During a conversation over this past weekend, I said something like, “I just don’t understand what everyone is so afraid of!” While I was talking about a water balloon fight at the time, the more I got to thinking about it, the more I realized that it rings true through much of my life. In grade school, I was worried my friends didn’t like me. During my undergraduate years, I was worried that I didn’t have good enough grades to get into graduate school. Now that I am in graduate school, I worry that I won’t find a job after graduation, or that I’m not doing good enough at school, at work, at [insert anything here].
This culture of fear was doing nothing good for my self-esteem, attitude, and work. I first realized how destructive this behavior was last fall while complaining to my mother. I was telling her about how the students I was supervising “won’t do anything I say”. My mom simply replied “have you asked them why?” Once I finally asked them, they quickly replied that I wasn’t letting them use their strengths, and instead telling them how I wanted them to do it. This was when I realized that I was not leading them in a way that helped us perform as a team. Instead, I was leading them from a place of fear. I didn’t want them to look superior to me – so I wasn’t letting them use their strengths out of fear for them being better than me.
From that day on, my supervisory style completely changed. I asked how they wanted to accomplish their tasks, instead of telling them exactly how things should be done. As a staff, they came up with and executed programs and tasks with little to no help from me. This was not only a learning moment for me as a first-time supervisor, but also lead to authentic team building. Through my first year of graduate school, I learned many things but the most prevalent is that it’s okay to not be perfect, as long as you’re trying your best.
I put my all into every day on the job; sometimes it’s not good enough, but sometimes it’s more than enough. That is okay. There are going to be people that like you and people that don’t. There are going to be things you are good at, and things you are not. However, you should never let those things hold you back. Our field is about growth and learning, and sometimes we need to extend those values to ourselves, too. Fear is not something that should guide our work or lives. So when you start filling your mind with doubts, stop it, and put your best, confident foot forward.