Quit hiding your mistakes. Quit trying to hide your flaws. Quit using filters, special lighting, and Photoshop. Just be you!
Here’s the deal. I am BROKEN. Wow, am I ever?! I have been on this earth for 42 years and have spent 41 of them trying to convince everyone that I make no mistakes. I have wanted everyone to think I am the smartest, funniest, most charismatic person around. I have posted on social media all kinds of clips highlighting my success, and have tried to own all of it. I thought one of my responsibilities in life was to be my own personal publicists, but, man was I wrong. The only person I was fooling was myself. All of you already saw through it. You already saw all of the mistakes I was making. You saw me trying to cover up my insecurities. Instead of seeing me as a man who was humble and willing to own his shortcomings, many saw me as arrogant and unwavering. It wasn’t until recently when I realized how flawed everyone already perceived me to be that I fully embraced my willingness to grow.
You see, for my entire life I compared myself to other people. I always wanted to be the best person around. Best is a relative term. If I knew someone else was better than I was at something, anything, I simply avoided that person. I didn’t avoid the activity. I avoided the person. If I felt I was getting close enough for someone to recognize my struggles, I pushed them away with a stiff arm. If I saw that I had strengths that were relatively stronger than others, I would jump all in to show off causing others to reject me. I spent the better part of my life feeling alone, not because others were not around me, but because I worked actively to live in an invented bubble.
This year I started going to counseling. This year I even found myself on medication.I’ll be extremely vulnerable and tell you that this year I even found myself at the hospital, trapped inside my own head. I am proud to say, however, that I am growing. I am learning. I am not comparing myself to others. I am working on me. I am working to become a better version of me, a version of me who owns his strengths and works on his struggles, a me who is willing to be vulnerable as well as confident, a me who is strong enough to just be me.
I am sharing all of this for several reasons.
- As a professional educator I recognize the need to raise the next generation to compete globally, but I also recognize that we only compete globally when we create a generation of passion seekers. We must work to create kids who are comfortable in their own skin, kids who know who they are, and are willing to embrace their passions to change the world. We cannot foster a system that makes kids ever feel “less than” as this simply fosters the society we have now. A society unwilling to accept feedback. A society unwilling to grow and change. A society that gravitates towards the safety of the masses as opposed to the original. If your school, classroom, or household has policies and practices that compares, sorts, selects, identifies, and labels, please start the conversation on how you can begin to celebrate, embrace, and endorse instead. Kids do not need us adding to their pressure to conform. They need us to celebrate who they are.
- How we treat our kids impacts the adults they become, but…focusing on who they can become distracts from who they are. Kids are not simply preparing for their life, they are in the midst of living their life. Just as a 42 year old adult, I am working to improve who I am, so are 5 year olds, 12 year olds, and 25 year olds….as are 70 year olds, and 90 year olds. We must embrace who we are TODAY to improve who we will be tomorrow. If you are a teacher, make experiences relevant for your students today. Let them embrace being a kid. When we force kids to focus on the future, the distant future, they begin to chase rainbows instead of picking the daisies. Try to never start a sentence with “I can’t wait until…” and embrace the moment. When you chase the next best thing, or encourage others to do so, you are already comparing where you are to where others have arrived.
- I know vulnerability is critical for establishing trust. If you are like me and feel the need to compete with others, stop. Embrace you. People will be more receptive to what you have to say when they know that what you have to say is genuine. A genuine person knows what they know and admits what they don’t. Bold Humility is the secret sauce to success.
- If you are a teacher….your kids already see your weaknesses. If you are a leader, your followers already know your flaws. As a politician once said, “You can’t put lipstick on a pig.” When you try to hide mistakes you deny your ability to grow and you make it that much more difficult for others to learn from you. When people see you as a fraud and fake, no matter how profound your thoughts, they are already dismissed. The best teachers and leaders are often the most genuine.
I hope 2019 is a year of being genuine, brave, bold, and humble. Embrace you and be you…the best you you can be.
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