Friday afternoon I went to a staff meeting which included a guest speaker. She was there to discuss ways that our program (adult education/GED) can work with her organization to better help those we serve achieve their goals. As it often does when we’re discussing the obstacles faced by many in the community of people we work with, the conversation gravitated toward the ideas of defeatism and lack of self-confidence. These are obstacles that many face but that, for a variety of complex reasons, some find crippling. Our speaker focused the conversation on ways that we, the instructors and administrative staff, have overcome our own inner critics so we could use those experiences to help those we serve.
To be perfectly honest during the meeting I was a bit underwhelmed despite some others having strong, positive reactions to her ideas (my boss was actually moved to tears). I think it’s because for me, these aren’t new ideas. I wasn’t going to have an epiphany when someone told me to love myself, forgive myself, celebrate myself or speak kindly to myself. I already do those things. So, when our guest turned to me and asked, “What is the one sentence you say to yourself? The sentence that tells you you aren’t good enough,” I didn’t have a response. She thought I just didn’t want to speak it out loud because it was too powerful so she moved on to someone else, but I honestly just couldn’t think of anything. I’ve worked through those demons. Or so I thought.
The next day I sat down to write and a familiar refrain popped into my head, “Why would anyone care what you think about this; what makes you so special?”
I have so many unfinished ideas, posts and articles floating around in my head and drafts folder. Some are there because that’s where they belong- the spark of an idea I couldn’t really flesh out or something topical that is no longer relevant. But a lot- way too many- are there because I didn’t think my thoughts on a topic were worth sharing. Furthermore, I subscribe to several publications which I’d like to submit to but when I read the author blurbs I doubt myself and wonder why they’d ever want something from me when they already have contributors with more impressive credentials than myself. Query and rejection is scary. As scary, I suppose, as it is for some of my students to finally work up the courage to find our classes, keep coming back and submit that application to actually go take the test.
Fear of failure isn’t really an earth-shattering revelation and having this knowledge doesn’t really change anything (and honestly this isn’t the first time I’ve “discovered” this truth only to forget it and rediscover it later). I’m still scared, still full of the same self doubts, still have the same reservations about querying those publications. I even have reservations about posting this blog entry; after all, does anyone really care about my inner turmoil and continued excuses for my lack of progress?
These thoughts still plague me because understanding and acknowledging our fears and inner criticisms is not enough. It’s a good first step but it must be followed by actually facing those fears and challenging those criticisms in order to exact real, lasting change in our lives. And this is also difficult and scary. Scary because I don’t know exactly how I’m going to do it and I am VERY uncomfortable with the idea of beginning something without mapping out every aspect of a plan. I also struggle with the appearance of failure that accompanies retracing my steps when I falter, go off course or backslide. I guess that’s the next step, learning to accept these things as well as understanding that wanting to be okay with them isn’t exactly the same thing as actually being okay with them. This is definitely going to take some work on my part.
And as difficult and frightening as these ideas are, even more terrifying is the realization that I also have to be okay with the inevitability that some people will agree with my inner critic. They won’t want to hear what I have to say, think my ideas are so very special that I needed to share them or that I have anything valuable to bring to the table. But I have to learn, somehow, to bring it anyway.