If Mrs. Roosevelt is right, I am as agreeable as the day is long. I consent to feeling inferior every time I compare my pedagogy to another teacher’s; every time I compare my blog to one that’s more insightful, wittier, and more articulate; every time I compare myself to women who work full time, have kids, manage a home, AND (choose one or more of the following) volunteer at their kids’ school, participate in a book group, train for competitive sports, run a side business, decorate for every major holiday, look adorable in knit caps, keep their cars spotless, do Zumba without tripping over themselves, move objects with their minds, and breathe under water.
Some days my pathological habit of comparing myself to other people cripples me with self-doubt. My own strengths and accomplishments as an educator, writer, and functional adult are buried under the avalanche of everything “they” do that I don’t do, everything “they” know that I don’t know, and everything “they” are that I am not.
Here’s the craziest part of the story: I not only allow these assaults, I impose them on myself. My colleagues don’t stroll into my classroom and scoff, “Is that your summative assessment for this unit? Jeez. Let me tell you what REAL teaching looks like…”; other bloggers don’t leave comments on my posts like “You call your blog ‘186 Days’? I can think of 186 WAYS to write a better one!”; my friends don’t ask me, “Honestly, Elena, how is it that you needed to take a year off from work just to handle your simple life when I’m juggling 26 responsibilities like a boss?” Those are not real voices.
The one I hear is the insidious, self-destructive, dangerous inner voice that convinces me that I suck. I just suck.
MY HUSBAND (reading over my shoulder as I write this): “When I was doing duathlons, a common strategy was ‘Train your weakness and race your strength.’ I had great confidence in my cycling, so I focused more on improving my running. So just identify your strengths and–”
ME (in an arresting frenzy of anxiety brought on by simply writing about how much I think I suck): “But that’s the problem. Sometimes I look at everyone else and I feel like I have NO strengths! All I have are weaknesses!”
That was yesterday. Now that I’m off the ledge, I know he’s right. I need to get in the habit of subverting that dangerous inner voice consistently to create space to identify and acknowledge what I CAN do well; I have to realize that my success is about me, not about anyone else.
So who cares if another teacher uses more meaningful and relevant means to assess her students?
Not me! I can hook my ankles behind my neck and recite Macbeth’s soliloquy from Act 5 of the eponymous play!
What does it matter if WhizBangBlogger just logged her 30,000th subscriber?
It doesn’t! Because I can ride my fully-loaded cart from the front of Costco to the far end of the parking lot without hitting any cars or children!
Who gives a hoot about those women who do and have it all?
I sure don’t! Know why not? Because I can…
Give me a minute.
Hang on. I’m thinking.
Cripes. I just remembered that actually, I suck.