I know I said this next one would be on perfectionism, but, in light of recent events, I feel compelled to start off with something perfectionism-adjacent: recognizing when you need to use your support system, and actually using it.
Many of us are used to being the ones everyone else depends on: we solve problems; we make things happen; we get things done. That is our role, and we fill it, gladly. But, in doing so, we can come to see that as our defining characteristic. So, when something happens to us, and we need to rely on the support of others, it is particularly hard to do. It’s not that we don’t appreciate the help of others; it’s just that we don’t know how to accept it.
I would argue that this is especially true for those of us in leadership roles. We are so used to being strong for everyone else that we are afraid to let them see us any other way, as if they will think of us a weak, and will lose respect for us.
I have had to rely on my friends, family, and coworkers quite a bit over the last little while, and I admit that that was hard for me. I’m used to being the strong one, the one with all the answers (quite literally, one of the most commonly heard phrases around my school is, “Ask Tara, she knows everything.”) and to not be in that position scared me. What if people started to see me as less of a person? Or, even worse, what if I really wasn’t as strong as they, and I, thought I was. Those thoughts brought out my stubborn side, making me do things, like going into work while sick, which probably just made things worse. When I wasn’t willing to use the support system around me, I ended up hurting myself more, and not being there for my students, as I had feared.
So here, on day five of the flu, and taking the sick day I should have taken yesterday, I finally realized this: relying on the people around you doesn’t make you weak, it means you are smart. No one will lose respect for you because you succumb to the flu, or need help to get something done. But, they might if you are too stubborn to take care of yourself properly, or to make use of resources you obviously need out of pride.
As much as we hate to admit it (and as much as we don’t want our students to know, ever) we are human. We give help, and we need help. And we definitely aren’t perfect.