Beck Tench Profile picture
Critical optimist. Kind stranger. Process nerd. Designer and researcher for the Center for Digital Thriving @Harvard.

Jan 29, 2021, 13 tweets

Today I gave a talk to a group of librarians called "Staying True to Yourself in Times of Stress" and OMG was it stressful to prepare for and do.

But I had a realization in the preparation for the talk that I'd like to share here, so, 🧵.

Years ago, I gave a series of talks to librarians and museum professionals called "Becoming an Agent of Change in Your Organization."

In the talk, I invited folks to become agents of change and I warned that if they actually considered doing so, "sharky" waters were ahead.

Sharks like "I don't know what I'm doing," and "I'm not smart, creative, or insightful enough," and "If I fail, I will be ridiculed."

Then, I revealed to them that those sharks were not real, they were just shark suits, and they could, upon realizing that, move forward despite their fears and doubts.

This approach worked well for me and I did some things that were risky and innovative. I could argue that I helped folks make some real change with this sort of thinking.

But something puzzled me, and still does... as aware as I am of these sharks, I've never been able to take the shark suit off.

Anytime I face a new challenge, I'm afraid as if I'd never learned I was capable of facing challenges, even very similar ones. Those same three fears I mentioned and first drew years ago are as real to me today as they were in the preparation of the talk when I first drew them.

Reflecting on this, I came to wonder if the sharks swimming in the waters aren't fears or doubts, but rather they are actually selves.

And if, in times of stress, it’s those selves we must stay true to.

What if "I'm not good enough" is not a false idea, a fear or doubt, a "shark"... what if it is a self? What would change if I thought that was who I was in that moment? How would I treat myself?

And what would that mean for the times when "I'm not good enough" is not who I know "myself" to be?

My realization was that, perhaps, the goal is not to stay true to our self in times of stress, but to realize that times of stress evoke many selves that we must recognize and honor and learn from.

It isn't that we see a shark, realize it's a suit, and shed the fin to become "true," but rather we see and embrace the bearer of these suits, shark fins, and all.

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