Embracing my smallness…

Going into this season of life, I expected that my inner critique would be triggered by the stress and uncertainty of starting to teach for the first time. After over 16 years of working at the same company, I’d experienced a level of familiarity and comfort that brought routine and ease into my life.

Doing something so different is exciting! But, it’s also unsettling, disorienting, anxiety-producing, and a minefield of possible mistakes. When you’ve spent so much of your life trying to do things right it’s overwhelming to voluntarily put yourself in a situation where you’re undoubtedly going to do things wrong!

I could start writing about how a growth mindset transforms the statement above into an opportunity instead of something to dread; and it does. But, this ability of mine to reframe everything so that it sounds good and right again, doesn’t actually allow me to feel my feelings and be authentically in the hard stuff. So, I’ll resist the temptation…

I told my advisor yesterday that I’m experiencing a familiar feeling from my days in graduate school. It’s the sense that there’s always something that needs to be read or studied. Even if I’m “caught up” there’s always another book or topic waiting for a lesson plan that needs to be written soon. Teaching new curriculum is a universally overwhelming experience, I’m told. So, there’s comfort in that!

My inner critique voice tells me several unhelpful things about this constant stream of studying, but the most common is: I don’t have time to study everything I need to on this topic. Now, I know full well that no one expects me to know “everything” but my inner critique apparently doesn’t understand the basic limitations of time and human frailty.

When my mind is spinning these unhelpful and uncompassionate stories, I know the only way through is to pray, rest, and trust in God’s provision and faithfulness to me. He knows my frailty and limitations and sent an answer in his son Jesus. Coming back to dependence on Christ reframes my perspective in the most beautiful way. I’m called to model grace, forgiveness and virtue to my students as I connect with them. Allowing myself to receive grace is the best preparation for the work he’s called me to do.

… in my smallness, I find rest, quiet, comfort. Trusting that his provision, not my striving will accomplish His will.” – Sally Clarkson


A New Meaning of Confidence

Last night I enjoyed a lovely FaceTime call with my dad and stepmom as we caught up on life and we talked about my big transition to becoming a teacher. I shared an experience from back in late August that gave me rich insight into my self-perception.

At the House Retreat, we played a game where everyone sits in a circle of chairs and the House Master calls out certain characteristics, like “Birthday is in July” or “Plays an instrument” – something like that. Then, if the statement applies to you, you jump up and take a chair that’s been vacated by others who also fit the description. Towards the end of the game, the statement was “Is a runner” and I was the only person who got up. As I stood there, I felt a little silly and instantly thought, Well, I’m kind of a runner.

I’d never had such a clear experience of what people call “imposter syndrome” and it was fascinating. By all empirical reasoning, I AM a runner. I typically run about 20 miles per week and have completed several half-marathons and one full marathon. Running it a big part of my life and I love it. Why then did I not identify as “a runner”?

A week or so later, I was at school one morning and noticed an anxious thought: I don’t feel confident. I should feel more like a confident teacher. Quickly, I reframed my thoughts: Really?!? It’s your second week of teaching, Kels. Why would you feel confident already?

Then it hit me. I’ve been running regularly for about 15 years and, on some level, I don’t “feel” like a runner. Maybe what I’m actually doing is more important than what my inner voice tells me about my identify.

As I shared this all with my dad and Moni, my dad had a great insight for me. He asked, “Do you know the Latin roots in the word confident?” With some prompting, I recognized that “con” means “with” and “-fident” comes from the word fidelis which means “faithfulness”. Thank you Marine Corp motto! Dad went on to explain how it works as a legal description of holding someone’s information in “confidence” or “with faithfulness”.

I LOVE this reframing of the word confident! Instead of trying to feel self-assured, being a confident teacher could mean approaching my teaching vocation with faithfulness.

In the best moments over the past several weeks, I’ve been focused on connecting with my students and engaging with interesting historical information. In other words, I’m fully present in “doing” the activities of teaching instead of analyzing and judging how I feel about my performance as a teacher.

Words have power. Our mind’s ability to fuse with words dramatically changes our experience. Praying for confidence takes on an entirely new and richer meaning when it means acting with faithfulness. Amen!