In my 30s, I went back to school and earned my MA in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). I hadn’t taught before and with just a few weeks of student teaching under my belt as part of the 18 month program, I got my first teaching job at a university in Finland with high-level translation and interpretation students. One of my professors, hearing about the job, told me if I could teach this, I could teach anything. That comment thrilled and terrified me at the same time.
Another professor gave me a mantra: I am a language professional. He knew I could use something to keep me focused.
I can still remember repeating my mantra over and over in the 10 days I had to prepare for the several classes that I would be teaching. The first day of class, I was very nervous as I walked down the hallway – this was, after all, a new job, a new career in a new country where I knew no one. I repeated those words, anticipating what it was going to feel like as I stood before the 40 students waiting for me in the classroom.
The walk to the room wasn’t quite long enough and before I knew it I was there. “I am a language professional” my mind told me again with as much strength as it could muster. I stood in front of the door in order to breathe in one more of my mantra sentences.
I opened the door and with a shaky voice began my ‘official’ teaching career.
I’m sure that first lesson wasn’t perfect. But what I do know is that if nothing else, the students knew I was professional, caring and that I wanted to support them to the best of my ability in learning. That was and is enough for me.
This experience is one that I think connects perfectly with Confidence. When we’re smack dab in the middle of a challenge or we’re wanting to step into a scary change (or one happens upon us), it can be easy to forget about this muscle within us.
Challenges and scary scenarios often cloud over our Confidence muscle, fooling us into thinking we’re starting at square one. And that is simply not true. I like to think of this first teaching experience as what I call a CPE – a Confidence Propelling Experience, which does just what it sounds like. Experiences like this can propel you forward in times you most need it.
Here are 2 ways in which this works with a few exercises and prompts for you mixed in:
1. Connecting with Strengths: While I was IN this experience, I didn’t let my doubts stop me. I stayed focused on my intention. And most importantly, I drew on my strengths. I am resourceful, positive and a hard worker, among other things. I knew myself well enough and was passionate enough about what I was doing that deep down, I could connect with these strengths even amidst the waves of doubt that would come to find me. It lets the Confidence stay present.
Now over to you: What are the Strengths in you that you always know are there, even if they get clouded over by doubt? If you’re not sure, think back to an experience that might be your own CPE – a time you got through something very challenging. What allowed you to move through that? If you’re still not sure of your strengths, ask a trusted friend or family member what they see as your strengths.
2. Future You: Looking back on this experience always helps me see what I’m capable of. I knew I could do this despite not being sure I could do it. You know what I mean? When I didn’t let the doubts cloud my knowing, it was clear to me I would succeed in this new job. It was as if I stepped into being the person before I was there.
That Future You is always ready to advise you. She has lots of insight for you wherever you are on your path. That leads us to a magical question: What do you know now that you don’t yet know you know? I know it feels like a riddle. It kind of is. It’s calling on knowledge that is within you, but hasn’t quite surfaced yet.
Now over to you again: Thinking about a current challenge or scary next step that you’re not sure you’re quite ready to take, what would a future version of yourself tell you about this right now? This might be a stretch and that’s ok. Start by getting quiet and asking this ‘simple’ question: What do I know about this right now? Thinking about what you want, what you’re moving toward, you can ask, What does Future me know about this?
With Confidence, we allow ourselves to step into and own what we know and who we are. We can sit back and trust what we’ve learned, giving permission to show our talents, skills, gifts and even the fact that we don’t have all the answers.
It might feel as if Confidence can be easily taken away – a sharp comment or criticism from someone or an unexpected ‘failure’. However, you’re in control of your Confidence muscle and it’s up to you to nurture it and connect with it, no matter what’s going on.
As we move more deeply into August, you’re invited to explore Confidence: What’s one of your CPE’s & how might you use it? How will you nurture your own Confidence level? Lastly, what does Future You have to say about moving forward, from wherever you are, right now?
PS If you have a life change looming over you (whether you’re choosing it or it has chosen you) and you’re curious about what support with this might look like, schedule an Exploration session with me here.