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Be Your True Self -- Inspired by VCOE Students

I believe each and every single one of us needs self-acceptance and confidence in being ourselves. I assume the starting point for self-acceptance is an honest awareness of individual strengths and areas for growth.
Self-acceptance sometimes feels like welcoming a guest into my home. When I play the role of hostess, I evaluate what needs to be done -- cleaning, planning, grocery shopping, etc. My list of chores somehow never ends, and I tend to get a bit stressed out because I fear my house won't be presentable and welcoming. The truth is, my guest really doesn't care what the house looks like, or what food I have to offer. My guest just wants to spend time with the true me.

Likewise, when self-acceptance knocks on my door, I realize it takes some bravery to fully welcome her, knowing I could have accomplished more during the day; I could have done a better job of listening to others and expressing my thoughts and feelings; etc. As I fear the imperfections, she focuses on connecting with the true me. She accepts my humanness and gifts me with forgiveness. When I accept her gift, I forgive myself for my imperfections and mistakes, and I am liberated from some of those fears. With the vacancy of fear, there is room for the true me to occupy that space.

One internal measurement I have for letting go of perfectionism and allowing trust is when I start seeing self-acceptance as more of a room-mate than a guest.

The Research -- Sharing and trusting as your true self

I've been contemplating the ideas of BrenĂ© Brown, a research professor and public speaker, who focuses on vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. Her inspiring messages resonates with my beliefs about connecting with others, psychological needs, and emotional motives. 

I believe this in part due to the scientific and award-winning research by Dr. Taibi Kahler, a behavioral psychologist who conceived and created the Process Communication Model®. The Model raises awareness of strengths and failure potentials based on unique personality structures, and how to connect with different communication types. The Model also enlightens some of the emotional motives based on personality structures which includes fear, anger, responsibility, loss, bonding/intimacy, and autonomy.

Based on my understanding of the aforementioned research, I believe when we accept ourselves, we might be bold enough to share our true feelings, including anger, even when it's uncomfortable.

If I don't acknowledge my feelings, especially when it's anger due to injustice or disrespecting others, then I might become over-adapting, trying to please the other person, and end up in a tailspin because I start to lose that confidence and self-acceptance. You see, my behavior is motivated by the need to feel close, to have a connection with others.

Thus, it's important to share our feelings, including anger, while recognizing the fear of disappointing and losing connection. It is healthier to show up and have the honest conversation, instead of putting on the disguise of complaisance.


The Classroom -- Sharing and trusting as your true self

I also hold these beliefs based on my classroom teaching experience of being genuinely authentic with my students and families, and empowering them to also be their true selves through a culture of trust and respect.

As a teacher, I would ask for honest critiques from students (& parents) of how I was doing. Before a project, I'd have students share input while we designed the rubric. During the project, we'd reflect on what's going well, where we might improve or how might we do better, and next steps. I would confer with the students and they would share their reflections with me. I also surveyed the class with the same questions about me -- anonymously. Afterwards, I'd share their responses as a whole -- some trends-- and what I gained from this insight. I valued their feedback and made changes based on their input.

I expected honesty and built a safe space for all of us. I trusted them and they trusted me because of our transparency-- even when we disagreed. They knew they were safe to disagree, they didn't fear it because they knew I would listen, truly listen, inquire, observe, consider and reflect. They knew I didn't fear hearing their voices -- I encouraged them to be their true selves and in return I would do the same, within the appropriateness of a teacher-student and teacher-parent relationships.

Here are a few examples from my former students and parents:

Some of my former students share their learning about their activity strengths, relationship strengths, and learning strengths based on Jenifer Fox's book, Your Child's Strengths: Discover Them, Develop Them, Use Them:
Below is an example from a former parent's viewpoint, of transparency and the impact of creating an environment for students to be their true selves:
Entrusting, empowering, and voicing through authenticity

Sometimes I desperately miss the classroom and the ability to create a safe place for empowering students to be their true selves. When I hit that point of contemplating, should I continue in my current role, or should I find a role where I can work with students daily, I see inspiring reminders of educators stepping up to empower others through their authenticity and students reciprocate that empowerment. When I take a moment to step back and see where I might contribute in this awesome-sauce, I feel confident and inspired in my current role.

For example, not too long ago, the Ventura County Office of Education (VCOE) Community Schools' Principal, Kenny Loo, tried something that has never been done at VCOE. He created an opportunity for some of his students to share their self-portraits and narratives reflecting on their lives at a "Meet the Artist" Art Debut at the VCOE Administration Building.
On one hand, I was inspired by the leadership who was willing to put aside natural fears to try something new. I recognized his trust in his belief that empowering students to share their voices, their stories, is worthwhile. This opportunity allowed students to own their story, to share what they were comfortable revealing with a public audience, and to show up and be their true selves.

More importantly, I was deeply inspired by the courage of the students to create and share. As I walked around talking with talented student-artists, viewing their self-portraits and narratives about their challenges and dreams, I felt how empowering it was for them to share their voices and stories.

I recognized their courage as they shared how they were learning to embrace their own strengths and imperfections, a necessity for self-acceptance, and an on-going process.


Impact and last thoughts

Listening to the students and their stories, I realized that they were doing something that I have not been brave enough to do for a long time -- own my story, share what I'm comfortable with, and be my true self

I strive to do the best I can, yet I keep in mind that we are not perfect and mistakes will occur. I check things over, but know when to stop; I am professional, but not a perfectionist; I know I can do better tomorrow. We are all still learning; we’re human.
Does letting go of perfectionism, and acknowledging that we are all human help us be our true selves? If the outcome of self-acceptance is being true to ourselves, then I encourage you to give yourself a break, recognize your humanness, acknowledge your emotions, and try again tomorrow. Remember, it takes great courage to be true to yourself and others.
  • Own the imperfections -- who says you must be perfect?
  • What is the best thing that might happen if you are your true self? What might be the worst thing that could happen? How might you move forward?
  • What opportunities could you give students to be themselves, embrace their stories, and share their voices?


Disclosure:
Tracy Watanabe is a licensed and certified independent distributor of the Process Communication Model® and all materials related thereto, which are the proprietary rights of Kahler Communications, Inc. The Kahler Communications name is used by express permission and this person, entity, or firm is otherwise not associated with, nor owned, in whole or part, or controlled or managed by Kahler Communication, Inc. The content of this blog post is Tracy Watanabe's personal opinion, and it is not a standard PCM or Process Education Model (PEM)® topic.

Comments

  1. Your words are important, as is how you learn from others-- the principal and the students. When we accept that we are always learning, we find inspiration all around us, and are more receptive to the reciprocal relationship we have with those we teach and those who teach us! Thank you for helping us to learn these lessons of self-acceptance and continuous learning.

    And I am honored that you included ideas from my post, which I am certain were influenced by your kind words and inspiration in your tweets and blog posts, as you certainly inspire me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sheri,

      I was truly inspired by the students and administration. I whole-heartedly believe that when we empower students to share their voices, it is such a gift -- a gift that everyone, regardless of age or status, deserves. It means we need to listen. It means we need to be flexible and confident enough to say, I don't have all the answers but I am willing to learn and grow.

      When I read your blog(s), I am inspired because I see another educator living this message. Thank you for boldly scattering seeds of kindness.

      Kind regards,
      Tracy

      Delete
    2. So glad you are back blogging-- we can boldly go together in the quest to scatter kindness, and to be inspired by our students.

      Delete

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