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!