“I can’t do this” “I don’t have the skills…or the experience” “Who am I to do this?”
We probably all have these thoughts at some point. Perhaps they surface when confronted with new situations, at points of change or transition, or when faced with challenges in our daily lives.
We are all capable of far more than we think we are. It’s a bit cliché, I’ll admit. But after the last 8 months in India, this has never felt truer in my life.
I joined a team thinking I’d be helping out with operations, something (I thought) I knew a bit about, and something that felt a little comfortable. Within a few weeks, for various reasons, most of the team had to leave and as it were to be, I was donned with multiple hats. I was now leading curriculum writing and creation, being the anthropologist in the field, engaging and learning from teachers, supporting a videographer, recruiting a team, and helping with operations.
What an awesome opportunity!!
But this was not the first thought I had… Almost immediately, my mind was filled with various doubts:
“Who am I write to curriculum? What do I know about pedagogy?”
“I’ve never really written, and never taught”
“Who am I to write content about people whose language I don’t even speak?”
“Why would a teacher take me seriously?”
Never did my mind stop and question:
“So what if I have never taught…does teaching experience make someone a better storyteller? Could not having this experience bring fresh perspective and be helpful too?”
“Why wouldn’t a teacher take me seriously?”
“How do I learn the things I don’t know much about and work with others who do know these things?”
Who sets the rules? Who is it deciding what we can or can’t do? On what basis?
Some strange voice in our heads. Some strange absolutely unqualified voice in our heads.
Over the course of many months and a lot of support from my team, I began to grow in confidence in doing many of these new things. Creating curriculum resparked a love of writing, and I spent many hours reading short stories and exploring the art of writing. Every person we met on the field and wrote about opened my eyes in new ways and with every experience we got a little better at connecting and sharing stories. I came off calls with teachers so inspired and one of my favourite things to do was to spend time learning with them – whether in the classroom or on the phone. Many of those teachers are now dear friends and many of those curriculum pieces were actually loved by teachers.
I still don’t think of myself as a writer. But I did realise, I can do this. And so can you. And so can anyone. As long as we want to, are passionate, willing to listen and learn, and get over those thoughts of self doubt.
So what is helping me make this shift in thinking?
- Changing my questions from “Can I do this?” to “How can I do this?” And being around people who ask me this question.
- Collaboration. After shifting from “Can I do this?” to “How can I do this?” changing the question again to “How can we do this?” How do we best leverage one another? No doubt the end result will be better and the journey more fun. There are always people ready to help. If only we ask.
- Observing these limiting self beliefs. By recognising they are coming from an unqualified voice that doesn’t really hold any authority, I find they naturally lose power and begin to slip away. I recently went through an exercise where I personified these thoughts, gave them a name, a face, a full personality, and now every time my friend ‘Barry’ re-enters my mind, I politely ask him to leave (weird I know, but it actually works!). Shirzad Charmine calls these same voices our internal saboteurs.
- Investing in my learning. I still don’t spend nearly enough time on this, but I am reading, reflecting and writing more than ever. The team around me in India was nuts about learning – more time was spent on our own learning than almost anything else. They showed me that our talents and skills and abilities aren’t fixed. There’s no reason why we can’t get up the learning curve quick if we put in the time.
The battle continues. With each new and challenging situation, these thoughts of doubts want to return, and often do return. But over time they are getting weaker, and simultaneously the dreams are getting bigger.