It’s Not Just You

I found this entry on Postsecret:

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I know the chances that the person who sent this reads my blog are practically nil, but I couldn’t not respond to it.

I graduated my undergrad with a 3.90. I graduated my Master’s program with a 3.90. All evidence points to my being intelligent and capable, and every single time I enter a new learning opportunity – a workshop, a class, teaching the start of a new term – I feel that same insecurity that this person expresses.

Let me say that again – EVERY… SINGLE… TIME.

We are our own toughest critics, and it seems to be a universal habit for people to believe that they are insufficient to whatever task they’re set to. What most people don’t appreciate is that it takes a while to get into a rhythm; to get in the habit of thinking in the different ways that are required, to learn to manage time in ways that allow for things to get done effectively, and to develop the confidence to participate in conversations and debates that we suspect are way out of our league.

The truth of the matter is that, with only a few exceptions, we are ALL smart enough to do this. The best advice I can give to new students – especially adult students returning to (or starting) college – is to “fake it ’till you make it.” Believe that you can do this, behave as though you can, and keep beating back the voice in your head that tells you that you’re not kidding anyone. While faking it, though, it’s also important to BE there – pay attention, do the reading, do the homework, and try to really think about the stuff you’re learning, even (especially?) out of class. Pretty soon, you’re going to realize that you’re making new connections, you’re seeing things you might not have seen before, and those conversations don’t seem so intimidating anymore.

Trust me. You can do this.

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6 Comments

Filed under Learning, little bits of nothingness, success!, Teaching, the good ones

6 responses to “It’s Not Just You

  1. I’m feeling this too, as I get closer and closer to my goal of wanting to go back to college and start a PhD. And the longer I wait, the worse it gets. I may print this and carry it in my purse when I actually go for it.

  2. Jackie

    I often feel this way too. Thanks for the pep talk!

  3. sphyrnatude

    Here’s another method to boost morale. When the student approaches you, have them imagine the other participants in class. Maybe suggest that they think about a particular poor performer. Point out that almost all colleges/universities are set up so that if you do ANYTHING you will pass.
    Now, think about your classmates. think about the work you have seen them submit. Compare it to what you do (chances are good that an adult returning/entering has much better skills than the rest of the class, but doesn’r realize it)…

  4. I had a high school guidance counselor that told me that I should NEVER go to college since I wasn’t that “smart.” He told me to go work in a factory like my parents.

    I went to a community college and received my AA in History. Photocopied the diploma and mailed it to him. Transferred to a four year university as a junior. Graduated with a BA in History. Photocopied that diploma and mailed it to him. Are you seeing a pattern here? Decided to get a MAT in History and graduated with a 3.9! Not only did I photocopy the diploma but also the transcript and mailed both to this counselor!

    I agree with everything you posted. I share this story with my students because there will be times when someone tells them that they can’t do it or they stop believing in themselves. I don’t think it matters if you are 15 or 56, you still have those same fears. I “faked it until I made it” through some of my gen ed courses.

    I commend the 56 year old for going back to school – you go Girl (or Boy)! šŸ™‚ You can do it!

  5. Mrs. Chili, I think you are on the mark.

    When I’m in a new situation, my mantra is, “Behave as if you can do whatever is required, as if you are confident.”

    Amazingly enough, if you act confident, people treat you as if you ARE confident, and then you become truly confident.

    That may sound like new age baloney, but if you back it up with supportive action and take the opportunities for learning afforded you, it gets you through with flying colors.

    Another way to put it is, “Never show fear.” Even if you’re freaking out inside.

  6. Thanks, Chili. I’ve been getting down on myself and saying “I’m not very good at this teaching thing, am I?” However, when I step back, and I realize I’m doing good stuff and I’m smart enough and tough enough to keep going. So I do. And I think you have had a little bit to do with that. *endlessly praises your motivational abilities for no true, fingerable reason*

    Also, a professor of mine once said “90% of life is showing up.”

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