Conquering Insecurity: Results (Self-Care in Academia and Teaching)

It has been a month since I have started what I call my “confidence project.” My confidence project was a 30 day promise not to talk about myself negatively and to take my insecurities day by day and transform them into something positive. I thought it would be good to post a list of these insecurities as they came up (which you can find at the end) and briefly describe how useful this project was to me!

First, it is important to say that there were a few changes in this project. To start, I didn’t write 30 insecurities; I only wrote 22. At one point, it was becoming a chore to think of my insecurities that I needed to transform. Shortly after, I realized that searching for insecurities was not consistent with my ideas of what this project should be. I thought it was better to naturally deal with my insecurities as they came up. So, 8 days of insecurities are missing from this project, but I think it’s great that I didn’t have more! Furthermore, the project became not only about struggles with my intelligence, but also with my personality and body. That was something that happened shortly after I started. I mean, my first day was about body image! Thought it’s not relevant to academia, I think this is still consistent with self-care for teachers, especially those who struggle with anxiety and insecurities. My feelings about my body and my insecurities about my personality are still very relevant to the way that I present myself at work and in the classroom.

This project had a profound effect on my self-esteem and confidence! Although I still struggle and fear judgement, I am getting better at talking myself out of my sometimes irrational thoughts. Additionally, the practice of positive thinking started becoming a habit for me! Although I did have a relapse into thinking negatively a few times, it has helped change my general disposition!

This project has assisted with the anxiety I feel with approaching my work as a teacher and as an academic. After months, I was finally able to write a rough draft of a book review that I had started in January. Having my insecurity written somewhere with a positive twist gave me something to come back to, which I did while writing the book review. It allowed me to becoming centered again and continue my work, pushing past the anxiety I felt!

I couldn’t put a positive twist on some of these insecurities. Instead, I gave myself some reasons as to why it was irrational to think how I was thinking. It was a way for me to engage with this insecurity without tearing myself apart emotionally. The best example is day 22, when I knowingly gave a colleague a manuscript I wrote that was done in two days and wasn’t proofread. Reframing my insecurities into a sensible conversation with myself provided me with a dialogue that allowed me to continue to do the work that I love to do!

I brought up some of these insecurities with my friends, who were able to help me think of ways I could transform my insecurities into something positive or give me inspiration to talk myself out of feeling negative. Examples of this are days 2-3, day 6, and day 15.

I encourage everyone to try this project, even if it’s on a smaller scale! I would love to know if it helped you with:

  • Your feelings as a teacher
  • Your feelings as an academic
  • Your anxiety
  • Your self-esteem
  • Your confidence
  • Anything!

Now, I present to you with my daily insecurities and how I transformed them. My hope is that someone might be able to see how insecurities can be irrational, how they CAN be transformed, that they’re not alone, and that they can benefit from positive thinking. Please feel free to ask questions! I’m more than happy to give answers, advice, etc.

Thank you, friends!

_________
Day 1:
I gained an inch on my stomach during vacation.

Positive: Weight fluctuation is normal, and my worth is not determined by body fat. Besides, I’m more to love now!
_________
Day 2: I feel insecure about my ability to teach because I have trouble thinking of good lesson plans. I have to rely too much on using other peoples’ materials. I feel like I ask for help too much.

Positive: I’m not asking for help; I’m using all of my resources effectively. I’m in my first year of in-service teaching. I’m actually smart for thinking of how I can use the assistance of the many wonderful teachers I know.
_________
Day 3: I don’t have a suitable personality for academia. I don’t feel like I fit into the standard “academic type.” I’m too enthusiastic. I like to joke around to make work more fun. I talk about dancing to R&B and hip-hop at work all the time. I laugh hard and loudly at work all the time.

Positive: I have a unique personality that makes me memorable. I am liked by professors and co-workers because I’m so upbeat and happy. I know that when I walk into the room, the atmosphere changes positively. If academia can be so boring, then it might be a good thing that I’m changing it up. Besides, my personality has never stopped me from getting jobs, scholarships, or assistantships! Maybe it even helped!
_________
Day 4:
People think I’m too sensitive. Sometimes it’s hard for me to take a joke.

Positive: Maybe I am sensitive, but that can be a positive thing. I am more empathetic and sympathetic than most people I know. I care about the humanity of others. If I’m going to be the person I want to be, which is a social justice advocate and activist, then I’m going to call out terrible rape, racist, sexist, or homophobic jokes.
_________
Day 5: I’m not good at anything I do. I look at my colleagues who are brilliant and they are so much better than I am at their jobs, their research, the work ethic, etc.

Positive: I can turn to my colleagues, who are more than happy to support me, to ask for help. I can also use them as a way to improve my practices. Besides, they still value my input on many subject matters.
_________
Day 6: I’m not very articulate. I can’t think of large vocabulary words I want to use. I have to restart my sentences for them to make sense.

Positive: On the contrary, most people I know think I’m very articulate. Also, I have a degree in linguistics and know that language mistakes are very common, even among native speakers. I still have respect from professors, colleagues, and even people I want to do research with.
_________
Day 7: My body is not amazing, and I feel like no one will ever find it attractive.

Positive: I’ve already been through this on day 1, but really- it hasn’t stopped me from loving or being loved by anybody. And who am I fooling? If I weren’t into myself, I wouldn’t be taking pictures like this one:

13048199_10209062756710462_7516998037826808935_o.jpg

In the words of Queen Bey, wake up #flawless. Post up, #flawless.
_________
Day 8: My personality is too enthusiastic and energetic. I annoy people who are not as bubbly as I am.

Positive: I bring joy into so many people’s lives because of my personality. If people are annoyed by my personality, it’s not my problem; it’s theirs. They people who tell me this are people that I know are suffering from their own issues. I like spreading joy and laughter.
_________
Day 9: I put myself under too much pressure to perform well during teaching observations.

Positive: I care about my lessons and teaching practices immensely. Also, most of my feedback was about things that I normally do not do! To put an action behind it, I will look up ways of dealing with anxiety and pressure. Also, I know that the people who observe me do not want to tear me down. I also know they do not assume that I am a bad teacher.
_________
Day 10: I talk about Beyoncé way too much.

Positive: Beyoncé NEEDS to be talked about, especially in Germany and especially in my classes. Who else is going to discuss how important Lemonade is?

🍋  🐝
_________
Day 11: I lack productivity because it takes me so long to do things. My colleagues are much quicker than I am and get so much more done.

Positive: Everyone works at their own pace; it doesn’t make my work any less valuable. Also, I’m teaching classes I’ve never taught before, writing a book review for the first time, and I’m researching for my thesis. So, I’m not slow. I just have a lot going on.
_________
Day 12: I tend to overthink.

Positive: Overthinking means that I am careful with details. Overthinking means that I care about the outcome of what I’m doing. Pick the weeds, keep the flowers.
_________
Day 13: I’m not good at debating. I tend to crumble when I’m confronted.

Positive: I have been progressively getting better at debating and discussing over the years. I’m going to continue to grow because that’s what I do.
_________
Day 14: I don’t have good research ideas, and it keeps me from submitting proposals to conferences.

Positive: My research ideas are special to me. Not only that, but other people- scholars, researchers, and teachers- can benefit from my ideas because they’re ideas that all teachers should be considering.
_________
Day 15: I lack the productivity I used to have.

Positive: I had an incredibly tough year. I took on graduate school head-on while presenting at conferences, while having a surgery, while working an assistantship, while teaching Zumba, and while writing articles for publishing. I still got a 3.8 GPA. I’m just tired, and even my advisors told me I needed to take a break and start saying no.
_________
Day 16: I feel like I push my insecurities onto my friends, which causes me to misinterpret their actions.

Positive: If a friend is triggering me, then it’s because of their actions. If my friends are true friends, they will understand where I’m coming from and listen. I think of all the friends I have confronted regarding where I stand and the way their actions have made me felt, and they were more than happy to accommodate. I’m surrounded by amazing people!
_________
Day 17: I have awful teeth. They’re crooked, and I even still have baby teeth. I feel like it makes my smile really gross looking.

Positive: One of the qualities I know I have is that I’m enthusiastic and joyful. I love life; I love laughter. I know that my attitude is infectious to people. I know that my energy field is positive and that the room lights up when I walk in. Also, people often compliment my smile and talk about how contagious it is. So, I’m going to flaunt it!

13086849_1064908840238848_6488608129891996926_o12794906_10208602264838453_3472592354267824193_o.jpg
_________
Day 18: I feel like my students are going to notice that I don’t know what I’m doing.

Positive: Don’t all first year in-service teachers struggle to plan courses? I know what I’m doing; it’s more about reaching the destination (activities, etc.). A teacher in my program once told me that James Nattinger, a former professor at Portland State and linguist extraordinaire, told her that “we all feel like frauds.” If a man with so much wisdom, intellect, and success can feel such a way, then I am in good company. I must be doing something right!
_________
Day 19: I’m worried that my opinions are too radical, though they are grounded in literature (especially feminist and critical literature).

Positive: My friend said something very profound to me. She said, and I quote “If you’re scared or nervous, it’s probably because you have something amazing to say… Someone feels the exact same way you do.” I want my teaching and research practices to be anti-racist, -sexist, -transphobic, etc. It’s so embedded in our language and culture that I will probably step on a few toes.
_________
Day 20: I procrastinate on work, but it’s only when my anxiety is terrible. I’m scared of failure and looking stupid.

Positive: I’ve heard many times that I seem very smart. Not many, if any, have accused me of not being good enough for academia. My voice deserves to be heard.
_________
Day 21: I’m not a good writer. My writing doesn’t sound very academic, and it’s inferior to other work.

Positive: I wouldn’t be published if I weren’t a good writer.
_________
Day 22: I asked one of my colleagues to review a draft of an article I wrote. I’ve never seen more comments on a paper I wrote in my entire life. I look at it, and I made a ton of stupid mistakes. I don’t want to continue with it because I feel like it’s pointless and it will never be something good.

Positive: I asked a colleague who wants me to succeed to review my work because she knew I was struggling to write a book review. I also gave her a 1,200-word rough draft, most of which I wrote in two days. It wasn’t proofread, and I knew at the time that it wasn’t going to get a “good job” because I wasn’t sure where I was going with it. There is no hidden message in her feedback about how stupid I am.

 

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3 comments

  1. Re: Day 22: “I’ve never seen more comments on a paper I wrote in my entire life.” :-O I’m saddened to hear this might have made you feel bad about yourself, but actually I don’t want to apologise for it because it helped you to realise: “There is no hidden message in her feedback about how stupid I am.” ABSOLUTELY!!!
    And that is true of ALL feedback and responses you get from your true friends and loyal colleagues about anything – it is all support for you, and opening the dialogue so we can all get better at whatever it is we are trying to do right now!
    I’m so proud of you and happy for you when I read this post!
    CF

    Like

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