|synonyms:||frighten, menace, terrify, scare, terrorize, cow, dragoon, subdue;|
I’m two days away from my birthday, and I’m feeling some kind of way about it. In an effort to understand where I am, I will try to un-mush some of my thoughts using the mush separator I learned in an MBA course on Emotional Intelligence at Seattle U, taught by Bill Weiss (a class which everyone can consider taking if you are in grad school).
Facts: I left my job at Seattle U just shy of the 3 year mark. I will forever be grateful for my time at Seattle U – both as a grad student, and professional staff. I’ve learned a lot about myself and others through this work.
Feel: I feel very sad and scared because of this transition.
Story: The story I make up about myself is that I am worthless and unable to make a difference in the world. I have given up on my calling. I am not tough enough to make it in the field.
Want: What I want is to gain some confidence and be kind to myself. I want to like myself and know that my existence in this world is worthwhile.
Super vulnerable, right? (be nice to me, please)
I want to tell you that this is a one-off, that the facts of what happened spurred the following three things. But the 3 things following these facts are very similar to almost every situation that I find challenge in. It’s an exhausting feat to constantly find yourself as the biggest hater in your life.
When I entered the field of Student Development I knew that a lot of it would be confronting of my sense of self. I didn’t anticipate that this field in academia would really accentuate this part of me, let’s call it “the jerk”, into heightened capacity and appearance. It’s as though there was this piece of mold growing – very small, and then it just kept growing and growing and no one was cleaning it up. There was no bleach to be found! Anyway – back to my realization about working in the college setting.
There’s a strange dichotomy of giving and receiving feedback that happens in the academy. There are so many layers of power at play: students feel powerless, and administration and faculty feel they (the students) have the most power; faculty feel upper administration have the most power, and the former feel the latter has more power. There is so much confusion about everything, it’s hard to know how to bring about change. Who do you go to with your grievance? How do you know that your feedback is being heard?
Lots of people misuse the avenues in which people who SHOULD be reported and investigated go through, and many who SHOULD use the proper reporting avenues, don’t want to ruin other people’s lives in such a formal way. Power, privilege, opportunity… not to mention where the money comes from.
And when we ask for feedback from folks who report to us, or students who evaluate their professors at the end of every quarter, it’s hard to decide what feedback should be listened to. Who are the ones who SHOULD be taken seriously? Who are the ones whose voices can be dimmed so that the individual being evaluated can move past and be better? Some evaluations are just mean and it’s hard to determine what is worth paying attention to. This is information that I have experienced and other stories I’ve heard from faculty and staff. Sometimes, wisdom fails you… often!
Which brings me to the title of this blog: Intimidating.
This is the adjective that has been used to describe me. And I’m not going to lie to you, it hurts. I have some re-framing to do, and I know I have reframed this before, but every time it gets brought up I still feel like I get punched in the gut. What does that mean to be intimidating? The definition above suggests that I try to use my power to get what I want from someone. What confuses me is this idea of keeping people accountable – this is scary, but is it intimidating? I also want to remember here that I am not a perfect manager, and I want to be better at it. I want to be someone who inspires others forward to do their best. A lot of this is because I throw myself into my work and I try to be my best. I also understand that intimidation isn’t just a physical aspect. It is a mental and emotional one as well. I have felt afraid of someone before because of the way something is getting communicated to me, but as I’ve grown older I realize that some of that/most of that, is not personal to me. I make meaning of it, and that’s why it effects me. That doesn’t relieve the person of responsibility who is being direct – however the sting may be coming within.
I also wonder what intimidation really means when comes to identities. I am an Asian American woman, but I am not the stereotype. I am not small and thin. I am not a wallflower that needs drawing out. I am not timid and agreeable. I am not nurturing in the way that people believe women should be. I have fire inside me. I weigh more than what people would assume on paper, and I have opinions and will fight for things that matter. Is that intimidation? Is it because I have expectations of those who work with me – expectations that even if are spelled out clearly and written on paper, are still confusing when people are held accountable? I don’t know. The hardest part of receiving feedback is not getting the feedback personally. It’s always through a mode and medium that is not enough to know how to make change. In the northwest, this is the passive aggressive tendency – so how does one get better when you need to use assumptions?
Do I scare people because I have moments of confidence? Moments that probably mask the reality of my deep self loathing. I do and am confident in many aspects, but that “jerk” inside me is very big and strong now, and when I get this feedback, this germy moldy thing spreads its ugliness everywhere and I am paralyzed. So how does one get past this? I know that, like most things in life, this is a “yes AND…” answer -but the sting is still there and sometimes it wreaks of betrayal. (Full disclosure here: I suffer from depression and anxiety – this stuff gets at me really bad. So this is my effort to be vulnerable and share it so that it has somewhere to go.)
I’ve been blindsided a couple of times this academic year. And as I have transitioned to another position, in another field that I have left and returned to, I am hoping to regain my equilibrium. I want to be reminded of the person I am… who God created me to be, and be nice to myself (this is really hard for me!). I want to grow and mourn and be joyful and dance and sing and laugh until my stomach hurts. And most of all, I want to recognize the “jerk” inside me, and make friends with it. I don’t think defeating it will make it go away. And even more simply – I want to recognize that we are all human, and forgiveness can be possible – because I know that I this kind of feedback, mostly not given personally, has made me a sad and angry person. And that’s not who I want to be as I grow another year older.
I’m going to need some help with this one… I’m a work in progress and need to be reminded personally and have others remember that too when I fuck up and sheepishly ask for grace. It’s hard to realize that we will never be perfect and even harder to grow into this realization. I’m grateful for a community of people who surround me and support me. I can live a brighter life because of them/you. Thank you. Bring on another year!
OUR DEEPEST FEAR
By Marianne Williamson
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
That most frightens us.
We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small
Does not serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine,
As children do.
We were born to make manifest
The glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us;
It’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we’re liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.