Hello blog reader(s). It's been a while since my last missive and with good reason. I haven't felt the need to express my progress because I feel like I've just been living it.
I've come along way in my journey but still feel like I have a long way to go. I would say the mode I am in now is Extreme Self Awareness peppered with baby step accomplishments toward the goals so painstakingly formulated on my Action Plan with my coach.
Something he continually points out to me is how emotionally-laden all my exchanges with colleagues tend to be (at least as perceived by me). I need to look at the fact that I am overwhelmed and in way over my head with my numerous and rapidly advancing job responsibilities as a Business Need, not an Emotional Crisis. I need to be solution-oriented, and strategic versus reactive and panicky. I realize whenever I talk about where I am in my work situation, I want to cry. I am sooooo emotional about it. But it doesn't have to be that way. It's a job, it's business, we are all on the same team and we all have the same goal. Just because it's not ideal is not a reason to cry about it. This can be solved, without any tears.
If I remove emotion from my conversations about needs and expectations with my colleagues, it becomes Not About Me, but about the needs of our business. For example, I feel extremely guilty asking a peer or someone a level above me who is also in the same horrible boat as me to do something that is technically not their job, but something I absolutely need help with because if I continue to try to do everything alone and be a martyr, I will without question self-destruct or have a magnificent mental breakdown, probably in full view of my students and colleagues.
Everyone gives these vague, generalized, sweet offers of "let me know if you need help." But, what does that MEAN? Where do the limits of kindness end? How far can I go without insulting or angering my colleagues? What's the worst that could happen? I guess they say no or they resist and do less than I expect. But if I don't ask, I risk burning out and feeling more isolated than I already do. Many times I have this angel/devil conversation with myself "I am completely alone. No one is helping me./I am part of a great team of thoughtful people who want to help me be successful." After some wise words from fellow colleagues/mentors who are MUCH better at communicating their needs, expectations, and limitations to others, I agreed that I have to start giving concrete directives to my colleagues when they offer to help, and I have to stop feeling guilty about it.
I cannot continue on the path that I am on - trying to live up to my allegedly too-high standards and feel like I'm producing quality work, excellent customer service, and true, meaningful life-changing learning experiences for my students, while juggling what is essentially two jobs and numerous "emergencies" and crises that pop up on a daily basis, always feeling woefully inadequate or even worse, like my least favorite thing, a failure.
Have I been snappish? Yes. Have I eaten numerous carbs? Yes. Have I felt soul-crushing anxiety, the likes of which cannot even be calmed with a walk on a sunny day to Starbucks, a stroll through the Container Store and a solitary moment of peace watching leaves float down a babbling brook? Yes. I even consulted our employee assistance program for professional counseling because I feel like my coach is not being paid to listen to me sob uncontrollably into the phone while shoving an oversized oatmeal raisin cookie into my mouth.
When I felt that anxiety, something clicked. I will not get sick again because of a job. I will not trade my sanity for a paycheck. Anxiety weighs on my chest like a nervous anvil, making me feel afraid and hopeless. No job is worth either my health or sanity.
I've started to have conversation with my colleagues, peer and supervisory alike, about how I need to be better about asking for help. That we need to work more closely, meet more often to discuss our needs as a team and collaborate more. I've advocated for an entry-level staff member, at least part-time, to help lighten my load. I've started to delegate more to my student workers, with surprising and delightful results. I've gotten better about recognizing and rewarding both my staff and student leaders, and it's working. I've gotten better about communicating my expectations, saying no to things, and using people's strengths to meet our goals as a team. I've managed to stay friendly, be happy even, and enjoy the fruits of our mutual labor. I give credit where credit is due and am shocked at how much easier it gets to let go of things and trust others once you see that it works.
One of my favorite bosses told me that for every baseball bat I take to myself, I need to take a feather duster as well. I bought us both feather dusters (hot pink with bling, of course). Mine hangs on my office wall as a reminder to not be so hard on myself.
I recently read about Imposter Syndrome and I feel like it totally applies to me. You don't believe that you deserve your success. You think one day that you will fall off of the pedestal or fail spectacularly and then everyone will know that deep down you are actually a loser. The real you is not this amazing superstar that everyone tells you that you are, all the time. The more compliments you get, the more scary it is. The higher you rise, the further you fear you will fall. Perhaps it is remnants of my moody teenage self's low self-esteem. Perhaps it is always having been an A-student and never wanting to disappoint anyone with a B. I call this blog Confessions of an Overacheiver for a reason.
My biggest progress is this awareness. At least I know that these are irrational fears, that they can be fixed and that people care enough about me to support me and see me through these dark times of self-doubt and fear of failure. I think I still have a long way to go. I will never stop being hard on myself, but at least I am trying to be a little gentler. I try to listen and absorb when people tell me "you are doing a great job."
My progress is coming along. I am delegating, I am communicating. My confidence still comes and goes, but I recognize my old self in some of my students and it warms my heart to tell them what I have always been told by others, "You don't know how good you are. You are doing a great job - just trust yourself."
Nice to meet you!
I am a tech pro, blogger, DIY'er, reader, TV binger, music lover, nerd and semi-crunchy mom. I write about professional development, being crafty, motherhood and politics. Thanks for joining me and letting me share my thoughts with you!