I have the tendency to act ridiculous when I am under pressure. Perhaps you find yourself in a likewise situation as a semi-spoiled twenty-something in the workplace. To save you from untold embarrassment and the onset of pre-mature burnout, I give your very own survival guide. Big kids need love too.
1. Conflict is necessary, but it doesn’t have to be hard.
When I began working, I thought every crisis meant I had the right to make a fuss. Instead, this made me look all the more incompetent. Cursing, sulking, and throwing a tantrum just indicates someone who needs to mature as an individual. If I could talk to my intern self, I would encourage taking a break or deep breath. Will the world end if your supervisor gives you another task on top of your already daunting list? Probably? While that may be true, it is also true that you can ask for more time. You can even ask for help. Yelling at you superior causes everyone to only be that much more grumpy.
2. Don’t lose your sense of humor.
Many problems begin in life when you forget to laugh at yourself and your situation once in a while. Remember, one day this seemingly dreary job will be a great story. Having purpose and drive requires an underbelly of lightheartedness. We have, at most, a hundred years to leave an imprint. Don’t let other people’s negativity or commitment to stagnant teaching stifle your creative spirit. Why not smile along the way? There are some days when we are in a funk. The creative find ways to make funk into funky. Sure, “funky” isn’t pleasant, but it does sound fun.
3. You’re not alone.
This one is important. In this cyber age where media convinces us someone else is doing our job better, it is so easy to feel worthless. Perhaps your boss has told you you are incompetent, lackluster, plain. This is simply not true. Don’t hide under your desk or a pile of empty junk food wrappers (however tempting that may be). While there are moments when people commit worthless acts, a person is full of soul. Yes, you are a soul in a big world full of so many others. You have something to contribute, no matter what other people think. Loneliness plagues us when someone else denies us the right to live out loud, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t. Someone out there is supporting you, whether it be a parent, pastor, friend or sibling. Even if you feel like the whole world is against you, I believe God is for you. Know that wherever you go, doors open for those with open hearts.
4. Mistakes don’t mean you’re dumb.
Working in a prestigious organization in an Asian country, I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the pressure to perform. When I make a mistake, I try to remind myself that I recognize it as a misstep. Hey, I learned something new and different. That’s something to celebrate, not something to condemn. Some of the best lessons come from happy errors. It’s all how you interpret a challenge. Try to look past grading scales on your own life. Instead, aim for inspiration. How can I learn from this? What has this taught me?
5. Speak the truth in love.
When I was young, I thought Miss Bossypants was the way to go. That bled a bit into my tottering first steps as a teacher. “Don’t do that, don’t do this, don’t, no, no, no.” The more I restricted, the more my students saw me as a negative person. With some great but hard to hear advice, I realized I had to let in the sunshine and let go. Some of the best teaching is trusting that your students are capable of the best. Like the story of the sun and the wind competing to get a man to take off his coat, warmth always wins against harsh elements. When I began encouraging my students and praising their different learning styles, life felt a bit brighter for us all. Being a drill sergeant is not teaching. Teaching means humbling yourself, stepping down from the lectern, and letting students speak up.
I went into this year thinking I could jump into teaching with no qualms. I thought I would be extraordinary. That, of course, is not true. I believe great teachers persevere through years and years, committing to innovation each day. Great teaching also means humility, to forget about any sense of entitlement. It makes students feel important and helps them know they are somebody.
I hope you never stop being the big kid at the workplace. Regardless of your position or what others think of you, I hope you exemplify big character. As souls who strive, we need to be more courageous and less obedient to our fear.
Best and Blessings,