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  • Caroline S Joseph

Unlearning, Ignore the Prefix



The human race is collectively obsessed with gaining knowledge. Gain is synonymous with progress which is in turn taken as growth. Yet, we often overlook how necessary letting things go can be for our personal growth. Whether it be in relationships, certain habits and even some principles. Unlearning is not a negative term despite its suggestive prefix.


To unlearn would mean to admit one was wrong. And we all know one of our fatal flaws is the need to be right. To unlearn would mean to let go of what you have grown into. It’s hardly a stretch to say that the principles we follow have dictated a good part of our lives. To unlearn those beliefs would be like erasing those moments, admitting we have lived through those junctures of life the wrong way. The irony lies in the fact that we must all unlearn the very notion that ‘Being wrong is a bad thing’.


Dogmatic, I fit very well into this narration. Not to say I’m opposed to expanding my beliefs or being open minded. But it takes a lot for my proud nature to admit I was wrong about something. The only way I would agree to a third party’s argument would be after extensive debates, where I represent both perspectives. Rigidness definitely has negative reactions from those close to us. Even if they don’t always say it out aloud.

Another conviction, I notice we ought to unlearn as a community the refusal to be weak. In fact, most of us are wrong about the very definition of weak. There is absolutely no harm in admitting weakness. Especially to yourself. Humanity’s renunciation of the weak mind has made us blind to the fact that our greatest strengths lie in us accepting our faults, weaknesses and fears and facing them head on.


I always knew I had to be a strong, independent woman to be taken seriously. Alas, my definition of strong was skewed. To me, strong was about appearance. As a girl that meant letting go of my ‘Femininity’. In simple words I was ‘not like other girls’…and now I internally cringe knowing that, that ridiculous phrase once was my personality.


It took me years to unlearn my definition of strong. I went from thinking strength was a physical ability as a child, to coming to the conclusion it described emotional prowess in my teen years. But now I relate the word to character. If you are true to yourself, you ARE strong.

Independence, on the other hand, meant doing everything on my own. Asking for help would make it seem like I wasn’t capable enough to do a task and that showed weakness. And what an atrocity it was to be weak. Refusing to admit I needed or outright refusing help when offered are traits that I do not see serving me or anybody well. We need to unlearn the idea that it is weak to ask for help. Sure, you have to learn how to take care of yourself. But that shouldn’t stop us from realizing that independence and the involvement of others don’t have to be mutually exclusive.


Unlearning, and I say this from experience, takes a prolonged effort over years. Sometimes with no visible end. The thing is, we never realize when the moment we have accomplished what we set out to unlearn has come. There isn’t a concrete confirmation about the destination, such as in the resolution to a healthier lifestyle or even a visible emotional change of mindset in the journey to self-love. As we grow by unlearning, our minds automatically delete anything that is contradictory to our current thoughts and beliefs. The change is subtle and unobservable. But ask me if I am the same person I was ten years ago and I would have a list of things I had to unlearn to ascertain my growth as a human being. Two letters do not make the process of unlearning any less crucial to progress, maybe we need to unlearn what English grammar has taught us.


Caroline Joseph is a 20-year-old living in the lively city of Bangalore, India. Currently pursuing a Btech degree in Computer Science Engineering, she gladly bides her time doing anything but working towards it. At any point in time, you will find her dreaming new worlds and imagining impossible scenarios (both realistic and fantastical). Catch her on Instagram @carol.anne_75

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