I’ve recently been paying more attention to what I say to myself about various situations – mainly at work. I’ve been noticing a tendency to fixate on what I could have or should have said or done after the fact. Ever been there? Where you replay the situation and beat yourself up over how you handled it? Even when you did the best you could in the moment?
Because hi. It’s me.
Today I was leading a meeting and someone said something that was very innocent and well-intended as we planned out some work, but I was bothered, and my reaction showed it. I was dismissive of their idea and it showed.
For the remainder of the meeting, I felt ashamed of how I handled things. I had a hard time concentrating because I was too busy beating myself up over my reaction. I could have stayed in that shame spiral for the rest of the day and rest of the evening, but thankfully I decided to address it.
My closing question was, “What is one thing you are leaving thinking about today?” I like using this question as a formative assessment for what needs to come next in our work. It shows me what was clear and where further conversation is needed.
When everyone had an opportunity to share, I remarked with something along the lines of, “I’m leaving thinking about how I was clearly triggered by (insert idea) and it showed. My reaction was not in alignment with my values, and if it had been, it would have sounded more like __________, and I think it’s important that you hear that from me.” Not exactly an apology. Maybe it should have been. I’m still working on how to respond.
In leadership, when it comes to vulnerability, leaders go first. If admitting mistakes , apologizing when appropriate, and learning from those mistakes is not modeled by the leader, it’s hard to grow vulnerability in our schools and districts.
Additionally, a weight was lifted after I shared where I went wrong. I did not have to spend the rest of the day thinking about this misstep. I already acknowledged it and what I will do differently in the future.
Our schools don’t need more people who are perfectly put together all the time. Our schools need deeply human people who model what it looks like to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes, so we can make a positive difference in the lives of learners. People who model what it looks like to love yourself and others through that process too.
There is no perfect person or perfect impact and there doesn’t need to be. Think of the people who have impacted you mostly profoundly. Were they perfect? No. Did you care that they weren’t? No. You knew they cared about you, believed in you, and supported you.
So, maybe we cut ourselves a little slack on getting it all right the first time and instead allow ourselves to figure it out and make it right along the way. You know?
This work is hard enough. We don’t need to make it harder by holding ourselves to impossible standards.
Right from the title, I knew this applies to me. Cutting yourself slack is usually more difficult than it should be.
Not exactly in the same context as mentioned here, but just this idea that we can’t beat ourselves up, and we have to accept that sometimes good enough is the best we can offer. The idea of letting other people take control is also a great way of cutting slack – to let things occur out of our hands. We can learn more and offer more from supporting than leading.