Mirrors come in all shapes and sizes. Whether it is a small compact, magnifying, or full body length mirror, they all typically have the same function – to take a look at and examine oneself. Still, not all mirrors are a person point of vanity (pun intended). Consider for example, the purpose and function of the rear-view mirror.
As highlighted in one of my favorite @leadershipdots blog posts titled rear view, dr. beth triplett illustrates that while in our own vehicle, a glance in our rear-view mirror allows us to clearly see the person behind us. However, we mustn’t forget that the driver in front of us can also see us in all our glory. Taking this mirror metaphor a step further, while it is important to hold up our personal mirrors to review, critique, and “check” ourselves, it is perhaps most important for us to ask, know, and acknowledge what others see when they look at us through their rear view.
I suspect many of us have once said to ourselves or others that we are our own worst critic. While this may seem to be true, we often allow ourselves to justify our shortcomings or well-meaning near misses in ways that drivers in front of us will not. The driver watching in their rear view doesn’t always have the context behind our behavior in our car. While we know and teach that perception is reality, sometimes the most striking reality is visible only through the rear view mirror of the driver in front of us.
Whether that driver is a student, a trusted-colleague, or a supervisor, no #SAPro wants to believe that someone may have a different perceived reality of our actions, reactions, role, or expectations related to our work, let alone question our professional commitment or integrity. This is where the rear view perspective is critically important and crucial to our body of self-reflection. Thinking beyond the annual performance review process, how often do you ask others to critique you, your work, and your interactions with students or colleagues? How do you receive and perceive unsolicited feedback that may sting?
At each stage of my career, I have used and carried many different mirrors to examine myself. As a #SAGrad, new #SAPro, and now a supervisor, I have also lived on both sides of the rear view. This means giving and receiving feedback, both solicited and unsolicited in the form of praise, critique, and correction. While a scary and perhaps uncomfortable exchange, one of the most challenging experiences is sitting, listening, processing, and then adjusting ourselves once we have been checked in someone else’s mirror.
While the images reflected back to us through various mirrors are not always pretty, I have learned to embrace the mirror. I suggest we all buckle up, check ourselves, enjoy the ride – and try to make sure our professional egos are not as prone to shattering as those pesky mirrors. No matter the viewpoint, remember to always look straight in the mirror and smile. As Warren Buffet once said “… the rear view mirror is always clearer than the windshield…” Plus, no one wants to walk around with food in their teeth!
October is Careers in Student Affairs Month (CSAM). While increased awareness of entry-points into the field are important to highlight, CSAM also serves as a way to discuss the larger culture of student affairs. Our pursuit of ensuring student affairs staff is representative of diversifying student demographics can’t come at the cost of health and well-being of staff. Add your voice to the conversation by using #CSAM17. Have ideas about a future series for the Student Affairs Collective? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.