Fighting Fear

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The end of the semester is not just focused around finals and closing the residence halls, but also around staff evaluations. I have always enjoyed the conversations that happen in evaluations-it’s a chance for me to tell my staff the things that they’re good at and push them in a different way. I feel my Developer strength really plays into this-I typically say something to my staff members about themselves and they look at me and go, “Wow, you’re right.” I am often surprised at how strong my intuition is, but it never really fails me.

One thing that I have noticed through my three years completing these evaluations has really made me think about how we all perceive ourselves and how other people perceive us. So often, I have to tell people that I see so much potential that they are not using. I also have to tell them that the expectations they have for themselves are so much higher than my own, or my department’s. I had chalked it up to be a factor of our student population (first generation, blue-collar), but I’m starting to wonder if it’s actually something else.

I have been doing a lot of work recently on myself and read a book called The Universe Has Your Back, by Gabrielle Bernstein. In it, it talks a lot about how we let fear hold us back from a lot of things, not even intentionally. It made me think a lot about my life up until this point and how I have let fear hold me back from so many things…one of those things being my career. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, and it’s important work, and I adore my students. It’s just that I don’t think this is what I was ever meant to be doing. Music is my true passion, but I’ve never had time to devote to it the way that I want to and that’s because I was never allowed to pursue it fully. One of those reasons was the fear that I wouldn’t “make it”. The other was the fear that I wasn’t good enough. Another was the fear that I wouldn’t be able to support myself. Fear drove me away from the one thing that I feel is my absolute calling.

I have also come to realize how much fear has held me back personally. I’ve been afraid to put myself out there, afraid to meet new people, afraid to do things that I really want to do because ultimately I am afraid of not being accepted. I am afraid of rejection. I am afraid of being told that I’m not good enough. As a result, I have let so many opportunities pass me by, and now all I can do is sit here and wonder what would have happened.

But I don’t think I’m the only one who does this. I think MOST of us do this. We’re told to go after your dreams and pursue them, but we’re also told of the consequences of doing that. “Don’t be too bossy. Don’t be so emotional. Don’t do this and don’t do that.” Often times the things we most desire are the things that society tells us we shouldn’t or can’t do. But here’s the kicker-deep down, we all know this. We know that we hold ourselves back. We are all aware that there are things in life that we can do better, be better at, things we wish we could achieve but we’re afraid of it or the consequences. And we are right to weigh the options and consider all of the outcomes. But I think that we see ourselves differently than how other people actually see us, and our self-perception plays much too big a part in our minds. Our self-perception skews our capacity to achieve.

It makes me sad that my student staff don’t see how amazing and wonderful they are. I try to tell them how much potential they have in their evaluations. Whether or not they choose to use it is up to them. All I know is I want to get them, and myself, out of our comfort zones. I want us all to push past the fear. Who knows what we’ll be able to do when that happens.

The Developer in Me

Recently at a RA In-Service, we began talking about our Strengths (based on StrengthsQuest).  We broke out into our staff groups and were asked to share with each other the Strength that you really identify with.

My Strengths, in order, are Positivity, Empathy, Developer, Includer, and Consistency. When I first took the test two years ago I thought…okay, this makes sense. I’m definitely an optimist, and I love making others happy. Empathy and Includer relate to my love for people and my passion for treating them all the same, which also fits in with Consistency. But I did not really know what Developer meant. Once I read the description and looked back on my career, I thought, wow. This is really cool. It is the Strength that I have grown to admire the most about myself.

My StrengthsReport reads:

“People who are especially talented in the Developer theme recognize and cultivate the potential in others. They spot the signs of each small improvement and derive satisfaction from these improvements.”

I feel as though this is the reason why I’ve gone into Higher Ed and why I love it so much. I can see what my students can be before they even realize it, and sometimes they just need a little push in the right direction. I love being able to say I was the one who helped a student realize their true path, since I admire and appreciate those who have helped me in my path. I love helping students figure out what they’re meant to be. My StrengthsReport also says that I enjoy when my words of encouragement push other people to excel. This is so me, to a “T”.

The only problem with having the Developer skill is that I place the needs of others ahead of my own way too often. My report states: “By nature, you sometimes throw yourself into your work even when you are personally inconvenienced.” It is, unfortunately, very true. I sometimes feel like I’m not doing my job if I don’t go out of my way to help a student. However, it’s important for me to realize that A) I can’t help everyone and B) I need to take more time to myself and not devote so much time to others. I love helping people, but I should not be willing to put my own health and sanity at risk for them. For me, there is just no better feeling than knowing I’ve helped someone…but I should realize that I can’t help others if I’m not in a good enough place or if I’m not helping myself.

A few days ago I recieved a message from one of my former RAs asking for help in her graduate school search. I was thrilled that she reached out to me and was happy to provide her with information. She then posting a status on Facebook thanking me and our former supervisor for helping her. It’s situations like that that absolutely make this job worth it. The fact that I can keep connections with former students and am able to help them even while living on opposite ends of the country makes me the happiest I have ever felt. It’s just the Developer in me.

 

One word: Confidence

I want to feel brave enough to do anything I put my mind to!

Recently I came upon the “One Word” Movement. I was reading through some old documents and saw that the building I’m currently running had decided to do this as a staff. Essentially people who choose to do this will pick one word that they want to live up to for the entire year…kind of like a New Year’s resolution, only more manageable. I found this a profound idea, and from the documents I was reading it seemed like the students and staff really took to it. Not only that, but they said it helped them set goals and they actually saw a real improvement in themselves.
Then, yesterday, I read this article that essentially stated the same thing, with a twist-a man decided to change his password to something he wanted to accomplish-forgiving his ex-wife. He found it very healing, very cathartic, and over time he began to set goals for himself by changing his password. It was a reminder every day to do the things he wanted to do-and he found these one word phrases to be very powerful in his life. To anyone who says words can’t hurt or do nothing, I beg to differ. But anywho…
I’ve decided to join the movement. What better time than my first professional job than to come up with a “New Year’s Resolution” of sorts? And so, for me, my word is going to be one of the things I find to be the hardest: confidence.
It’s hard to say when my struggle with self-acceptance began, but I think it started when I was young. I’d always been chubby, and my family has always been very body-conscious. I’ve struggled with that my whole life. Then to top that off, my brother and I are 14 months apart, with me being the elder. He did well in school while I struggled. He was athletic while I was more creative and musically inclined. Even though it was unintentional (or at least I hope it was), there was definitely some competition and rivalry between us. I think it’s these factors that made me self-conscious. I just wanted to be accepted and loved by everyone…and I still do. It was a hard thing for me to realize that no matter how nice I am, no matter how well I sing, no matter how I look, no matter how much I try to make other people happy, not everyone is going to like me. However, that didn’t stop me from trying. It got to this really unhealthy point where I realized I was only doing things because other people told me to, not because I truly enjoyed them. That’s when I started doing things for me.
It has been a rocky road. I almost didn’t go to grad school. I had trouble finding an assistantship, and then when I did I was lonely. But I grew. I grew so much that I was honored as the Graduate Assistant of the Year. Then the job search struggles happened. I learned to just be myself and that it wasn’t always about me, it was about fit. That was hard, wondering if I fit somewhere that I really liked. But eventually I’ve found my new job, and like my last post mentioned, I’m unbelievably happy. But I still struggle with confidence, and wondering if other people like me.
The thing is, I know that they loved me here and that’s why they hired me. They believed I would fit in with the other people and that I would make a great addition to the team. I am going to try my best and my hardest to make sure that I am a great addition, but I also need to believe that I already am. I have what it takes. I’ve got skills. I’m competent. I can do this. As for other people liking me…well, if they don’t, at least they respect me. Again, not everyone is going to like you. People naturally bond with other people. But I’m here to do a job, and as long as I have my colleague’s trust and respect, that’s all I need.
So my word for this year is “confidence”. Every time I feel unworthy, I’m going to think this word. Every time I question a decision, I’ll remember to trust myself and my abilities. Every time I feel like I’m feeling vulnerable, I’m going to remember to be confident. And in the end, I hope I really will feel confidence in myself without having to try. I want it to come naturally. I believe in the power of one word, and I welcome the changes this word will bring.

The Importance of Being Happy

As previously mentioned in this blog, I had a really hard time adjusting to my last institution. It took me a long time before I felt comfortable there. But, also like I mentioned, I learned a lot. I grew. I now understand what I do and do not want in an institution where I work.

Recently, I was hired at a new institution. I was anticipating a similar transition. However, to my surprise and delight, it has been smoother and better than I could have imagined. I feel at home here. I’m excited to be here. I am looking forward to all of the different possibilities this institution has to offer. And, I have good work life balance for the first time in what feels like a very long time.

I’m so happy.

It could be because I have been so stressed out for so long. Trying to graduate on top of completing my assistantship, my internship, and job searching was absolutely exhausting. To finally be settled into a professional position where just a few months ago I was wondering if I would even have one is a relief. But, truly, it doesn’t matter why I’m happy. It’s just great to know that I am and feel it.

Ever since I’ve arrived here, I have felt confident, self-assured, and feel like I belong. I have noticed that I am more productive, more willing to go out of my way to do different things, more willing to jump into different aspects of the position. I have already begun to see the benefits of doing so, and I feel like it’s because I’m truly and utterly happy.

Imagine what we could all do if we were happy most of the time. It’s unrealistic to think that I’m always going to feel this way-there will be hard times, and I will face challenges. However, I feel like if we capitalize on the times that we are happy, we will be able to navigate the difficult times easily. I don’t need to be happy 24/7 but when I’m in a good mood, watch out world! I feel as though a lot of times in this field, we capitalize on the things we are doing wrong, and the things that are going badly. We are a very reactive field. My top Strength from StrengthsQuest is Positivity which means that even when bad things are going on or something happens, I try to look for the positive angle and see what needs to be improved from there. I think I need to learn how to better use this strength so that I can channel my “happy energy” like I’ve been doing this week!

Making Choices as a Female in Higher Education

Recently I’ve been recieved pressure from my father to get my PhD. And honestly, he started talking to me about it on my graduation weekend. I hadn’t even gone to the ceremony yet! It has just got me thinking about the difficulty of making choices for females in higher education. I’ve been reading a lot of great books over the past year that talk about the struggles that only females face, and about how we plan out our lives before they even happen. We want to get married and have kids, so we don’t necessarily take all the leaps and jumps that we could or should. I’m proud of myself that so far I haven’t limited myself to anything. I’ve done what I wanted when I wanted to. But will I do that in my future? Should I be considering my PhD?
In a way, I’m glad my dad is pushing me to go above and beyond. He has told me before that he didn’t think I’d do so well in school…which honestly is a little bit of an insult, but I guess it’s a product of the world he grew up in, and the fact that I was a little flighty and dreamy when I was younger. But I also think my father has realized that women are still treated differently, and in order for me to progress and excel in my field, he believes a doctorate is necessary. I don’t really agree with him, since it will depend on where I want to go in higher ed. Yet, I can see his point.
It should feel like a choice, not a sacrifice or that I’m being forced into it. Females shouldn’t feel like martyrs for the sake of our careers. I shouldn’t have to “wait” for a perfect time to do anything-if I want to do it I should be able to. These are things that I have to think about that my male counterparts may not.
I don’t know what my career is going to be like. All I know and all I can hope for is that when the time comes to make any decision, I will be supported and encouraged by everyone…including my father.