by Tom Kelly, M.S.
This past week I was preparing for an upcoming meeting, creating an outline and highlighting key points. The process of preparing for the meeting made me feel less anxious and more optimistic. I found myself calling colleagues and asking for their opinions on what I was going to present. It was really important to me that I make a good impression during the meeting and display my knowledge, especially because I think highly of those I would be presenting to.
As I got closer to the meeting, I noticed that I was becoming less optimistic. I kept thinking about how important it was to not sound dumb. If I were to make mistakes, surely everyone in the meeting would think I was a fool. Even scarier, I would look foolish in front of people I think so highly of!
But, what good is it to tell myself to not look dumb? Had a friend told me that they were preparing for a meeting and feeling a bit nervous, the absolute last thing I would tell them is to not look dumb. For example, a friend was recently telling me about an upcoming interview, and how they really wanted the job. If I were to treat them the way I was treating myself, I’d say, “hey, whatever you do, don’t mess up and sound like an idiot!”
In this example, it is clear that it is neither kind nor helpful to be so critical. I would definitely consider it rude to say anything remotely close to “don’t be dumb” to a friend. So why do I let myself get away with what is usually unacceptable conversation? Perhaps it is because we can often be our toughest critics. It is important to remember that we are allowed to encourage ourselves, and to speak to ourselves as we would those around us.