Today I took a step. A pretty big step. To some it may not seem so, but to me it was. In December last year I wrote a blog post (What are you afraid of?), about realising I was still afraid of something. Something I thought I had let go of, or at least let go of enough that it wasn’t holding me back. But I was wrong. I was still afraid of rejection. Specifically, professional rejection.
So my big step today was to apply for a promotional position. A position at my school, where I have applied for positions previously, and won none of them. A position that is a big jump for a classroom teacher, and a bigger jump than I would usually make. Was I afraid? Absolutely! Did I think about NOT applying? Too many times to count! Did I still do it anyway? You bet I did! And for that I am proud of myself.
Here is a condensed rundown of my thought process across the week.
That would be an amazing opportunity! I don’t think I have enough experience for that role though.
Is that what I really want to do? Maybe I’ll just wait for a different position.
I know there is a more qualified candidate, but the perceived ‘rejection’ if I don't get the position will still make me feel like crap. Do I really want to put myself through that again?
And so on. On repeat, in a variety of ways.
Why do these thoughts run through my head? The main reason is anxiety, and the self-doubt that’s been a fairly constant part of my life. This self-doubt is easily fed, and has a voracious appetite. Once it gets a taste of my insecurity, it feeds on my fears and rarely seems satisfied until my anxiety peaks. Another reason is past experience in this context. The experience of applying for a position, being unsuccessful and feeling rejected – as though I wasn’t good enough; as though others did not see my worth; as though I didn’t have enough to offer; as though my contributions weren’t valued. I doubt this was the intent in those situations, however we all know, as Allyson Apsey writes about in ‘Path to Serendipity’, that perception is reality. My perception became my reality.
Just as importantly as knowing why I have these thoughts, is what I am doing to overcome them. In the past, during my bout of depression, I was seeing a psychologist. Now I focus on the positive. I nurture myself. I practice gratitude. I connect with others. I remember how far I have come, and how much I have achieved. I also have a professional mentor, who I meet with regularly to discuss my doubts and fears, clarify my goals, and reflect on my progress. I work hard at not giving others the power to determine my value, and then at quietening the voices in my head when I do. Most of all, I know my worth.
Now, back to that application. While I am happy in the classroom, connecting with my students, trying new things and sharing my passions, those same passions are now the reason I’m feeling ‘antsy’ and like I need something more. My passions are driving me forward, toward a destination that’s not really clear to me yet. I have some idea of where I’d like to go on my voyage, and feel like I’d be hiding in my safe place (my classroom) by not pursuing every opportunity that might help me get there. So I pressed send on the email and submitted my application. I don’t know if I’ve been successful in winning the position, but I have been successful in taking a step to overcome the mental barrier that’s been preventing me from fully pursuing my professional aspirations. To me, that’s an accomplishment to be celebrated. We need to make the decision to face our fears and overcome our self-doubt. Understand what motivates our behaviour. Find strategies that work for us. Choose the person we want to be.