I would spend time to my academic studies. I would love having voice lessons but I did not receive affirmations from my significant others. On the contrary, my mom at one time while I was doing vocalization said, “What an ugly voice you have, Jong”. Perhaps, it was her way of challenging me, but it did not come that way to me. In effect, I was trying with so much effort to sound like the famous singers – Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams, Matt Monroe, etcetera. But I am Julius Pacana, not Matt Monroe! For as long as I could not sound like those famous singers, I always felt nothing. That perception of my being irrigated my brain almost to its entirety. And I was bringing that until middle age. This struggle with self-confidence, I believe had its very strong undertones from particular experiences during my very younger days.

“A star apple seed, and a carbon paper, and a glass bottle”, I enumerated the important things needed for a science experiment in grade 5. I was 12 years old and the year was 1980. It was great fun doing that experiment, I remember. But the result was not satisfactory. Later when I was already teaching elementary students as a substitute teacher, I envied looking at young boys and girls making a science experiment or any school requirement where the parents are there providing a happy and cordial environment. I guessed later that that must have been impossible being that I am the tenth in the family and everybody was busy pursuing their own individual activities.

My mom must have become tired growing nine naughty and hyperactive children before me. That science experiment earned a passing grade for me because the star apple seed began sprouting but not as healthy as those of my classmates. It could have been so much better. All throughout my elementary years, I could not recall having been assisted in my academics by my significant others. The star apple experiment was just one of the many school activities that I could remember doing without my significant others’ support. Not because they are not loving. Perhaps, I was farther existed that the nine siblings before me had drained my mom’s energy to take the time to attend to me. I had wonderful moments with my mom. But not at crucial bonding moments of hurdling a task together. Not so also with my dad. It could have been a wonderful bonding time wherein a school task is impressed as a responsibility and joyfully tackled. Even household chores were always ordered sternly and not as with a sense of responsibility to joyfully endeavored.

Going back to the “entitlement mentality” I mentioned earlier; this, I would say, had compounded this extreme discouragement I felt of not anymore achieving what I desired for my life. This mentality had been so deeply entrenched in my father and seemed running in my veins too. I have not encountered these words, “Entitlement Mentality” until I read Robert Kiyosaki’s book titled, “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” in 1998, which got me awakened to its ill effects.

When I got hold of this book in 1998, I was already teaching Psychology at the university. It had such great impact in my life that I was literally crying while reading the book. I could not help but cry seeing my dad’s present situation. It was like the poor dad referred to in that book. My dad was highly educated. After his undergraduate course, he pursued law studies which he finished. But my dad’s belief in the entitlement mentality had him quite glued at his credentials. He could have pursued a career in government or even in private institutions. But no, he clung on to what his family could provide for him – inheritance. Inheritance that just simply posed as a great promise for eventual richness. I do not know with my other siblings, but for me, I held on to that. Though I sought for employment that never really satisfied me, money wise, I continued imagining the wealth that inheritance could bring. I also continued seeing the disparity in living standards between us and dad’s younger brother who was rising in power as a politician that time. “Why are we poor?” I always thought. “Why can’t we have a new and beautiful house?” “Why can’t we have a new and nice car?” I questioned all the time. My observation was legitimate but all the justification I heard was, “money and wealth is the root of all evil”. But I have seen and mingled with super-rich people in our community who were so religious and even more humble. So, I thought there is really something wrong with this belief of my parents that money is the root of all evil. Is there a connection among the three? – That money is the root of all evil mindset, and the entitlement mentality, and a person’s level of confidence that he could amount to something great? When you fear money because it is evil, you will hide behind that entitlement mentality. When you settle your belief on that, it will greatly rob yourself of that level of confidence necessary for great and colossal success. With that observation and having read the book of Robert Kiyosaki, I made a very firm resolve to break the poverty in our family. My dad’s strong belief on the entitlement mentality, perhaps really covered his awareness of its ill effects in his own life. Sadly, he has passed it on to some of us siblings. He believed that he, being the eldest, is “entitled” to inherit his parents’ property and other things. This mentality extended so far as to claim slavish service from those they have extended help, monetary and material provisions. Whoever was richer and could extend money and material provision gains the right of entitlement. “I have provided for our parents for this and that concern, so I am entitled for a bigger share”, claims one. “No! I am the eldest, so… ” claims another sibling. This is also held on strongly by my dad’s siblings. So some uncles and aunts on my father’s side of the family claim to have authority over us to varying degrees. One uncle who became the richest among them had this treatment of us, not all of us siblings perhaps, but particularly me, as their “on-call” slaves, and would be called to clean their toilets, run errands, and do other household chores. They see it as a right and not a privilege. The only way to curb this is your rising to power by means of education and onto higher financial standing. But in spite of rising to that level, there is still this hidden agenda of who gains that power first that makes him still feel superior and still manifest in prideful behaviors.

However, the authority is weakened at some point because of the fact that the ones used to be treated lowly now becomes somebody. Let me give an example. All the time I felt indebted to my elder siblings because being the older ones, they had looked after me and had taken cared of me when I was very little, as claimed by them. I always felt that I have to make a return, and when this return was not satisfactory to them, I was not at par. Now, since both my parents were highly educated – my mom being a law graduate herself with an undergraduate Bachelors degree in English and was teaching World History for quite sometime; both of them desired that we all get good education too. Ironically, with all this wonderful education, my dad never got any employment since I was in high school for some reasons which I perceived after reading the book of Robert Kiyosaki as a product of Entitlement Mentality. And perhaps a great fear of this seemingly unfair world. We are not all exempted to this but perhaps some are just really fierce to fight it away.

Furthermore, Dr. David J. Schwartz in his book, “The Magic of Thinking Big” frankly discussed in chapter two: Cure Yourself of Excusitis, the Failure Disease. Excusitis, according to Dr. David Schwartz, is a mind-deading thought disease. When we are afraid to take a chance at any endeavor, we make excuses to refrain ourselves from them. I am not saying here that money is the sole barometer for success. My dad was very successful in molding us into our Christian faith, specifically, to fear God and revere Him. But I have realized later in life though that looking after and striking a balance in all aspects of life – Spiritual, Social, and financial, would result to a healthy and strong self-confidence. A healthy understanding and mindset about money – that money is not the root of all evil is equally important as healthy social and spiritual upbringing, and that such balanced mindset should have been taught at a very young age would certainly result to a healthy human growth. The “entitlement mentality” certainly does not belong to this healthy balance. I believe that this wrong mindset really needed a rescue at my formative years.

I have to say at this early part that I am not espousing anger or hatred. My aim is only identifying experiences in my life that did not really bring a healthy growth and how one could cope-up in a healthy and positive way to still bring a healthy emotional individual. I do not want to go to great lengths of bringing all those undesirable experiences. After all, this is past – a very long past. And I have released forgiveness already to myself and others. “Hakuna Matata” (Swahili phrase of Central East Africa meaning “no worries” or “problem free”), as one famous Disney animated movie, “The Lion King” had successfully hammered into my head and heart. And a great peace indwells my heart with that. Incidentally, unknown to many that this phrase is quite parallel to what I have always known in the bible in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” (NAB)

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