Professional Development Opinion

Have Confidence, You’ve Got This

By Starr Sackstein — July 20, 2017 3 min read
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Sometimes I am my own worst enemy. Of course that isn’t the plan, but it’s how it works out. Always trying to be my best that I sometimes forget to trust my instincts.

Ironically, my instincts have seldom been wrong, so experience should help me find confidence in some new similar experiences. Unfortunately, because I become consumed with being perfect (an ailment I have a hard time healing from time to time), I start to psych myself out.

This happens mostly when I’m trying new things or revisiting things that I was once good maybe even great at. The latter is more true, now that I think about it more.

It’s funny how I can write something sometimes, and I just feel the truth in the statement even if unconsciously.

So my confidence seems to sputter, when I’ve found success at something and then don’t do it for a while and remember being good at it, perhaps even feel an expectation that I should be good at it, that all of sudden, there goes my belief that “I got this!”

Last week I was so busy with so many things that I just couldn’t concentrate. So consumed with not impressing my professor or my classmates that I rendered myself completely paralyzed. It was mortifying and scary. I worried that I wouldn’t bounce back.

Miraculously, once a major piece of what was on my plate was done (I had to deliver a keynote for a school district), I was much better able to tackle this task.

What it reminded me of was that I know I am capable and confident in my ability to learn, my humility in my mistakes and my willingness to hear feedback to get even better. Hungry to get that feedback, even because there is such a need to do well, not just good enough.

So, today, I’m reminding all of my other “recovering” perfectionists that you’ve got this. It’s hard to take the first step, but once you do, muscle memory makes it easier.

I was afraid to ride my bike again because I hadn’t done it for over 10 years, but as soon as I got up on the pedals and started moving my legs, I didn’t fall once. Perhaps a little wobbly for the first few seconds because the bike wasn’t the perfect fit yet, but I still remembered how to ride.

This time my fear came in the form of doing graduate work. I had to write my first observation about a video I watched about a math class. I’m not a math teacher (but in my new job, I will be working with subject areas that aren’t mine either), but I understand good practice and student engagement. I also know how to give good, actionable feedback in a way learners can hear it.

After watching the video, I was struck by how much context really helps with providing information. I’m certain that if I had a relationship with the teacher I was observing and had a pre-observeration to know what I should be looking for specifically, the quality of my feedback would have been even better.

Since none of my classmates know me personally and don’t know anything about my professional life outside of what I’ve shared so far (that I know of at least), I have these weird expectations that I’m supposed to know everything right away.

Terrible, I know. I’ve had conversations with students about this exact problem and it is never easy. And now I am that student... again.

So, I’m just going to trust myself. Accept that all of this new learning will take practice. Remember that it’s okay that I’m not the best since that really isn’t even a criteria for being good at what I’m working at and mostly, just stay open to keep trying and hearing the feedback of my professor and my colleagues.

Learning is exciting and nerve-wracking, but mostly exciting. I will take this most recent experience with me into my new job as I get to know my colleagues and start to develop relationships with them that is going to require a fair deal of trust. Change always requires trust.

What do you need to feel confident when trying new things or old things that you haven’t done in a long time? Please share

The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.