The aim of getting up extra early this week was to give myself more chance to get out and about instead of slouching around at home. I was completely successful at getting up early. I even found that it helped me get to bed a little earlier most nights. I enjoyed the feeling of not having lazed half the morning away in bed.
However, I forgot that depriving myself of a few hours of sleep at the start of the day is not conducive to producing a day full of energetic activity! I was sooooo tired all week! It was such a struggle to feel like doing anything very much and, when I did, it was usually in the afternoon. There was one day when I got myself out for an unusual morning walk, which is supposed to make one feel amazingly energised and positive, right? Well, I found that everything was stiffer in the morning, that the walk was so much harder than my normal afternoon walks, that the sun kept getting higher and warmer as I kept getting warmer from walking. By the time I got home, I felt exhuasted and stiff and hot and grumpy!
Last year I considered the idea that I should stop trying so hard to change myself and instead change my circumstances to suit me. While I still see huge benefit in getting up early (not least because Daylight Saving Time is approaching and I’ll be forced to rise an hour earlier, anyway!), this week has forced me to realise that I truly am no longer an early morning person. The idea of getting things done at the start of the day and relaxing for the rest of the day is appealing. If I really am better at getting things done from the middle of the day onwards, though, then it’s time to stop expecting things of myself in the morning but failing and start planning my day around later productivity.
I forgot about not negatively comparing myself to others at work! While I wasn’t obsessively drawing comparisons, I wasn’t on guard against those fleeting thoughts. (The ones where I wonder if colleagues think others are better at the same job than I am, or whether they think they would do it better themselves. The ones where I simply wonder if I’m far below par.) I was a little lucky, I think, that I wasn’t having bad days and those thoughts weren’t very prominent.
Yet something amazing happened, something that I really wasn’t expecting! I found other people positively comparing me to others! Even when it was about a small thing, it was such a surprising and reassuring feeling. Yes, it made me feel proud. I am usually too self-conscious to unashamedly share my proud moments, so for once I will indulge myself here.
Occasion #1 was at the school where I usually do casual relief teaching. I was talking with two teachers and the newer of them commented that I was apparently the Super-CRT. I demurred, not really sure that everyone thought very much of my teaching. The other teacher jumped in, though, with immediate agreement. “Whenever there are a lot of us away,” she told the younger teacher, “We always fight over who gets to have Zaiene take their class!” The discussion then moved on to the bad CRTs that they had experienced.
Occasion #2 was at my research job. Recently, one of the other research assistants and I have been calling secondary schools to tell them of our study and recruit participants. We’ve had long lists of schools to get through. I hate making phonecalls. I always feel awkward and silly and anxious. Luckily, I’m a good actor, and a good speaker (fairly essential in a teacher!) and have managed to plough through. I always felt pressured, however, because the other research assistant is so calm, so pleasant, so efficient, so unphased by things like this.
But then, last week, my boss gave me the other research assistant’s list and asked me to contact some of the people he hadn’t managed to reach or get a response from. (Not in itself unusual, as we generally help each other out.) However, my boss made a fleeting comment that perhaps I would be more successful with those than he was. I responded jokingly with a quip about using some of my Zaiene magic on them, but immediately felt that I’d perhaps sounded too cocky. I was by no means very confident about the success I’d had with my own list.
My boss surprised me by agreeing! She even referred gently to the trouble the other research assistant had been having with positive responses. I was so relieved that I wasn’t inadequate in my role! Even more, it felt amazing to know that my boss had such confidence in me and that she even felt I could be the more successful worker. (I must note here that our roles are not in any way competitive and neither I nor my boss actually think the other research assistant is anything but capable and nice. It’s just unusual for me not to negatively compare myself, let alone positively compare!)
I think what I liked best was that I felt it was my other traits – not efficiency or capability – that really made me more successful. I often worry that I lack quite the level of organisation, detail-orientation and proactiveness needed to be successful. I feel that my strengths are things like being friendly, caring about people or being thoughtful, and I have usually felt that these are the less-useful strengths in most work. Now I feel as if those qualities were the key to my success. My genuine friendliness, my warmth, even at times my ability to sympathise are the only things I can think of that could have made any difference. Perhaps I have dismissed them largely because I take them for granted. They are not skills I have had to acquire and so I have not felt that they could count towards tangible success.
Now I’m beginning to feel that, perhaps, I don’t have to spend so much time wishing I was naturally more efficient, more adventurous, more precise, more confident. Others who have these traits naturally may not be more successful than I will. The traits I have naturally will count for at least as much!