Quality improvement in progress.
Quality improvement in progress.
Every once in a while, I go back to some old journals, and never fail to be amazed by what I find.
Did I really think that way? Did I really write these things?
It’s always a useful glimpse into the past, present, and even the future. Because I am then reminded that even this “mind”, which we think is our constant, this “me” that we think has always been consistent…
Are far from it.
And the journey of knowing and changing continues.
From the one and only Mandela, who certainly had plenty to fear in his life.
As I reflect on this quote, one particular fear that I’ve always carried around comes to mind: The fear of judgement from others.
In a recent MBCT session, we were asked to write down a possible stress/depression trigger. I wrote:
“When I feel that others are watching and grading the quality of what I do”.
What sort of thoughts run through your mind then?
“They can tell I’m acting. They will be able to tell I’m not that good. They’ll be able to tell I’m trying to fake it. They’ll see me for who I really am, with my weaknesses and all. I won’t be liked as much after this.”
What happens in your body?
“Lightheaded. Heart racing. Adrenaline rush.”
What do you feel like doing (after)?
“Tell a trusted friend about it. Pray. Seek validation from myself or from others. Journal about it. Process. Change environment so that I can get a different perspective on the experience (and I usually do, thankfully).”
Are there any old habits of thinking or behaviour that might unwittingly keep you stuck in feelings of depression or stress?
“Replaying the scene in my head, over and over again.”
While I was told that I have pretty good coping mechanisms, it doesn’t change the fact that we will still face plenty of scenarios in life that would make us fearful. Slowly, I see how our way of BEING (being mindful, being aware of our old thought habits which may be unhealthy) can affect the way we DO things, and that in turn might have an effect on how we are SEEN. While changing our behaviour to cater to the approval of others is never a good idea, we ourselves would certainly benefit from a better quality of doing, doing from a place of non-fear.
And who wouldn’t benefit from a presence of non-fear?
As I mused to someone before… We who tend to be easily affected by the opinions of others and who hold ourselves to high expectations would likely carry these traits with us wherever we go.
So no matter which job you do, which country you move to, it’s probably unlikely that you’d be able to get away from yourself.
Which is why, as always, the most important work has to be done within.
Yes, it can truly be terrifying to embrace the unknown.
But time and again, life has shown me that out of the unknown can come many things: Knowledge, courage, authenticity, wisdom, discernment… just some of them.
Remember this and strive on.
A recent read (this) led me to contemplate about how much I let my ego get in the way of the things I do .
“Over-investing your ego in your results is unproductive and unnecessary. If you think the failure of your ideas is a personal failure, you’ll take too few risks, risks that could ultimately pay off. But if you can learn to separate yourself from your ideas and your work and see them as something separate from yourself, you’ll feel you truly have the right to be wrong.” – Steve Pavlina
I thought this was really poignant because it very closely describes and articulates why I fear failure so much. Why I even fear responsibility to a certain extent, because with more responsibility it means that there is also a greater chance of… you guessed it, failing.
Recently, as a member of a local professional body, I was tasked to help out with editing of the association’s newsletter. It was a job I thought I’d be well-suited to do. I’m generally organized, communicate well with people through emails, and make sure everyone keeps to their deadlines to make sure the publication makes it out in and on time.
What I did not forsee was… when the time came for final rounds of edits to be made and a few colleagues kindly offered to help me look through the publication one more time, I was aghast to find that… there were MORE things to change. Things I had not noticed were inconsistent, things I had not thought of looking at until they were pointed out to me. The horror. It totally collided with my view of myself as an organised, on-top-of-everything, time-keeping freak.
Then I came across the podcast/article on OLD, and the quote above, in particular, struck a deep chord with me. I had been over-invested in my ego when I accepted the role, that was clear enough to see. And because of that, I linked discrepancies and perceived lapses in the job as personal failures, as personal flaws. When it does not have to be this way. It could be simply a job everyone is tackling together, for the ultimate goal of getting the publication out.
And when I think deeper, I see how much I have learnt from placing myself out there, from accepting that I have missed out these details, and from re-organizing my perspective so that I look out for such things better in future projects. Without being “wrong”, or flawed, I would not have had the valuable learning experience.
And now I have a beautiful, wonderful opportunity to work on something for self-improvement: To do my work wholeheartedly without necessarily seeing them as an all-encompassing part of who I am. The work may fail, we may stumble and trip and fall along the way, but it need not define who we are 🙂 Yay for that.
On a separate note, it’s off to Bali for the mother and me for the next 5 days. Perfect time for rest, reflection and recharge!
This year, I celebrate my identity as a non-teacher.
On the Wednesday of the last week of August, as schools around the island closed for half a day to celebrate and honour their teachers, I reflected on my identity of not being one.
I looked at instagram posts by ex-colleagues and friends, sharing their proud moments, their pile of letters and gifts from students, being award titles like “Most Caring” or “Most Inspiring”. I looked at them and I felt a little tug. I could have been one of them. I WAS one of them.
What was that tug? Jealousy? Nostalgia? The longing for something you think you might like but know that you would not want it so much once you have got your hands on it?
Maybe a mixture of all of the above.
As I contemplated my mixed feelings on a day I had always had mixed feelings about (because I was never fully secure in my identity as a teacher), I also contemplated on the person I am now.
I thought about the decision I made to leave a particular system, though I realise now that leaving the system does not necessarily mean leaving the identity completely. So many aspects of who I am now and what I do as a music therapist still manifest from the teacher in me, just in a different context and in a different industry, with different goals and intentions.
And as I told a comrade, “the institution we left has its own system of rewards to get us to do what they want. Because we have opted out of that system, it means that we may not get those rewards, but it also means we are spared from the confines of that system.”
And that is certainly something to celebrate. Because freedom to be who you are and to relate to your authentic personality in what you do is something priceless. Certainly not something you can measure in gifts and awards and letters, no matter how heartfelt and touching and affirming they are.
That said, I was very touched by the call from 2 ex-students. It’s always nice to be remembered.
So… on a day when I would have celebrated (or tried to celebrate) my identity as a teacher, I instead contemplated on who I am, who I want to be. And relished in the freedom of being able to do so.