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.

 

Advertisements

“The Power of Vulnerability”-A guide to “Wholehearted Living”, and Confidence

Almost as soon as I published my last post…I began to struggle with my one word: confidence. Ironically I began to feel less confident. We were going through professional staff training and some of the sessions were really hard for me. I began to question whether I was good enough to be doing my job. I was frustrated and wondered why it was so hard for me to let my guard down. I thought about how I could be more confident. But still the thought of “I’m not good enough” kept running through my mind.

Surprisingly it ended up being a theme within our staff, and so our supervisors decided to show us the video above. Everything began to make sense.

I hate being vulnerable. I feel like because I am a woman, because I am young, and because I have a different body type, I already feel like I’m more suseptible to vulnerability. As mentioned in previous posts, I have never felt very confident. I think because of this, I have a hard time initially making connections with people. It’s funny because I’m an extrovert and I love people, but it is the hardest thing for me to let new people in and for me to trust them. In addition, I cannot stand crying in public. Even though it’s a natural thing, I feel like I’m showing others that I’m weak, that I can’t be strong, and that I am not capable of handling myself.

Brene Brown talks about how people who were living “wholeheartedly” embraced their vulnerability. They saw it as something that is necessary in life, “the way to live is with vulnerability”. And after viewing this, I understand now that vulnerability and confidence are connected.

I can’t have “confidence” as my one word unless I embrace my vulnerability, until I realize that I am worthy, that I am capable, and that I need to show others who I really am. This means showing my feelings. This means telling people about who I really am. This means that I need to let my guard down and let people in.

Now, as a supervisor and working in Residence Life, I’ll need to be a different kind of vulnerable. Some things are not appropriate to share with staff members or with residents. However, if I make a mistake I need to own it. If I’m struggling with something that affects my work life, I need to make others aware. I need to role model how to properly and healthily deal with emotions, and not make myself numb in order to look strong or capable. I need to ask for help and input. But I also need to believe that I was hired for a reason and that I am capable of doing this job and that I am worthy of everything I’m achieving. I need to put myself out there.

So now, the “One Word” movement has another, additional step for me-but that’s okay. I believe everything happens for a reason, and so I needed to see this video in order to fully be able to be and think confidence. And if I can both embrace vulnerability and be confident, I think I will be a better individual, professional, and citizen of the world.

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.

Learning how to “Be OK”

I just want to be ok, be ok, be ok...

The lyrics of Ingrid Michaelson poured through my ears as I sat in my apartment, alone yet again on another Saturday night. My friends back at home were all going out to the bars and having fun together, and I was stuck 600 miles away at my new position. I was trying to not feel jealous, because I missed them all terribly, and I did not have anyone to go out with myself. I felt alone and ignored. I was miserable…and if I truly admitted it to myself, I was homesick.

When I moved to my graduate institution, I naively thought that I would not have a long or difficult adjustment period. I thought I would settle in and be busy right away. I wouldn’t have time to miss anyone or anything! I’d make friends right away! My staff would instantly love me! The truth of the matter is…none of that was true.

Change is a constant thing, and I had been going through a lot of it lately. I thought that I would be able to navigate ANY change with grace and ease. Would I miss my friends? Sure, but I’d get over it! I don’t talk to my parents every day anyway. What’s the harm in moving a ten-hour drive distance? Well…it was way more difficult than I thought, partially because I thought I was adept at making changes. But here’s the thing that I learned: no matter how many changes you face, each one has their own challenges and outcomes, and they’re all different. Just because I adjusted well to one change does not mean I’m going to adjust well to all of them. And that was a hard thing for me to understand.

As my graduate experience comes to a close, I know now the key to adjusting to change is to anticipate it. Welcome it. Embrace it. “Be ok” with it. I wish now that I had been more proactive in getting to know those around me. I could have reached out more to my fellow colleagues. I could have gone out into the community and found new and different things to do. I could have jumped into new friendships and relationships with both feet. But instead, I wallowed. I grieved. I felt sorry for myself. And yes, to a degree I should have let myself feel those emotions…but also thought about where they were coming from. These emotions blindsided me, because I somehow thought I wouldn’t feel them, and I think they were magnified because of that. I simply didn’t think I would be feeling those emotions and, therefore, let them take over. I foolishly thought the move was not going to affect me…when it turned out to be the hardest thing I have ever done to date.

Now that I am job searching and preparing to move back home, I know now to anticipate different emotions. I’m going to be excited. I’m going to be happy. But I might also be sad. I may miss the people that I’ve made connections with. I may have another transition period. But…that’s okay. It’s completely normal. I need to know that it may happen and I need to let myself acknowledge it and feel it. I can’t just think that I’ll be fine right away. It may take some time…but eventually, I know that I will adjust and “be ok.”

The hardest challenge I’ve faced: separating emotion from my job

I am a caring person. I love to make people feel good. I like to do things for others that will boost them up and make them feel happy. So when it comes to Student Affairs…that part of me has cringed while facing some difficult situations with students who are facing reprimands and sanctions.

I know, I know. You can’t make everyone happy. It’s physically impossible. I understand that. But tell me that your own heartstrings haven’t been pulled when you have a crying student in your office…right. That’s what I thought. My problem is that I just want to help students so much that when I’m in the moment, I’m thinking Well, everyone deserves a second chance, right?

I’ve discovered that second chances, while good for some people, are sometimes impossible to give depending on the situation…and that may be even better for the student in the long run.

I first discovered I had trouble separating my emotions when I became a Resident Assistant. I had a floor with a lot of roommate issues…and I was getting emotionally involved in these conflicts that had absolutely nothing to do with me. It was draining and exhausting, and doing roommate mediations became harder because I empathized with both roommates. It was difficult to come to a solution. I realized how apt I was to do that, and knew it needed to stop. I could and should empathize with students, sure, but not so much that I was agreeing with one roommate and then agreeing with another roommate when they spoke with me. It had nothing to do with me, so why was I getting so worked up? That’s when I realized I needed to leave emotion out of it, and if I really wanted to help my students I would need to become an impartial party and help foster the discussion between them.

Now, as a supervisor for Resident Assistants, I’ve found myself having to do the same thing. As we all know, sometimes people make mistakes, including RAs. Sometimes those mistakes require job action. For me, it’s really hard when an otherwise really good RA messes up, because they say It was a one time thing. I swear I’ve learned my lesson. I’ll never do it again. Well…that’s great. But one thing that RAs fail to recognize is that if we as supervisors let those things go…it sends a message to the other staff members. This person made a huge mistake and violated their contract, but they’re allowed to be on staff. If I was on that staff, I’d start thinking maybe I could get away with something of my own, or that the policies were not valued by my supervisor. The thing about policies is they’re there for a reason. Even though the RA may lose their job for one mistake, one mess up…there could be other consequences as a result of that mistake, and often times RAs don’t see that.

Sometimes it’s still really hard for me to “discipline” students and staff members. The part of me that is concerned about making others happy fights me tooth and nail. But in the end, sometimes it works out better for students and staff. They could learn a hard lesson that they never would have learned otherwise. Sometimes, as they say, you have to go through hard stuff to get to the good stuff. It is now my job as a supervisor and a higher educational professional to think about all parts of the situation and recognize what’s best for all parties involved…not just the sobbing student in front of me.