When Simone asked me to write for this blog, I was excited and nervous (nervcited!). I wrote a bunch of practice posts before I was satisfied with one and finally submitted it—my first post about my Consent Facilitator training. Before I submitted it, however, I sent Passion (one of the other fabulous writers here and another intern at GLI this past summer) an anxious text message that said something like ,“Can we talk about the blog? I don’t know if what I wrote is ok!” Passion responded telling me that whatever I had written was probably fine. I wrote back, “maybe I should ask Simone?” And Passion replied, “You know the answer to that, you are just asking me because it makes you feel better.”
Passion, and the other interns of GLI, could tell you very well—I have an Asking Questions Thing. When I’m in a new situation, such as writing a first blog post or learning how to be a camp counselor, I often don’t trust my instincts and so defer to authority figures around me. I used to think this was a good habit, for a variety of reasons—I thought I came off as curious, responsible, and respectful of my bosses/teachers/mentors. I thought my mentors would like me better if I looked for their approval before acting. And I was always looking for their approval.
But while at GLI this past summer, I learned that my Asking Questions Thing is one of my Good Girl behaviors. It’s about pleasing other people instead of doing what I think, feel, or know is right. It’s about letting other people make tough calls so that I don’t have to be the decider. At GLI, the other interns told me that too often I looked for approval from our bosses when I could be making decisions myself.
The interns helped me realize that a leader cannot always ask for another’s approval. Leaders have to trust themselves and trust their judgments. Leaders have to make their own decisions and deal with the consequences, even if that means sometimes being wrong. And when leaders are wrong, they have to step up, accept that they made a mistake, learn what they can from it, and move on.
This semester, I’m trying really hard to put the interns’ advice into practice. For the first time, I’m the co-coordinator of the Take Back the Night group at my university and I’ve spent the last month and a half trying to convince myself that I can do it. It’s difficult for a variety of reasons. For example, as a sophomore I’m new to the club leadership scene and don’t know how to navigate the bureaucracy yet and my co-coordinator is a natural take-charge type leader who knows her stuff. My knee-jerk reaction to tricky emails and unexpected conflicts is to ask my co-coordinator and/or the past club leaders what they would do in the same situation.
But within the last few weeks I’ve realized that if I don’t step up, I’ll be my co-coordinator’s assistant instead of her partner. So I’m working on finding a balance between asking for approval and asking for other opinions. I know there’s nothing wrong with looking to my mentors for guidance. But I need to show my club members–and myself–that I can make mistakes and also make the right decisions. As hard as it is, I want to let my Asking Questions Thing go and trust myself, so that I learn how to be a respected leader and, more importantly, learn how to respect myself.
Rachel J Simmons
So proud of you, Lauren. I already told you everything in person, but I gotta add the love here, too. xoxo
It takes a lot of courage to own up to that kind of behavior in such a self-reflective, mature way. I think so many of us struggle with this, and it continues in the workplace as we try to toe the line between being confident and respecting our superiors. Thanks for sharing your valuable insights! I’m proud to be your big sister. Love love love.