I’m tutoring at a University at the moment and enjoying every minute of working with young aspiring teachers setting out on their journey. Yesterday, I shared this metaphor/ with them, about building resilience and dealing with self doubt and self criticism (told from my perspective as a teacher).

Where will self doubt and self criticism sit in your classroom?

Self Doubt and Self Criticism are best friends and for many years, they sat in the front seat of every one of my classes. These two friends supported each other to the hilt and were inseparable. Later in my career, they also sat at the front seat of any talk I gave, and were extremely attentive.  They did not take their eyes off me. In fact, you might call them excellent students. However, their attentiveness made me nervous. They seemed to pick up on every little move I made and word I spoke. I’d often look down and their intent gaze would throw me off my stride. I might lose my train of thought or second guess the next activity I’d planned. My confidence would immediately be eroded. Sometimes, Self Doubt would creep a little closer but as soon as I asked her to move back, Self Criticism would take her place. These two made my life very difficult but I allowed them to keep sitting in the best  front seats, taking pride of place. No matter how well I prepared or how much others sitting in the seats farther back praised me, it was these two I paid attention to.

Then one day, I woke up to the realization that I could move Self Doubt and Self Criticism to the back of the class. Well, to start off with, maybe just a few rows back so they wouldn’t make a fuss but eventually the aim was to move them as far away from the front as possible. Indeed , the ultimate aim was to move Self Doubt out of my class altogether. There really was no room for her in my class but Self Criticism could stay. (Though she is part of the class,  a little  of her goes a long way.) Constructive self-criticism is all part of personal growth but if we let it sit in the front row of our lives, it stunts it.

I shared this analogy/metaphor with my students to encourage them to push back on self doubt and criticism. Although we are subjected to performance reviews, whether in education or the corporate world, we need to be the ones who control the impact criticism has on our performance. At times, Self Criticism might sit in the front seat to remind us of what we can improve on. At others, we need to be sure to move Self Praise into that front row. It’s all about balance.

I’m much more comfortable with Self Criticism sitting in my classes today (no matter where she sits) but Self Doubt is banished. If she puts a foot in the door, I close it.

So who’s sitting in your metaphorical classroom today?